There’s a lot of talk about blue hydrogen being a big energy efficiency factor in the future of energy. But new research shows that Blue Hydrogen actually increases our dependence on fossil fuels
What is Blue Hydrogen
This much talked about energy source is created by splitting natural gas and capturing process emissions. Essentially taking a byproduct of burning natural gas to create more energy.
But Isn’t All Hydrogen Green?
Oil and energy companies want to appear to be doing their part, as well as to keep the money rolling in. Positioning this process and fuel as blue hydrogen initially lowers scrutiny, it sounds great! But not all hydrogen is created equally. Blue hydrogen could generate 20% more emissions over its lifecycle than burning natural gas alone. That means this not-so-revolutionary ‘green energy’ is actually doing more harm than good.
Green Washing is Trending
While the renewable energy revolution marches on, green-washing is becoming more prevalent. Companies want the praise and appearance of helping to move the future of energy forward, but in reality aren’t willing to sacrifice profits in the short term for cleaner energy in the long term.
The Research Is In
That 20% more emissions came from the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Energy Science & Engineering today (12 August) by a team of researchers at Cornell University, New York, and Stanford University, California. Beyond being potentially more harmful than the status quo, the researchers also found that using blue hydrogen is inefficient, requiring many tonnes of natural gas to produce one tonne of blue hydrogen.
Governments and Businesses Are Betting On Blue Hydrogen
It’s important to follow the research and know where the money is going—and big bets are being placed on this by governments and global organizations. Plans for Equinor’s blue and green hydrogen production in the UK have sights set on 1.8GW capacity by 2030, and BP recently lined up corporate buyers for an upcoming blue hydrogen production facility in Teesside.
Why Some Still Support Blue Hydrogen Efforts
Supporters like to cite a claim that more than 90% of the emissions that come from the production proves can be contained with carbon capture storage or carbon capture and utilization arrays. It is believed that the capture rate varies from 10% to 90% for business operations. But these capture rates come from heating the methane component of natural gas with steam, creating a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen.
It could be possible to lower CO2 emissions for blue hydrogen by 56% to 90% compared to grey hydrogen—BUT there is no data that supports those claims, as they don’t include emissions associated with the energy required to drive carbon capture.
Optimism Not Required
We all want to hope for a brighter renewable energy future, but pinning our dreams on blue hydrogen is actually taking us backward. We hope that governments and investors look into the details before moving forward.
Distributed Energy Resources (DER)
Aging electric utilities struggle to keep up with the rise in energy independence most consumers are clamoring for. With rooftop solar getting more affordable by the day, and things like electric vehicles being adopted rapidly, these old giants are starting to see the benefits, and not just the risks in the proliferation of distributed energy resources (DERs). Today, there are some energy companies who are learning to adapt and adopt policies and processes for embracing DERs.
“If we have a mechanism that allows for export and mechanizes and buys those experts, that might completely change thew ay behind-the-meter storage systems are sized and configured so we may even size it to grid needs, not just customer needs.”
DERs have unique benefits to the global energy landscape that centralized power plants and long distance transmission/distribution alone can’t offer. When power can be generated when and where it is needed most, this decentralizing of energy production helps to create a dramatically more stable and resilient facility for delivering electricity. When DERs are integrated with the grid, electric utilities can better manage peak demand, and avoid overloads to keep the lights on for customers.
What Counts as a Distributed Energy Resource
DERs are energy-producing resources like solar panels, or it can refer to controllable energy loads, like your HVAC system or an electric water heater. DERs create more flexibility for utilities to reduce load or draw on other sources of production at peak times, helping to reduce strain on the existing grid. This reduced strain on the grid means less money allocated to maintenance and reduces the investment in peaker plants which have to remain on standby. This reduces the rate you pay for energy, and strengthens grid reliability.
Why DERs are Challenging Traditional Energy
Traditional utility companies are dealing with infrastructure that is decades old. In the United States, the average age of power plants being retired is 45-60 years. So, additional costs to maintain or retire aging transmission and distribution lines, generators, towers and other key components are passed on to the consumer. In fact, it’s these intricacies that create problems with reliability that cause customers to think about finding their power elsewhere. Like on their rooftop.
Automated Energy Grids
Future capital investment is moving away from building new power plants towards incentivizing distributed generation and distributed storage. Decentralized power is on the rise, especially with Automated Energy Grids (AEGs) where energy for a dedicated area is pooled and distributed efficiently based on technology that helps optimize energy savings and reliability. AEGs also help reduce stress on the grid and give customers more control over the energy use.
One thing’s for sure—how the world has been generating energy is not keeping up with how the world is using energy. Distributed energy resources are going to be a big part of the future of energy.
Ambri Liquid Metal Battery
As the world looks for ways to transition to renewable energy, it’s more important than ever to find solutions that speed up that transition. Solar, wind and hydro are great renewable sources of energy, but the energy produced is difficult to store, meaning that renewable energy must be consumed immediately as it is produced. While rooftop solar customers can supplement their systems with battery storage to power them through storms and dark nights, the future of energy needs a more efficient and affordable way to store energy on a big scale—like to help power the whole electric grid when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.
Ambri’s Game Changing Battery Technology
A very promising step forward comes from Ambri, Inc.’s Liquid Metal Battery, a new kind of long duration battery technology. This new development makes it possible for large-scale use of renewable energy that brings costs down and can boost reliability and efficiency of the power grid. The roots of this battery come from an MIT lab, with Professor Donald Sadoway, who founded Ambri in 2010 with this technological breakthrough. Investors include Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures and TOTAL SE.
For the average energy customer, this kind of technology can have a big impact when connected to the power grid. With more energy coming from renewable sources, the need to balance renewable generation with traditional fossil fuel power plants increases. Batteries like Ambri’s can help smooth the curve by handling peak demand, and absorbing baseload production when there’s oversupply on the grid.
How Liquid Metal Batteries Work
Aside from being reliable, scalable, and modular, Ambri’s battery can perform at 100% depth of discharge cycling performance for more than 20 years with a rate of degradation that is significantly lower than other battery storage solutions. Simply put, it’s a workhorse. This is a battery that can operate safely without being in a climate-controlled environment, and without requiring cooling or fire suppression equipment. That helps the whole system work more efficiently and lowers the amount of maintenance required as well as the cost of the project.
Ambri and TerraScale: Energy on the Move
Ambri’s technology is making its way to Reno, Nevada, as Ambri partners with clean infrastructure design firm TerraScale. The Liquid Metal Battery will be integrated into TerraScale’s Energos Reno project to assist in storing energy from the data center’s on-site renewable energy generation. The goal? To keep costs down, reduce carbon emissions, and cater to future tenants like large commercial and government data uses, who are looking for a sustainable, green data center solution as energy concerns grow.
This kind of battery storage is a part of the future of energy. With a greater ability to store clean energy like wind and solar, comes a greater ability to generate and distribute clean energy as well. The stability of the electric grid is not a given in many places. Even the United States is seeing more strain on traditional resources, and the stresses associated with an aging infrastructure. Large-scale reliable renewable energy storage can reduce the stress on the grid and pave the way for a cleaner energy future the world over. For those seeking long-term renewable energy solutions, Liquid Metal Batteries like Ambri’s could be the answer.