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I call Bullshirt!

23 July 2021

There has been a lot of talk about hydrogen being the "green" fuel we need to fight climate change.

On the face of it, these claims seem to be grounded in fact.

Whether used in fuel cells that convert H2 directly into electricity or whether it's burned in internal combustion engines, the byproduct of its use is nothing more than water. Yes, the ash left when you burn hydrogen is good old water.

However, that's where the good news ends.

The reality is that creating hydrogen for use as a fuel is neither cheap nor efficient, based on today's available technology.

Most of the world's commercially used hydrogen comes from the oil industry -- as a byproduct of other refinery processes or by using the steam reformation of natural gas. This means it's still a result of extracting those hydrocarbons from the earth, be they methane or crude oil and, when you crack those hydrocarbons into H2 and other components, you're left with a whole bunch of carbon compounds -- just like when you burn them. That's far from "green".

I won't even go into the rest of the bad news associated with using hydrogen as a fuel -- such as the difficulties involved in storing and transporting it, usually requiring the use of cryogenic temperatures and all the complexity/cost that involves.

What I do want to talk about today however, is the bullshirt that is being touted at the moment around the chance for New Zealand to create the world's largest green hydrogen plant

Once again, a cursory glance at the story would seem to suggest that this could be a winner but the reality may be significantly different.

See if you can spot the *obvious* errors in that story and the whole concept of NZ becoming a world supplier of green hydrogen due to its abundance of renewable energy.

Firstly, it's being claimed that we have sufficient renewable energy in reserve to create large amounts of hydrogen, presumably by the electrolysis of water (a somewhat inefficient process at the best of times).

Well this seems to be a lie for a start, the claims being betrayed by this story in which it is revealed that NZ imported a million tonnes of dirty coal last year because our renewable sources couldn't keep pace with demand for electricty.

Then there's the lunacy of a statement made by Contact Energy's CE, Mike Fuge who is quoted as saying "green hydrogen production could also allow New Zealand to cut down on coal and gas-fired electricity generation, helping it transition to full renewable electricity generation".

Seriously? This guy is a Chief Executive of one of our major power companies? That explains a lot about why we're being ripped off by power pricing in this country.

Does Mr Fuge not understand that if we don't have enough renewable electricity generation capacity to meet current demands then diverting huge amounts of that energy to make hydrogen, and suffering all the losses/inefficiencies involved) will *NOT* improve the situation one jot?

It's not like we're magically going to get more energy out of the hydrogen that is produced from electricity than the power it took to make it -- or perhaps the second law of thermodynamics is a bit beyond his grasp.

He goes on to say "“Given the low lake levels over the past six months, if this plant had been available this year it could have been used to avoid up to one million tonnes of carbon emissions.”


How does he figure that? Where would the electricity have come from to generate the hydrogen that would have offset the need to import fossil fuels to meet the domestic demand for power?


Perhaps he's suggesting that we could use any electricity surplus to create huge stores of hydrogen that could then be used later during a shortfall as a fuel to power thermal stations?

As I said earlier, the complexities, costs and inefficiencies involved in storing and transporting hydrogen are enormous. Add that to the inefficiencies of using electrolysis to create the hydrogen in the first place and you'd be far, far better off just using a simple, proven energy store such as pumped water.

I really do get the impression that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket.

We have people in significant positions of power and authority who clearly do not have the slightest comprehension of the science involved in what they're suggesting. This seems to be commonplace right across the board -- from the electricity sector to those who assure us that the skies will be filled with drones delivering pizzas any day now.

I think we've reached "peak-clever" and are now descending the very steep slope towards idiocracy.

Never mind, it was great while it lasted -- now I think I'll go and water my vege varden with some Gatorade.

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