Russia has signed a deal with Pakistan to build a major gas pipeline linking the nation’s southern port of Karachi to industrial hubs in the north. The deal is set to be the biggest between Moscow and Islamabad since the 1970s.
Russia’s Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov and the Pakistani Ambassador, Shafqat Ali Khan, signed a revised agreement on the project in Moscow on Friday, opening the way for the start of construction in the near future.
Spanning more than 1,100 kilometers, the pipeline dubbed the ‘Pakistan Stream’ is expected to have a discharge capacity of up to 12.3 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, according to the Energy Ministry’s statement.
The pipeline would connect liquefied natural gas terminals in Karachi and another port city, Gwadar, with power plants and industrial hubs in Pakistan’s northern region of Punjab, which includes the city of Lahore.
Both nations “put a major effort” in preparing the amendments to the deal. The signing of the agreement would allow them to begin construction “as soon as possible.” The deal would “help Pakistan strengthen its energy security and increase its reliance on natural gas as an eco-friendly energy source.”
Last year, a Pakistan official told Bloomberg that the construction could start as early as June. However, officials in Russia have not confirmed this information yet. The project, which has an estimated cost of $2.25 billion according to the Pakistani media, would involve the establishment of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company operated jointly by Pakistan’s Inter State Gas Systems and several Russian firms, including the TMK – a company that is one of the world’s leading steel pipe suppliers for the oil and gas industry, doing business in Russia, the US and Canada, among other nations.
Under the agreement, Pakistan would reportedly own 74% of the stakes in the pipeline operator while Russia would have the remaining 26%. The initial agreement on the pipeline construction was signed back in 2015 but it was then reviewed.
The project is set to become the biggest infrastructure deal between Pakistan and Russia since at least the early 1970s, when the Soviet Union built the Pakistan Steel Mills industrial complex at Port Qasim, near Karachi.
“The Pakistan Stream remains a flagship project in bilateral cooperation between Russia and Pakistan and both nations give priority to this issue,” Shulginov said.
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will open a new joint nuclear project between Russia and China on May 19, TASS reports with reference to the Chinese Foreign Ministry . Details of the project are classified. The Chinese Foreign Ministry only announced that the leaders will participate in the presentation via video link. They did not specify what kind of object they were talking about.
Previously, Russia and China collaborated on the construction of four power units at the Tianwan NPP and the CEFR Demonstration Fast Nuclear Reactor. What do they say about the project in Beijing? Konstantin Shchepin, a Russian journalist in China:
“Judging by the open information, we already have a lot of projects in the nuclear power industry. This is the famous Tianwan NPP, which is being built in the Jiangsu province and where more and more power units are being built based on our VVER-1200 reactors. These are uranium enrichment plants in Gansu province. It is said that Beijing and Moscow have long been carrying out a project of a new generation of fast breeder reactors somewhere near Beijing. But there is very little information about this in the official media.
Perhaps this experimental reactor will be officially put into operation. These are my guesses. In Beijing, nothing has been written about this yet, it was the message that went through, everyone was surprised, everyone was inspired, everyone froze in anticipation and opened their eyes – what would it be. But so far the people are perplexed. Maybe this will also start a new project: China and Russia have already quite a long time ago, in my opinion, even last year or the year before, agreed on the construction of nuclear power plants in the northeast of China. It is not clear yet.”
In June 2018, after a visit to China, Vladimir Putin said that the countries had agreed on the construction of two power units of the Tianwan NPP by Rosatom , and also agreed on the construction of another Russian-designed nuclear power plant in China. Construction was scheduled to begin in December 2020. Representatives of Rosatom and the Chinese National Atomic Corporation have already signed a general contract for the construction of the seventh and eighth units of the Tianwan NPP. According to the head of Rosatom, Alexei Likhachev, in May it is planned to “build the first concrete at the seventh power unit.”
Power unit of the Tianwan NPP launched with the assistance of Russian specialists
The work on the physical start-up of the Tianwan NPP in China was completed on September 30 with the participation of the state corporation Rosatom, the press service of the company reports. The last stage of work on the launch of the Tianwan NPP was the bringing of power unit 4 to maximum capacity, which was carried out on September 30 with the technical assistance of specialists from the Engineering Division of Rosatom. Rosatom noted that the physical start-up of the reactor was completed ahead of schedule
Russia and China will build a station on the moon
The Russian and Chinese sides signed a memorandum on the creation of a lunar station. This is stated on the website of “Roscosmos” .
Representatives of the governments of Russia and China – the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin and the head of the Chinese National Space Administration (KNKA) Zhang Kejian – signed a cooperation agreement in the format of a video conference. The parties agreed to be guided by “the principles of parity distribution of rights and obligations” and to use “outer space for peaceful purposes in the interests of all mankind.”
The memorandum specifies that the planned lunar station is intended “for multidisciplinary and multipurpose research work,” and considers the further prospect of the presence of a person directly on the moon. The agreement implies both joint planning, development and implementation of the project, as well as its presentation to the world community.
“Russia and China traditionally strive to develop cooperation in the field of space technologies”, – is specified in the conclusion of the agreement.
The document also implies the cooperation of the Russian mission with the orbital spacecraft Luna-Resurs-1 (OA) and the Chinese mission to explore the polar region of the Moon, Chang’e-7. At the end of 2020, China, which had previously sent a mission to the moon, planted a national flag on the surface of a natural satellite of the Earth. Thus, the country became the third – after the USA and the USSR – power to plant its flag on the moon.
Russia and China agreed to extend the Neighborliness Treaty
The treaty on good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation, which Russia and China have agreed to automatically extend for another five-year period, will be filled taking into account new realities and will give impetus to the development of bilateral relations, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, which is very important. Over the past 20 years, this agreement has laid a solid legal foundation for the healthy, sustainable development of Russian-Chinese relations and contributed to the optimization and modernization of bilateral relations.
We have agreed on the automatic extension of this agreement, and we must constantly give this agreement a new content, taking into account the realities of the era, so that it adapts to the new conditions of Russian-Chinese relations. I think that this agreement will certainly help us to reach new agreements and give a new impetus to the development of relations, ”TASS quotes a statement by the head of the PRC Foreign Ministry, made before the talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
As Wang Yi noted, in recent days, “a handful of European powers have been on the international stage with accusations against China and Russia, but they know that [this is] a lie under a far-fetched pretext, and [once successful] attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of China and Russia have gone far into the past. ” Wang Yi stressed that despite the changing international environment, “our determination to uphold international justice remains unchanged.” “These attempts cannot prevent China from moving forward and cannot change the historical trend,” concluded Wang Yi.
The day before, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in China on a visit. Earlier, Lavrov, in an interview with Chinese media, said that the Treaty of Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation with China “has successfully passed the test of time and the obligations recorded in it are being sacredly fulfilled,” thanks to the document, relations between the countries reached an “unprecedented level.”
Recall that on March 1, the Ministry of Defense of the PRC characterized the Russian-Chinese relations in the military sphere as a partnership in comprehensive strategic interaction. In early January, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that strategic cooperation between Russia and China has no end, no upper limit, and no exclusion zones.
Then in November 2020, Beijing announced China’s readiness “side by side with Russia to jointly oppose one-sided policies, protectionism and hegemony” of states that “strike a blow at international relations and international order.” In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club admitted the possibility of concluding a military alliance between Moscow and Beijing.
September 2020, the Chinese Foreign Minister stressed the special importance of relations with Russia, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a congratulatory telegram to President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Victory in World War II, announced China’s readiness to join forces with Russia for the sake of global peace, security and prosperity for future generations.
Food has become one of the main points of growth in trade between the PRC and the Russian Federation
Trade in food products in recent years has become one of the key points in the growth of economic cooperation between China and Russia, said Russian Trade Representative to China Alexei Dakhnovsky on Tuesday, speaking at the opening ceremony of the Russian pavilion at the SIAL food exhibition. On Tuesday, within the framework of the SIAL international food exhibition in Shanghai, a joint stand of the Russian Federation was opened; 18 Russian companies are represented on an area of 400 square meters.
“Trade in agricultural products and food products in recent years has been one of the key points of growth of bilateral economic cooperation between our countries. China is the largest importer of these products, Russia has something to offer from this range, the high quality of which is in high demand among the Chinese consumer,” Dakhnovsky said, follows from the widespread video recording of the opening ceremony.
He stressed that the pandemic and quarantine measures that exist in China today have certainly had a negative impact on trade in this area. However, according to the trade representative, with the exception of seafood, in the first quarter of this year, the volume of Russian food products exports to China increased by 17.6%.
“Therefore, companies from Russia pay serious attention to their work in the Chinese market and work at the Chinese international food exhibition. We are confident that the products of Russian companies presented here will find their customers. I wish all the participants of the Russian exposition successful work at the exhibition.” added Dakhnovsky.
According to the General Administration of Customs of the PRC, the trade turnover between Russia and China in the first four months of 2021 increased by 19.8% compared to the same period last year and amounted to $ 40.2 billion.
The official representative of the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC, Gao Feng, said that China expects that trade with Russia will reach a new maximum by the end of this year.
At the end of 2020, trade between the two countries fell by 2.9% and amounted to $ 107.76 billion.
China bought helicopters from Russia for $ 2 billion
In 2019, China bought 121 helicopters from Russia for $ 2 billion, the state corporation Rostec reported.
We are talking about 68 Mi-171 helicopters, 18 Mi-171Sh helicopters, 14 Mi-171 helicopters with a VK-2500 engine and 21 Ansat helicopters. All versions of the Mi-171 are produced at an aircraft plant in Buryatia. China plans to supply 86 helicopters with Ukrainian engines.
The cost of only 100 Mi-171 helicopters can exceed $ 2 billion, expert Konstantin Makienko estimated . One “Ansat” can cost China at least $ 3.3 million.
The contracts for helicopters are the largest known with China after Russia supplied China with Su-35 fighters and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, said Vasily Kashin , a spokesman for the Higher School of Economics . There are about 500 Mi-8 or Mi-17 helicopters in operation in China. China also produces its own Z-20 and Z-18 helicopters, but, apparently, their characteristics do not satisfy the army, Kashin suggested.
Chinese Foreign Minister calls relations with Russia “unlimited”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi commented on the strategic relationship between Beijing and Moscow. They have no “no-go zone” or “upper limit”, RIA Novosti quoted a diplomat who was interviewed by Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television.
The PRC Foreign Minister admitted that last year the Chinese-Russian relations withstood the test of the pandemic and reached a qualitatively new level. At the same time, the countries continue to cooperate on the containment of coronavirus infection and research on the development of vaccines.
“Collaboration in new formats such as digital economy and e-commerce is expanding rapidly,” concluded Wang Yi.
Russia and Germany will jointly implement projects in hydrogen energy. The corresponding agreement was reached by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak with the Minister of Economy and Energy of the Federal Republic of Germany Peter Altmeier
The meeting was also attended by the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov, the rector of the St. Petersburg Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko and the ex-Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany Klaus Toepfer, according to the website of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Russian Federation.
“We agreed that it is important to make joint projects in hydrogen energy. The Prime Minister of the Federal State of Saxony (FRG) Michael Kretschmer recently visited. He proposed joint projects in the field of hydrogen, ” Novak said at the meeting.
“I will give instructions to the Ministry of Energy of Russia so that we jointly propose one or two projects from which we would start,” added the Deputy Prime Minister, whose words are quoted in the release of the Cabinet. According to the Deputy Prime Minister, it is necessary to continue working on joint energy projects.
A German company is already working with Gazprom on this issue.
Meanwhile, Wintershall Dea and Gazprom are discussing the possibility of transporting hydrogen through the existing gas transmission system. The head of the German company, Mario Mehren, told about this in an interview with the corporate magazine of the Russian holding.
“As part of the Science and Technology Cooperation Program between Gazprom and Wintershall Dea, specialists from our companies and joint ventures are discussing current innovative projects in order to find ideas and jointly develop solutions,” Meren explained.
“This initiative has been around for almost 30 years. And it is one of the largest and most intensive exchange formats of this kind, ”said the head of Wintershall Dea. He stressed that during the pandemic, this work continued in an online format.
“For example, in recent months, there has been intense discussion of the possibility of adapting the existing pipeline infrastructure for the transportation of hydrogen. And the use of decarbonized solutions in our joint gas transportation business. Hopefully, soon we will be able to report on new projects in this area, ” Meren added .
In addition, Wintershall Dea and Gazprom are planning a campaign to measure methane emissions. The goal is to reduce the intensity of these emissions during gas production. The partners also plan to jointly develop measures to improve the energy efficiency of compressor stations.
“I am convinced that international partnership will continue to play an important role in the future. And thanks to joint efforts to decarbonize the energy sector, we will be able to further strengthen and expand the successful Russian-German cooperation, ”Meren concluded.
Hydrogen-mixed economy might be coming much sooner than expected. There are many factors contributing to that outcome – at least at the middle term of transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
Tehran, 1943: Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Hosted by the young Shah Reza Pahlavi. Agree on plans for the two-front attack on Hitler while sketching out the east-west division of Europe.
Holding the meeting in Iran, with separate consultations with the shah, was no mistake. Gulf oil was a critical resource to the Allied war effort. Oil has flowed under the surface of political conflicts ever since.
Fast-forward to today, and political antagonists and energy players are again forging a messy path forward. This time focused on long-term energy transitions as disparate countries try to slow and eventually stop climate change.
The 2015 Paris Agreement was a groundbreaking diplomatic effort. 196 countries committed to prevent average temperatures from rising by more than 2 C (3.6 F), with an aim of less than 1.5 C (2.7 F). To meet that goal, scientists argue that fossil fuel use will have to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century.
As the world’s population and economies grow, energy demand is expected to increase by as much as 50% over the next 30 years. Making the right long-term investments is crucial.
Different visions of the future
Energy companies and policymakers have widely different visions of that future. Their long-term scenarios show that most expect fossil fuel demand to remain steady for decades and possibly decline. However, many are also increasing their investments in cleaner technologies.
The International Energy Agency has a history of underestimating demand and clean energy. Forecasts that renewable energy will meet about one-third of the global energy demand by 2040 in its most optimistic scenario.
That would be in a world with higher carbon taxes and more wind power, solar power, electric vehicles, carbon capture and storage. Greener technologies may come close to keeping warming under 2 C, but not quite.
Exxon, on the other hand, forecasts a path dependent on a fossil fuel-based economy, with slower transitions to electric vehicles, steady demand for oil and gas, and a warmer world.
Exxon is also investing in carbon capture and storage and hydrogen. However, it believes oil and gas will provide half the global energy supply in 2040 and renewable energy will be less than one-fifth.
OPEC, whose members are among the most exposed to climate change and dependent upon oil and gas, also sees oil and gas dominating in the future. Nonetheless, several Gulf nations are also investing heavily in alternative technologies. – including nuclear, solar, wind and hydrogen.
BP proposes a more focused shift toward cleaner energy. Its “rapid scenario” forecasts flat energy demand and a more dramatic swing to renewables combined with a growing hydrogen economy. The company expects its own renewable energy to go from 2.5 gigawatts in 2019 to 50 GW by 2030. And it expect its oil production to fall by 40%.
Exploring hydrogen’s potential
Others are also exploring hydrogen’s potential. Much as with utilities’ shift from coal to natural gas, hydrogen may ease the transition to cleaner energy with enough investment.
Since this fuel is getting so much industry attention, let’s look more closely at its potential.
Hydrogen has the potential to fuel cars, buses and airplanes. It can heat buildings and serve as a base energy source to balance wind and solar power in our grids. Germany sees it as a potential substitute for hard-coal coke in making steel.
It also offers energy companies a future market using processes they know. It can be liquefied, stored, and transported through existing pipelines and LNG ships, with some modifications.
So far, however, hydrogen is not widely used as a clean-energy solution. First, it requires an upfront investment – including carbon capture capacity. It requires pipeline modifications, industrial boilers for heat rather than gas, and fuel cells for transportation. Plus policies that support the transition.
Second, for hydrogen to be “green,” the electricity grid has to have zero emissions.
Most of today’s hydrogen is made from natural gas and is known as “grey hydrogen.” It is produced using high-temperature steam to split hydrogen from carbon atoms into methane. Unless the separated carbon dioxide is stored or used, grey hydrogen results in the same amount of climate-warming CO2 as natural gas.
Gray, Blue and Green Hydrogen
“Blue hydrogen” uses the same process but captures the carbon dioxide and stores it so only around 10% of the CO2 is released into the atmosphere. “Green hydrogen” is produced using renewable electricity and electrolysis. It is twice as expensive as blue and dependent on the cost of electricity and available water.
Many electric utilities and energy companies, including Shell, BP and Saudi Aramco, are actively exploring a transition to a hydrogen-mixed economy, with a focus on blue hydrogen as an interim step.
Europe, with its dependence on imported natural gas and higher electricity costs, is setting ambitious net-zero energy targets. That will incorporate a mix of blue and green hydrogen coupled with wind, solar, nuclear and an integrated energy grid.
China, the world’s largest energy user and greenhouse gas emitter, is instead investing heavily in natural gas. Natural gas has about half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal – along with carbon capture and storage and a growing mix of solar and wind power.
Russia, the second-largest natural gas producer after the US, is expanding its gas production and exports to Asia. Some of that gas may end up as blue hydrogen.
Ramping up blue and green hydrogen as clean-energy solutions will require substantial investments and long-term modifications to energy infrastructure. In my view, it is not the magic bullet, but it may be an important step.
This story originally appeared on The Conversation website. To see the original, please clickhere.
Analysts say fuel cell electric vehicles are the leading alternatives to internal combustion engine automobiles
By ALAN KIRK
On March 22, a trio of Chinese electric vehicle (EV) companies – Nio, Xpeng, Li Auto, all New York listed – announced that they were hiring investment advisers to assist them with secondary listings in Hong Kong.
Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley have been appointed as Nio is looking to sell a 5% stake, valued at approximately $3.5 billion. Somewhat lower but still comparable valuations for the other two would bring a total of $7.5 billion to Hong Kong.
CNBC stock market guru Jim Cramer, usually unflappable, did a double take on air, also on March 22, commenting on Ark Investment fund manager Cathie Wood’s call of $3,000 per share for Tesla,
“I don’t think there is a fund manager in this country that could get away with this kind of thing other than Cathie Wood.
“But Cathie Wood actually is so good that you start thinking, ok, what is Elon Musk going to do? Maybe he’s got a lot on his mind that she has thought about and …”
And so it went for several more minutes.
The electric vehicle space is jumping and, of course, Musk almost certainly has a lot in mind that will make it even more attractive to investors.
What he’s most likely not thinking about is the large-scale application of hydrogen for EVs. He once called fuel cells “fool cells.”
But while hydrogen fuel cells are just beginning to provide serious competition to battery powered vehicles in personal transportation, they are making a large impact in the heavier vehicle commercial transportation space where large loads have to be carried over long distances.
That’s where hydrogen has the advantage.
And that’s where China, just getting to be competitive with the likes of Tesla in snazzy passenger cars, is poised to seize the lead with hydrogen-powered trucks.
The hydrogen fuel cell is a rare example of a long-established technology turning into a game-changing disrupter. It has powered spacecraft and submarines for decades. However, it made little headway in ground transportation because governments balked at the cost of building fueling infrastructure. And also because the cost of producing the raw materials was prohibitive.
That’s changing in a big way! Mainly because China has made hydrogen-powered ground transport one of the top priorities of its $560 billion a year technology investment budget.
Europe and Japan – Germany has declared 2021 the year of hydrogen technology – are running only slightly behind China. For the next decade or so, battery-powered passenger vehicles will dominate the market for low-carbon substitutes for the internal combustion engine. But batteries can’t power long-range freight transportation by truck and rail, and China is making a decisive commitment to hydrogen.
China’s commitment to hydrogen has drawn the attention of global investors.
In a March 2021 report entitled “China’s gateway to a hydrogen future,” J.P. Morgan research analysts Han Fu and Stephen Tsui write, “Green hydrogen, a clean form of energy, clearly holds potential to play a critical role in China’s 2060 carbon neutrality ambitions.
“Fuel Cell EVs appear to be emerging as an early use case. This is an opportunity for the China hydrogen ecosystem to develop approaches to overcome technical and economic challenges, necessary for more widespread future applications. Hydrogen plays have been in market focus, and valuations are lofty.”
“The global automotive fuel cell market size was USD1.07 billion in 2020…This market exhibited a stellar growth of 44% in 2020,” according to a Fortune Business Insights study, and “is projected to grow from USD $1.73 billion in 2021 to UD $34.63 billion in 2028 at a stellar compound adjusted growth rate of 53.5% in the 2021-2028 period.”
The Fortune report adds that fuel cell electric vehicles are “the leading alternatives to the widely used internal combustion engine automobiles.” The lion’s share of the growth, will be in the Asia-Pacific region.
Already largest market
Already the largest market for Plug-in Energy Vehicles (PEV’s) with 3 million on the road. China projects a fleet of 50,000 fuel-cell vehicles (FCV’s) by 2025 and 1 million by 2030, from only 6,000 on the road in 2019.
Beijing listed hydrogen as an energy source in a public law for the first time in its 2020 Energy Law of the People’s Republic of China. It established subsidies for FCV’s through four government departments, with an emphasis on freight and urban mass transit.
China is ready to finance the refueling infrastructure required to make hydrogen-based transport economically viable. And it has a large supply of hydrogen. It is now produced as a waste byproduct by its chemical industry.
According to government directives issued in September 2020, central government subsidies for FCV’s could reach RMB 17 billion. It is depending on how quickly Chinese cities meet their targets for FCV deployment. Local governments are likely to match the central government support. Supporting between 40,000 and 60,000 new vehicles between 2020 and 2023.
China’s commitment to fuel-cell vehicles prompted a scramble by Europe and Japan to put forward their own programs.
Established Chinese automakers as entrepreneurs are launching new ventures to meet the enormous demand for FCV’s projected by the government. SAIC, a state-owned automaker, plans to produce 10,000 FCV’s a year by 2025. More ambitious is the alliance between startup Ares Motors and two established Chinese vehicle manufacturers, Fujian-based Wisdom Motors and Chery Holdings of Anhui Province.
Ares expects to produce 4,000 PEV’s and FCV’s in 2021 at Wisdom’s Fujian facility. And cross the 10,000- vehicle mark within several years.
Large international automakers are gearing up for the Chinese market. Both as OEM’s and as components manufacturers. Toyota set up a joint venture with FAW group in 2019 which will begin to deliver fuel-cell systems for trucks and buses in China in 2022.
The supply chain for FCV components, moreover, is in an early stage of development. The September government directives focused on building infrastructure (mainly refueling stations) as well as developing a robust supply chain.
This includes more efficient capture of waste hydrogen from China’s chemical industry. Also additional hydrogen production facilities, and manufacturing of fuel stacks (the hydrogen storage module for vehicles) as well as engines.
J.P. Morgan analysts explained in their March 2021 report, “With the carbon-neutrality target now in place, we are optimistic that hydrogen can replicate the success of wind/solar power. The H2 addressable market could grow >30x by 2050, to Rmb12tn, and we estimate green hydrogen’s being commercially competitive by 2030.
This expectation is backed by multiple catalysts to spawn H2 development in China, including top-down policy support, technological improvements and economies of scale.”
Hydrogen, to be sure, remains controversial.
In Europe, Volkswagen-owned Scania, one of Europe’s largest truck producers, declared last year that fuel-cell trucks will be too inefficient and costly to compete with the battery-powered alternative. Scania is betting that improvements in battery technology will allow battery-powered trucks to carry a standard 40-ton load for 4.5 hours — far more than today’s batteries can manage.
To travel several hundred miles today, an eighteen-wheeler would have to carry nothing but batteries to power the engine.
Volvo and Daimler have joined forces with Shell to make hydrogen the future commercial standard for trucking in Europe.
Dubbed “H2Accelerate,” the Shell-led program envisions a public-private partnership to create economies of scale for freight FCV’s. With a network of hydrogen fueling stations built out across Europe by the second half of the 2020s. A trade association, Hydrogen Europe, predicted that Europe would have 10,000 hydrogen trucks in operation by 2025 and 100,000 by 2030.
The United States is far behind Asia and Europe.
A former top General Motors engineer, Ian Hanna, believes in pursuing hydrogen and battery technology in tandem. A former head of GM’s systems safety operations in China, Hanna now heads Ares Motors, an ambitious OEM startup.
What distinguishes Ares is a combination of intellectual property for vehicle fuel cells and partnerships with major Chinese manufacturers that allow it to scale up vehicle production very quickly.
“We’ve got prototypes running on the road with demonstration vehicles that are to be ready by the end of the year. We are actually going after significant volume for this year in the thousands of vehicles,” Hanna told Asia Times.
“And it’s with our dual approach. We’re not only a hydrogen fuel cell company. We’re also a battery electric vehicle [BEV} company. That dual propulsion strategy allows us to meet customer needs this year.
“The 2021 volumes will primarily be through the BEV’s. The infrastructure is well established and the technologies of course are mature, so the customer’s comfortable with it. And then long-term we’ll be able to offer our customers both the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and our BEV vehicles. Only depending upon whatever is the best fit for their use.”
Choice of electric battery power or hydrogen fuel cells
Ares’ flagship product is a heavy truck with a choice of electric battery power or hydrogen fuel cells. The hydrogen model offers a 1,000-kilometer cruising range with a standard 43-ton load. Compared with 400 kilometers for the battery-electric vehicle version.
“For a lot of the longer-range customers,” Hanna added, “the BEV truck may not make sense. So we’ll be able to offer them both of those solutions. I think our timing will be right. We will have the customer relationships, as well as the technology to differentiate our company.
“We have our own proprietary fuel cell engines and other technology that we can build and integrate into our trucks. By contrast, competitors are doing that through non-binding partnerships. We’ve developed a lot of that technology, and our partners are part of the Ares family. A lot of our technology comes from established OEMs.
“There’s no reason for Ares to go and reinvent an electronic power system. We have great partners that already know how to do that really well right now. We will be able to hit the ground with significant volume in a very short time.”
A key partnership is with Sunrise Power, China’s premier manufacturer of fuel cells, with whom Ares has a joint-venture laboratory. Ares is working with Sunrise and other partners to build hydrogen refueling stations in Europe and North America as well as China.
According to a company release, “The new Ares energy stations will ensure the infrastructure is in place to support both our BEV and FCEV vehicles. The energy station will include facilities for charging BEV vehicles, Hydrogen fueling pumps, traditional gas and diesel pumps, and battery swap capability.”
Strong government support and a robust supply chain
The combination of strong government support and a robust supply chain for FCV technology as well as hydrogen fuel makes it possible for a startup like Ares to scale up production rapidly.
“Asia Pacific is projected to hold a major market share due to the encouraging FCEV deployment targets of governments. Coupled with increasing investments in hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Additionally, high fuel stacks manufacturing capacities in the region, owing to the presence of large-scale FC passenger car manufacturers, will also add to the regional landscape.
Ares Motor, a Canadian company with principal operations in China, is seeking a Nasdaq listing in the course of the first half of this year. It also builds city and highway buses, as well as logistic vehicles and autonomous tractors for use in port and dock areas.
Perhaps Ares’ most important advantage is to be located in China. Cost efficiency is the key to the future of hydrogen-powered transport. And the cost of hydrogen itself is the most important variable.
China now produces a third of the world’s hydrogen
China now produces a third of the world’s hydrogen. 20 million metric tons a year. Enough to cover a tenth of the country’s total energy needs. At an estimated fuel consumption of 7.5 kilograms of hydrogen for every 100 miles of road haulage, according to Fuelcelslworks.com, China’s present output potentially could power a truck fleet over 267 billion miles a year of transport. More than enough to meet the country’s present annual 6 billion ton-miles of road transportation.
The cost of hydrogen production is falling. From $6 per kilogram in 2015 to $2 per kilogram in 2025.
China led the world in deployment of cost-efficient solar energy. Many analysts expect China to do the same with hydrogen. A study by Chinese scientists argues that a $2/kg hydrogen price can be achieved quickly through electrolysis of water. It produces the purest hydrogen with the lowest overall environmental impact.
Freight and bus transportation with FCVs becomes economically viable at a hydrogen price of $3/kg. Passenger car FCVs become viable at $2/kg.
Apart from China’s comparatively low production costs for hydrogen, a shift to this fuel source contributes to China’s energy security. As of the first half of 2020 China imported 73% of its oil consumption. Substituting home-produced hydrogen for imported oil is a national security measure as well as an economic and environmental consideration.
In the PRC, there are currently 50 operating industrial nuclear reactors with a total electrical capacity of 47.5 GW. According to this indicator, China is second only to the United States and France. Although, unlike the latter, where nuclear power accounts for over 70% of the country’s total electricity generation, China has only 5%; seven years ago, the figure was two times lower, and the capacity of all power units was 16 GW.
Russia has made and continues to make a significant contribution to the development of the PRC’s nuclear power industry. Through the efforts of Rosatom, the Tianwan nuclear power plant is being built. It is located in the area of the same name in the Lianyungang city district of Jiangsu province. At the moment, its capacity is 5.5 GW. The facility is the largest within the framework of Russian-Chinese economic cooperation.
Start of construction
The construction of nuclear power plants in eastern China began in 1999. Then the operating capacity of nuclear power in the Asian country was only 2 GW. The Russian company had signed a general contract for the construction of the facility two years earlier with the newly formed JNPC ( Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation ).
Atomstroyexport CJSC – Engineering Division of Rosatom State Corporation – according to the agreements, it was to complete the project of the future plant, supply the necessary materials and equipment, carry out construction and installation work and train Chinese personnel for the further operation of the nuclear power plant.
The AES-91 project, developed by specialists from the St. Petersburg Institute Atomenergoproekt ( now JSC Atomproekt ), was taken as a basis . On its basis, the detailed design of two power units with VVER-1000/320 reactors was carried out. They were put into operation as part of the first stage in the summer of 2007.
At the Tianwan NPP, Russian specialists for the first time used a system of passive protection that was new at that time. Called the Melt Localization Device. This tapered metal structure is installed under the reactor vessel. In the event of a severe accident, retains the melt and solid fragments of the destroyed core, providing insulation for the foundation under the vessel and the reactor building. Thanks to the introduction of the new technology, six years after the launch of the nuclear power plant, its first two power units were recognized as the safest in China. The station began to generate 15 billion kWh annually.
Successful cooperation contributed to the continuation of joint work. Russia and China agreed on in the fall of 2009, and in March 2010 they signed a new contract worth $ 1.7 billion for the construction of the second stage. These are power units 3 and 4. According to official publication of Rosatom reported that the negotiations were not easy.
By this time, Beijing was cooperating with the Americans, Japanese and French in the field of nuclear energy. Their own projects were also developed. Therefore, the competition for the construction of the next two power units at the Tianwan NPP was serious. The Russian side hoped to sign the treaty back in 2008, but the discussions dragged on.
As a result, taking into account the level of safety and technical and economic indicators, the Chinese side still gave preference to the Russian project. Moreover, it was refined from the technical and operational sides, based on the experience of the accident that occurred in March 2011 at the Fukushima-1 NPP.
The second stage was launched in December 2012. Power unit No. 3 was commissioned at the beginning, and No. 4 at the end of 2018. Everything related to the operation of the nuclear reactor was designed by JSC Atomproekt, the construction, installation and commissioning works were carried out by the Chinese with the participation of specialists from Russia. Chinese President Xi Jinping called the Tianwan NPP an exemplary cooperation project.
The third stage was implemented by China on its own. The ACPR1000 reactors were installed on the blocks No. 5 and No. 6, which are based on the French project of the M310 reactor.
In the year of completion of the second stage, another agreement was concluded with the Russian side. According to which Atomstroyexport will be engaged in the design of Units 7 and 8. Later, a general contract was signed for construction. These will be new power units with pressurized water power reactors of generation “3+” and with a capacity of 1150 MW each ( VVER-1200 ). Then it was reported that the pouring of the first concrete of power unit No. 7 will begin in 2021. In March of this year, the head of the State Atomic Energy Corporation “Rosatom” Alexei Likhachev confirmed that work on the construction of the fourth stage of the nuclear power plant should begin in late spring.
After the fourth stage is completed, the Tianwan NPP with a total capacity of 8.1 GW will become the largest nuclear power plant on the planet. Until 2011, this was the Japanese Kashiwazaki-kariva ( 8.2 GW ), but after the accident at Fukushima-1, all seven of its units were stopped for modernization. This year, the sixth and seventh are to be restarted, but the fate of units 1-5 is still unknown, it is quite possible that they will never resume work.
So you don’t like CO2? What you need to know, then, is that there’s no alternative to advanced nuclear power.
Concern about the climate effects of man-caused CO2 emissions has prompted gigantic investments into so-called renewable energy sources: wind, solar, hydropower and biofuels. Meanwhile, in a huge mistake, nuclear energy – a reliable CO2-free power source producing 14% of the world’s electricity – has been left far behind.
Germany provides a bizarre example, albeit not the only one. Here the government’s commitment to its so-called climate goals has been combined, paradoxically, with the decision to shut down the country’s remaining nuclear power plants by 2022.
Would it not be more rational, if we believe that human emissions of CO2 are destroying the planet, to expand nuclear energy as quickly as possible, rather than shut it down?
Last December the influential German magazine Der Spiegel ran a story with the title, “Can New Reactor Concepts Save Us from the Climate Collapse?” The article reports on how numbers of international investors and firms, including Bill Gates and his TerraPower, are engaged in a race to develop advanced nuclear reactor technologies as the key to eliminating world dependence on fossil fuels. A goal that could never be attained by the so-called renewable sources alone.
What should we fear most?
Addressing readers who remain terrified of nuclear energy, Spiegel writes: “According to estimates, 800 000 people die every year from the smoke produced by coal, containing toxic substances such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury or arsenic. But concepts must also be demonstrated for how to dispose of the toxic substances contained in used-up photovoltaic cells.”
The magazine explains that “energy generation nearly always claims victims and creates some pollutants. The question is, what costs and risks are we ready to accept? What should we fear most? Global warming, which is sure to come, or a possible regional reactor catastrophe? The objections to nuclear energy are justified. But in view of climate change, is it right to reject nuclear technology altogether?”
New reactor designs such as the traveling wave reactor, the molten salt reactor and small modular reactors promise to be much safer and cheaper than conventional nuclear power. And to have broader ranges of applications. Some could even “burn” nuclear waste as a fuel. Therefore eliminating the need for very long-term storage of radioactive material, which is a major argument against nuclear energy. Standardized modular construction would allow nuclear reactors to be factory-produced in much shorter times.
On this basis, a massive expansion of nuclear power worldwide might be accomplished within the space of 10-15 years. The rapid build-up of nuclear power in France, in response to the 1973 “oil shock,” provides a certain historical precedent.
There is no doubt that nuclear energy is back on the world agenda. Even for many of those who have been bitterly opposed to it in the past. And nuclear energy – in the form used today – still has serious problems. But new reactor concepts are on the table. That addresses those issues and could completely redefine the role of nuclear energy in the world economy.
I shall describe some of these reactor concepts in a bit of detail. But first I should try to establish clarity on a crucial point.
I believe we are facing a branching point in global energy policy. What should be the priority? Assuming it should be a goal to drastically reduce world emissions of CO2 in the medium and long term – which I don’t want to argue about here – is it wise to invest so much in renewable energy sources, as many nations are doing today? Or should we allot only a limited role to the renewables? And go for a massive expansion of nuclear energy instead?