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  • Writer's pictureDoug Hull

Hydrogeneralist

The Sun. Over 4.3 billion years old, give or take a few million. Our primal source of life energy in the Solar System. Consisting mostly of Hydrogen gas in a constant state of nuclear fusion, generating temperatures in excess of 15 million degrees celsius. No carbon emissions. There is immense interest in hydrogen at the moment as a viable alternative to fossil fuels, but will we see Hydrogen powered cars or ships on the general market anytime soon?


In terms of passenger vehicles, Honda, Toyota and Hyundai each have a single model of hydrogen powered electric vehicle (EV) on the market currently. They are predictably more expensive than battery EVs (for now anyway) but the real limiting factor is the lack of refuelling infrastructure i.e. Hydrogen Stations. In California there seem to be a fair number of fuelling stations, but for the rest of the world there is very little available. We can dream of one day owning a green-hydrogen-generating machine at home that just needs water as an input, but that may be some way off. Until then hydrogen cars are just not a practical option for personal use, unless you live in California of course.



What about shipping? Shipping contributes about 3% of all greenhouse gases which is higher than the aviation industry, and this figure is growing. There is a logistical challenge here in terms of the volume of hyrdogen required to power a heavily loaded ship on a long journey, however it seems that there is a potential storage solution here in the form of ammonia. Ammonia is much easier to store than hydrogen, requires a much smaller of storage volume and can be converted to hydrogen on demand. An average journey for a large ship can result in around 5000 tonnes of CO2 being emitted. If this was Ammonia/Hydrogen powered then the emissions would be reduced to almost nothing! So the incentive is there, but there are of course many challenges to overcome, like producing ammonia safely at scale, and making the hydrogen powered engines available at a reasonable cost.



I feel we should also mention aviation, since the post-covid world is soon going to be catching up on travelling like there's no tomorrow. While battery powered flight is off the table due to the sheer weight of all those batteries, hydrogen as a fuel seems to be a viable option. Airbus is working with Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) in Australia to investigate the use of liquid hydrogen for aviation. FFI, owned by Australia's wealthiest man, Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest, is a leading light in the world of green hydrogen and has pledged to reach an annual production of 15 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030.


It is apparent that, like in many other areas, the technology already exists to solve the current climate challenges. The world just needs focus, funding and friendship. Sorry, I couldn't think of a good way to end that sentence with another word beginning in F. If we think of how Tesla has transformed the EV industry, and Fortescue is transforming the green hydrogen industry in Australia, it seems to me that the fastest way to transform shipping and aviation would be to harness the energy of a 'star' billionaire. Elon, Twiggy - any takers?


Until next time!


Doug

aka The Regeneralist




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