By Paul Homewood
A quick look now at the second core scenario of the Future Energy Scenarios, named “System Transformation”, essentially the high hydrogen option:
Electricity consumption is about a fifth down on the Consumer Transformation scenario, which we looked at the other day. However the electricity mix is similar with a heavy reliance on wind power.
The big difference is the reliance on hydrogen for a half of final energy consumption. Of this, 89% of the hydrogen is produced by steam reforming from natural gas.
Electrolysis is regarded as no more than a niche operation, mopping up surplus wind power for use in aviation and shipping, partly because of its greater purity. This rather puts the kybosh on some of the exaggerated claims made about electrolysis recently.
According to the FES, steam reforming is favoured not only because of its lower cost, but also because of the need for a reliable, large scale supply. Demand will be much greater in winter, which will necessitate ramping up of steam reforming production in addition to seasonal storage in salt caverns.
The FES document brings up some interesting facts about hydrogen:
1) Natural gas consumption will still remain substantial in 2050, at 651 Twh, compared to the current 877 TWh.
2) Converting gas to hydrogen is an extremely energy inefficient process. Natural gas input of 654 TWh only produces 527 TWh of hydrogen, a loss of 20%. In my view, that is extremely optimistic, given that carbon capture would also have to be added.
3) Currently 71% of annual gas consumption is during Q1 and Q4:
FES suggest that steam reforming plants could double up output during these months, but this would involve massive inefficiencies during the rest of the year with plants semi idle.
Even with this, FES notes the need for seasonal storage, which the CCC estimated would cost £6bn a year.
4) The CCC have already estimated that the cost of producing hydrogen via steam reforming would cost £44/MWh, compared to an equivalent cost of £15/MWh for natural gas (wholesale).
With consumption of hydrogen projected at 563 TWh, this would potentially increase costs by £16.3bn a year. (A small amount of hydrogen goes to transport, so comparison would need to be made with diesel costs here.) This does not cover the one off cost of converting appliances and upgrading distribution networks.
Finally, it is worth looking at what FES has to say about HGVs:
Electrification is greatest in Consumer Transformation but is limited by high infrastructure costs for HGV charging facilities (such as catenary wires on motorways), and current weight and volume considerations mean batteries are not feasible for the largest vehicles.
An interesting statement, considering the report out this week about electrifying the motorways!
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July 30, 2020 at 05:42AM