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Net Zero, Russia War Drives Emerging Hydrogen Economy

#Net #Russia #War #Drives #Emerging #Hydrogen #Economy

Kevin Kendall pulls up at the only green hydrogen filling station in Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city, and quickly fills up his limousine with clean petrol.

Green hydrogen is in focus as governments scramble to cut carbon emissions amid record temperatures and secure energy supplies hit by oil and gas producer Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the “hydrogen economy” is not yet fully underway, awaiting significant uptake by high-polluting sectors such as steel and aerospace.

For Kendall, being an early adopter of green hydrogen means he doesn’t have to queue for anything resembling a gas pump during his lunchtime outing.

“There is very little green hydrogen being produced in the UK at the moment,” the chemical engineering professor tells AFP. “Now we have to move on”

In Birmingham, central England, it costs around £50 ($60) to fill up Kendall’s Toyota Mirai with the green hydrogen produced at a facility next to the station.

That’s about half the bill for a similar-sized diesel car after the Ukraine war pushed up fossil fuel prices.

Despite the price advantage, there are only around a dozen hydrogen fueling stations in the UK.

While hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth, according to Kendall’s daughter, Michaela Kendall, it’s locked in water and hydrocarbons like natural gas, meaning it’s “difficult to produce.”

Together they founded Adelan, a small company that makes box-shaped fuel cells, similar to the metal-clad devices used to power the Toyota Mirai.

Founded 26 years ago, Adelan is the UK’s longest-running manufacturer of fuel cells – which also work on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) – while the company also offers a leasing service for the Japanese automaker’s hydrogen cars.

– “More attractive” –

“Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the economics of green hydrogen have become increasingly attractive,” Minh Khoi Le, head of hydrogen research at Rystad Energy, told AFP.

“Coupled with many stimuli globally in the second half of 2022, green hydrogen appears to fulfill the energy system trilemma: energy security, affordability and sustainability.”

The aftermath of the war prompted the European Union to increase its gas reserves by cutting consumption by 15 percent.

The block is also aiming to significantly increase the supply of green hydrogen, produced from water through electrolysis and using renewable energy.

This is in contrast to the more available blue hydrogen, which environmentalists oppose because it is made from natural gas in a process that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

– £9 billion investment –

At Adelan’s Birmingham workshop, a quaint brick building surrounded by houses, employees are testing the company’s so-called solid oxide fuel cells, which replace diesel generators.

The company’s chief executive, Michaela Kendall, who is overseeing the work, says she expects “hydrogen capacity will really ramp up, but it will take time.”

“Hydrocarbons will still be used for the foreseeable future,” she predicts, “because the hydrogen economy has not really developed yet, but is only just beginning”.

The UK government says £9 billion in investment is needed “to make hydrogen a cornerstone of Britain’s greener future” as it aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century.

About 10 hydrogen fueling stations are planned in Birmingham in the next few years after the arrival of 120 hydrogen buses in the city in 2023. Other British cities, including Aberdeen in Scotland, share the same road.

However, “only Los Angeles has been reasonably successful with about 9,000 hydrogen vehicles and 40 hydrogen stations,” says Kevin.

“That’s how we want Birmingham to be.”

– power surge –

The Toyota, which resembles a production vehicle inside and out, is electrically powered. This was produced by combining green hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell.

The only waste emitted by the vehicle, which has a range of 400 miles (640 kilometers), is water vapor.

Adelan’s solid oxide fuel cell, so named because its electrolyte is ceramic, is described as “an electrical device” that produces electricity for batteries.

“It’s ready for hydrogen, but we tend to use hydrocarbon fuels because they’re easier to get right now,” says Michaela.

“We use fuel obtained in a low-carbon way” such as BioLPG.

A lack of hydrogen infrastructure means motorists wanting a greener alternative to petrol or diesel are likely to continue buying electric vehicles.

Despite long charging times for electric car batteries and soaring electricity prices this year, Britons are quickly abandoning polluting cars before the UK bans the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles from 2030.

Oil and gas giant BP recently unveiled plans for green hydrogen production facilities in the UK.

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#Net #Russia #War #Drives #Emerging #Hydrogen #Economy

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