The concept of “green” hydrogen energy is increasingly being shattered by reality …

Today, the transition to carbon-free energy is considered to be a resolved issue. The general trend to improve the environmental friendliness of the economic activity of entire countries of the world has become the subject of numerous disputes, discussions and development of strategies for the transition to a new energy structure.

Europe (and the whole world as a whole) has chosen the transition to hydrogen energy as the most economically and energetically effective means of achieving climate neutrality in its countries by 2050.

In the energy strategies presented by Japan, South Korea, Russia and European countries, hydrogen is a universal energy carrier. It is intended to replace hydrocarbon fuels (oil, gas, coal) with an environmentally friendly and neutral gas with a high calorific value.

However, hydrogen energy has a significant problem (in addition to storage and transportation). The lack of free hydrogen deposits. Therefore, hydrogen is required to be produced. That is, to convert primary energy and primary resources into the production of hydrogen.

In other words, we must artificially create this energy carrier, moreover spending more energy on its production than we will receive from its use. And this, in turn, imposes a lot of restrictions on the use of primary energy. Firstly, it must be carbon-neutral, and secondly, powerful enough to provide not only the energy needs of mankind in primary energy, but also have a large reserve for the production of hydrogen and the transition to a hydrogen economy (as seen in Germany). Or to the hydrogen society (according to the Japanese version).

The basic concept for the use of hydrogen in Europe. 
Hydrogen is produced in electrolytic cells using renewable energy sources, as well as coal and gas stations. 
In addition, hydrogen and raw materials for its production (ammonia) are imported. 
The feedstock is processed into an additional volume of hydrogen, which is supplied to consumers through the existing gas pipelines (including together with natural gas).

Primary energy can be obtained in several ways:

  • burning traditional hydrocarbon raw materials (oil, gas, coal);
  • by using the physical processes of fission of an atomic nucleus (atomic energy);
  • using the potential of water masses in places of elevation differences (hydropower);
  • or using wind and solar energy (wind and solar energy);
  • using the thermal energy of the bowels of our planet (geothermal energy);
  • in the future, it is possible to use physical processes of fusion of nuclei of light elements (thermonuclear energy).

Since the hydrogen concept provides for the abandonment of hydrocarbon resources, it is impossible to use gas or coal to produce hydrogen – this will break the entire hydrogen concept.

However, new gas-fired power plants under construction in Germany have practically zero CO2 emissions into the atmosphere due to the technology of capturing associated greenhouse gases with their subsequent utilization. For example, the energy company “Uniper” in Germany has already built the world’s first coal-fired power plant that meets all European environmental standards.

Moreover, in spite of Germany’s policy of not using coal, a brand new 1100 MW Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant was launched in 2020, whose emissions are at the level of the most modern gas-fired power plants operating in Germany. The cost of this project amounted to almost 1.5 billion euros.

Kraftwerk Datteln 4 is the world’s first environmentally friendly coal-fired power plant. 
Germans do things ..

Yes, as amazing as it is, Germany has donated € 1.5 billion to a coal plant! Coal! But an environmentally friendly coal-fired power plant. And this is different – you need to understand.

Obviously, in the next 10 years, gas and even coal-fired power plants will become climate neutral, without harmful emissions into the atmosphere. And this is a fact.

The production of hydrogen as an energy carrier implies the use of renewable environmentally friendly raw materials – water, as well as renewable environmentally friendly sources of energy in the form of the sun, wind and the same hydropower.

The production of hydrogen by this method will be as natural for the Earth’s ecosystem as the water cycle in nature. This type of hydrogen has received the designation – “green”.

Today it is too expensive to mass-produce “green” hydrogen using solar and wind power plants. This trend will only get worse in the future. The thing is that the cost of raw materials in the form of rare earth metals, and just all other non-ferrous metals (for example, copper) is already breaking records due to high demand. Without them it is impossible to build a modern SPP and wind turbine.

Thus, spot prices for polycrystalline silicon increased by more than 20%. And the cost of producing polysilicon panels has grown exponentially since the beginning of 2021!

Therefore, conversations about the mass production of “green” hydrogen, faced with the harsh reality, began to subside on the sly. Simply because producing electricity at the same solar power plants is 3 times more profitable than producing the same amount of “green” hydrogen in energy equivalent.

Today, the production of “blue” hydrogen is 3-4 times more profitable than the production of “green”, even taking into account the carbon tax 

Realizing this, many would-be hydrogen producers have simply abandoned the mass production of green hydrogen. For example, Australia in its hydrogen strategy focuses on the production of “gray” hydrogen from coal with associated storage of CO2. Japan is already interested in the project.

The United Arab Emirates and Qatar will invest in the production of blue hydrogen.

And in the hydrogen strategies of Japan, South Korea and European countries, the point of self-sufficiency of their economies with the necessary amount of hydrogen is generally omitted.

In Germany, it is generally stated that Russia should supply them with hydrogen, so there should be no problems with the transition to a hydrogen economy by 2050 (see paragraph 38 of Germany’s hydrogen strategy).

In Russia, according to the hydrogen strategy, by 2024 the economic model of the hydrogen economy itself, with all its derivatives (production of methane-hydrogen mixtures; production of turbine units capable of operating on hydrogen; production of hydrogen transport) should be developed and substantiated. Gazprom is developing a technology for producing “blue” hydrogen. Rosatom is developing a technology for producing “yellow” hydrogen (electrolysis of water at nuclear power plants and the construction of a nuclear power plant for the direct production of hydrogen by high-temperature electrolysis).

Since 2010, Rosatom has been developing a technology for producing hydrogen using high-temperature gel nuclear reactors. 
The first such station should appear in 2030

Even old Europe is not so optimistic about green hydrogen anymore. Europe suddenly equated the ecological footprint of nuclear power plants in her 387-page study posted on the European Commission’s JRC SCIENCE FOR POLICY REPORT to the ecological footprint of wind and solar power plants.

This is because there is no other way to realize the mass and, most importantly, cheap production of “green” hydrogen, on which Europe relies heavily. Well, this somehow saves the very concept of environmentally friendly hydrogen.

However, in Russia, quite recently, the development of a project began, which is still able to revive the original concept of precisely “green” hydrogen. As the use of water and a renewable environmentally friendly source of energy. This project, worth more than $ 300 billion, will pay off in just 5 years. It will fully provide Europe with the necessary amount of “green” hydrogen. At the same time, Russia itself by 2050 will become the world’s largest producer of hydrogen of all “colors”. And 85% of the total world production of “green” hydrogen will be generated by Russian power plants.

One of the projects for the production of mass and cheap “green” hydrogen is the construction of a tidal power plant in the water area of ​​the Penzhinskaya Bay.

By
Alexey Kochetov

Yak-40LL flies with a superconducting electric motor

It became a world premiere: the first Russian “electric aircraft” – the Yak-40LL flying laboratory with a demonstrator of hybrid power plant (GSU) technologies flew to MAKS-2021. The flying laboratory flew off perfectly

TEXT: Natalia Yachmennikova

Experts note the clear coherence of the joint work of the aircraft systems and the GSU, which includes the world’s first superconducting electric aircraft engine. It complements the aircraft’s two turbojet engines. The use of high-temperature superconductivity technologies in the future will significantly reduce the weight and dimensions of electrical machines and increase the efficiency. This is critically important for aviation: flying is always a struggle with weight. And here we are ahead of the world by 2-3 years, because no one has yet demonstrated such an approach and such technologies have not been shown.

A 500 kW superconducting electric motor rotating the propeller is located in the bow of the Yak-40LL. There is also a liquid nitrogen cryogenic cooling system. The electric motor is powered by an electric generator rotated by a turboshaft gas turbine engine, it is installed in the tail section, and a battery pack. You take off on an electric motor, wherever possible, you start the gas turbine engine, recharge the battery at the permitted altitude, continue the flight again on electricity and sit down on the propellers.

Prior to the start of flight tests, the unique motor and its components were bench tested at CIAM. Then the GSU was installed on the Yak-40 aircraft, on the basis of which a flying laboratory was created at SibNIA. After confirming the stable joint operation of the electric motor and all aircraft systems during the ground test complex, the Yak-40LL moved to the flight test stage.

According to scientists, they hope to receive the entire set of technologies by 2026-2027, which will make it possible to create a regional aircraft on such a hybrid scheme by 2030. But we intend to go even further, namely, to use not nitrogen as a coolant in the engine, but liquefied hydrogen, which will also be fuel. It actually gives no emissions at all. This will be an even more complex scheme – for large aircraft, for long-range aviation. However, this is already the prospect of 2035 and beyond.

GSU “electrolyte” was developed by the Central Institute of Aviation Motors named after P.I. Baranova (CIAM, part of the Research Center “Institute named after NE Zhukovsky”) in broad cooperation of domestic enterprises. Thus, an innovative electric motor was created by the SuperOx company by order of the Advanced Research Fund. Among the participants in the work – FSUE “SibNIA named after S.A. Chaplygin” (SibNIA, also part of the Research Center “Institute named after N.E. Zhukovsky”), Ufa State Aviation Technical University, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Moscow Aviation Institute ( National Research University). The customer of the research work “Electrolet SU-2020” is the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation.

– At MAKS-2019, we presented a model of this flying laboratory and individual elements of the power plant. And at MAKS-2021, it has already taken off into the sky. During these two years, CIAM and our project partners have gained valuable practical experience in the development of hybrid power plants and the use of superconductivity in electric motors. We are already using the gained experience in other projects, including the use of hydrogen as a fuel, – said Mikhail Gordin, General Director of CIAM.

“We create superconducting materials and technologies that are needed to create efficient electric aircraft. During MAKS, we, together with our colleagues, clearly demonstrated a very important step on this path – a flying laboratory with a superconducting electric motor made its first demonstration flight. In the future, superconductors in combination with hydrogen fuel will open up a real way to create efficient and environmentally friendly aviation, ”says Andrey Vavilov, Chairman of the SuperOx Board of Directors.

– In flight tests, the most difficult task was to determine the effect of blowing the propeller of an electric motor on the operation of the propulsion engines in flight and the features in case of its failure, which was verified during flights, as well as to determine the features of the longitudinal stability of the aircraft during rebalancing arising. Everything turned out to be within acceptable limits, – says the general director of SibNIA, honored test pilot of the Russian Federation Vladimir Barsuk.

All developers of aviation technology in the world are engaged in the study of low-noise and environmentally friendly GSUs, primarily for promising production aircraft of small and regional aviation. Their advantage lies in the ability, on the one hand, to benefit from energy efficient, environmentally friendly electrical technologies, and on the other hand, to maintain an acceptable weight efficiency by optimizing the design and operating modes of gas turbine or piston aircraft engines.

– The technologies that we use in our “electric plane” are a breakthrough for the global aircraft industry. So far, we are testing innovative electric motors at the flying laboratory, but by about 2030, the Zhukovsky Institute expects to present a number of aircraft with fundamentally different economic and environmental indicators, including noise and emissions. This technological breakthrough could not have been made without the active interest and funding of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia and the Foundation for Advanced Research, ”sums up Andrei Dutov, Director General of the N.Ye. Zhukovsky Institute.

A hydrogen economy is closer than you think

Shell, BP and Saudi Aramco are all actively exploring ways to transition to a hydrogen-mixed economy

By JOHN BALLANTINE

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.

The hydrogen market is divided into grey, blue and green fields depending on how the fuel is produced. Image: Facebook

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 click here.

Hydrogen fuels a revolution in Chinese trucks

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.

Surprising?

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.

Ares Motor CEO Ian Hanna with some Chinese colleagues at the Wisdom Motor plant in Zhangzhou, Fujian, China. Photo: Supplied.

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.

Tianwan NPP – the largest object of economic cooperation between Russia and China

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 ).

© 风 之 清扬 / CC BY-SA 3.0 (Construction of the Tianwan NPP, 2010)

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.

Second stage

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.

© Mihha2 / CC BY-SA 3.0 / wikimapia.org (Construction of the Tianwan NPP)

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.

New stage

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.

Watch out! Biden wants to save the planet

Technology choices will decisively impact whether climate-pivoted economic policy brings benefit or disaster

By JONATHAN TENNENBAUM

President Joe Biden’s climate plan is a grandiose vision. Combining deliberate echoes of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal with the crash-program approach to development of technology. Exemplified by the Apollo program of the 1960s. If it works, planet Earth and the US economy will be saved at the same time.

Biden has vowed to establish US leadership in saving the planet from an impending climate apocalypse. His appointments of establishment climate activists to high positions in his administration, along with his opening salvos of executive orders, confirm his intention to make climate the central topic in all spheres of US government activity.

He calls it the “Whole of Government Approach to the Climate Crisis.”

Among other things Biden ordered a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of the threat that climate change poses for US national security. He made climate officially the priority focus of US foreign policy. 

One has the distinct impression that the Biden Administration intends to use the climate crisis as an occasion for reasserting the primacy of US power in international affairs. Far beyond rejoining the Paris Agreement on his first day in office, Biden has made clear that the United States will act as global enforcer of CO2 reduction measures. And, needless to say, he intends to focus especially on China. 

Biden has committed himself to making climate the center of US domestic economic policy. The recent executive orders already contain elements of his campaign promise to channel $2 trillion into building a “clean” national infrastructure. And thereby creating millions of new jobs and driving innovation and economic growth.

If all goes according to plan, by 2035 the US should have 100% CO2-free electricity generation. By 2050 total net emissions should reach zero.

“Social Cost System”

Among the first concrete steps is to initiate planning for replacing the entire fleet of over 600,000 vehicles used by federal government and the US Postal Service to zero-emission vehicles.

A key move, which has so far attracted little attention in the news media, is to implement the so-called “social cost system” as a guiding criterion for daily government decision-making. The social cost system is based on attaching a numerical value to the “global damage” attributed to emission of a given amount of carbon dioxide – in the production of a given commodity, for example.

This will have a big economic impact through the choice of products and vendors for government purchases, on which Washington spends about $600 billion a year.

The $2 trillion climate plan – whose funding must, of course, be approved by Congress – would follow on the heels of a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to help the US economy and population recover from the effects of Covid-19.  

All in all, the degree of concentration of a US government on a single theme is practically unprecedented in peacetime. Were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic there would doubtless be much more discussion about this radical course.  People who believe that global warming is the greatest crisis of our time might easily overlook problematic, even ominous implications of declared policies.   

I wish to emphasize that I am not motivated by political opposition to the Biden Administration. Nor, of course, do I oppose rational measures to reduce and eventually eliminate the world’s one-sided dependence on fossil fuels.

One should also keep an open mind in respect to any new administration, which carries contradictory interests and impulses with it into office. It may adjust its course as it confronts reality.

Taking Biden’s declarations very seriously

But there are reasons to take Biden’s declarations very seriously.

Firstly, to all appearances Biden and his close advisors truly believe that the world is headed toward an unprecedented catastrophe through global warming. And that the clock is ticking and that urgent action is necessary to reduce CO2 emissions world wide. Not only the US but other nations as well must do so. Especially the largest COemitters, with China in first place.

Countries that refuse to reduce their emissions by the necessary amounts voluntarily must be forced to do so. The logic is inescapable. 

Secondly, as Biden has emphasized for the United States, replacing the world’s entire fossil fuel infrastructure with “clean technology” over the next 30-40 years creates a new market of colossal dimensions. Assuming that the nations and populations are able to pay for it. 

Thirdly, immense amounts of financial capital have already been committed to the expectation of radical climate policies. CO2 emissions are being monetized and a vast financial machinery created, tying asset valuations to parameters such as “carbon intensity” and “sustainability indices.”

Climate projections are being built into long-term risk strategies and the premium structures of insurance companies. The volume of carbon trade is growing exponentially. With it, the market for climate-linked financial instruments such as green bonds (already at $500 billion) and other so-called green assets.

Shaping global investment patterns and financial flows

Thereby, climate policy becomes a powerful instrument for shaping global investment patterns and financial flows. In his 2020 “Open Letter to CEOs” Larry Fink, the Chairman of the world’s largest asset management company, BlackRock, declared: “I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”

In the meantime BlackRock, several of whose executives have been named to high positions in the Biden Administration. And announced that it is making climate change central to its investment strategy for 2021.

Thus, in all probability the Biden Administration will indeed pursue the radical course announced during his campaign and signaled by initial executive orders.

What will that mean?

From the positive side, I have reason to expect that areas of science and technology that are critically important for the future – nuclear fission and fusion, new materials, hydrogen technologies, high-density energy storage, applications of high temperature superconductivity and much more – will receive greater support under the new administration, than has been the case under preceding ones.

This is a crucial point. Leaving many other factors aside, the choice of technologies employed in the promised rebuilding of US infrastructure. Assuming it actually occurs. It will have a decisive impact on whether Biden’s climate-pivoted economic policy will benefit the nation or lead to disaster.

Following this introductory article no. 1, further installments in the series will take up the following concerns:

  • Green imperialism: Is the Biden Administration turning the climate issue into a vehicle for great-power geopolitics? 
  • Will Biden’s climate policy serve, defacto, as a vehicle for financial interests that are positioning themselves to profit from the tectonic shifts in global financial flows, arising from a forced move away from fossil fuels? Is this a “BlackRock Administration”?
  • Will overheated climate measures set the stage for a financial crisis? Major bets are being placed on the future of the world energy system, and market stability faces the dual menaces of a “green bubble” of climate-linked financial assets and a “carbon bubble” of potentially worthless fossil fuel assets.
  • Consider the risk of a California-like horror scenario: economically ruinous over-expansion of so-called renewable energy sources and ideologically-driven environmentalist measures, leading to exploding energy prices, blackouts, economic austerity, productivity losses and growing poverty. Will ill-conceived climate measures generate a political backlash and a resurgence of the Republicans, at latest by the 2024 Presidential elections?
  • Will the United States descend into economic and social crisis when the temporary, government money injections-induced “high” begins to wear off?
  • What’s the danger that ill-conceived measures by the Biden Administration, in the name of saving the planet, will undermine the capability of the United States and other nations to cope with climate changes in the future?
  • At the end I shall make some remarks concerning what a rational approach to the climate issue would look like.

Jonathan Tennenbaum received his PhD in mathematics from the University of California in 1973 at age 22. Also a physicist, linguist and pianist, he is a former editor of FUSION magazine. He lives in Berlin and travels frequently to Asia and elsewhere, consulting on economics, science and technology.

Don’t like CO2? Nuclear power is the answer!

Renewable wind, solar, hydro and bio-fuels cannot fill the gap

by Jonathan Tennenbaum

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.

New agenda

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?