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

HyPower Lab leads hydrogen drone revolution

South Korean firm envisions the drones being used for parcel delivery, agriculture, freight and transportation

By DAVE MAKICHUK

Hydrogen fuel cell technology (HFCT) is expanding rapidly in many sectors.

For example, Volvo and Daimler have now partnered to speed up the transition away from diesel trucks and towards fuel cell electric vehicles in the European Union. Hydrogen-powered trains are now running in Germany.

BMW Group recently announced plans to unveil a limited series hydrogen fuel cell SUV in 2022. French aerospace giant Airbus is investing heavily in mature fuel cell propulsion systems for the zero-emission aviation market. 

Well, get ready for the newest twist — hydrogen-powered drones.

Not only that, but commercial drones, making deliveries and transporting people.

According to a report in FreightWaves.com, a South Korean-based hydrogen company, in concert with Russian researchers, has announced it will work to commercialize a hydrogen fuel cell drone.

Hypower Lab claims that using fuel cells can increase the flying time of a drone more than four times over traditional lithium-ion batteries — a major advantage.

It also envisions the drones being used for parcel delivery, agriculture, freight and even passenger transportation.

The R&D firm is working with the fuel cell research center under the Institute of Problems of Chemical Physics (IPCP) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the report said.

Yury Dobrovlsky, who leads the IPCP RAS research center, said the combination of Russian hydrogen fuel cell technology and Korean artificial intelligence technology will lead to mass production of the drone at competitive prices.

Developing drones for multiple applications

“We will lead the popularization of drone aircraft in the delivery drone commercialization market that needs around 3 million commercial drones in 2025 by establishing the hydrogen fuel cell mass production system exclusively for drones in South Korea,” he said.

The companies will work to develop drones for multiple applications in both Russia and South Korea, the report said.

The drone, which has a flight time of over three hours, Hypower said, features a 12-liter fuel canister with 4.8 hours of battery life.

Hypower is not the only company working on hydrogen-powered drones.

Doosan Mobility Innovation (DMI) announced it too had successfully tested a hydrogen-powered drone in a humanitarian delivery, the report said.

In February, DMI said it would seek European Union approval for its hydrogen fuel cell powerpack for drones later this year. The pack provides 2.6 kilowatts of power for two hours of flight time.

DMI plans to sell its product in Europe, Korea, the US and China.

A hydrogen transport cylinder

To help solve the problem of transporting hydrogen to drones, Intelligent Energy, a UK-based company, has developed a hydrogen transport cylinder — the IE-Soar — that features a high-pressure valve, the report said.

The valve is a key enabler and will make it simple for customers to get their full cylinders where they need them and ready to use, company officials said.

Currently, the legal transport of hydrogen in Europe and the US is limited.

“We know our fuel cells are the ideal choice for UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) operators requiring longer flight time,” Andy Kelly, head of UAV product development at Intelligent Energy, said.

“However, it is important that we support [these efforts] with the peripherals required to get operational. This valve is a key enabler and will make it simple for our customers to get their full cylinders where they need them and ready to use.”

Hydrogen is combined in the fuel cell with oxygen from the air to produce electricity; as long as hydrogen fuel is provided to the cell, the battery generates power.

This makes them valuable for long-range missions such as gathering aerial data or performing long-range deliveries and inspections, or for applications requiring larger drones and payloads.

Hydrogen batteries also work well in extreme cold weather, can be refueled in minutes and don’t emit greenhouse gasses like long-range, gas-powered drones do.

The Hycopter drone features a 12V payload power and an open bay that can carry up to six-pounds of additional equipment like a hi-res camera in gusty winds. Credit: Courtesy HES Energy.

 

Many hurdles remain however.

Around the world, hydrogen fueling stations currently are few and far between, Inside Unmanned Systems reported.

According to the US Department of Energy, the US has just 44 publicly accessible hydrogen fueling stations and 42 of them are in California. Eighty-four of Europe’s 175-plus stations are in Germany.

The transportation of full, UAV-compatible, hydrogen cylinders is not permitted in Europe or the United States — they must be filled at hydrogen fueling stations, which are sparse.

The scarcity has impacted the time and cost of using hydrogen fuel cells in drone operations.

Intelligent Energy hopes its value can resolve key distribution issues for getting hydrogen to the drones for fueling.

“The next logical step is to get them delivered directly to our customers,” Kelly added. “We want it to be as straightforward as ordering barbecue gas and getting empty cylinders collected.”

HES Energy has also introduced a new, industrial-grade multi-rotor drone that aims to address this significant shortcoming, HiConsumption.com reported.

The new Hycopter is a hydrogen-powered six-propeller drone system that utilizes HES Energy’s innovative 1300W fuel cells to prolong flight duration to nearly three and a half hours — which is almost five times as long as a traditional industrial drone.

The 140g pressure regulated system has three different hydrogen storage options and acts as a platform for high-precision observation systems to remain in use for extended periods of time.

It features a 12V payload power and an open bay that can carry up to six-pounds of additional equipment like a hi-res camera in 20 mph winds.

Sources: FreightWaves.com, InsideUnmanned Systems.comDoosanMobility.comHi Consumption.com