Most of you probably will not remember this key phrase by Sigourney Weaver in Aliens when she is being questioned about destroying a spaceship in her first encounter with an alien creature. She had lost her entire crew to just one of these critters.
I have used the entirety of this movie for years when teaching strategy to energy utilities and even wrote a book using this movie to illustrate how utilities needed to rethink their marketing and sales approaches.
The reason I bring all this up is over the recent hype about hydrogen. I understand the interest in this topic for consultants because they thrive on things the average person simply does not understand. However, the simple, obvious questions never seem to stay in focus.
As everyone will admit, hydrogen does not occur naturally … it has to be manufactured, either from the refining process of crude oil, coal, or some other hydrocarbon processing. If it is a side product from other refining steps as it is in most refineries, it can be captured and stored in tanks for use specifically as a single molecule. Unfortunately, since it is such a light gas (molecular weight of 2 as opposed to air at 18) it is very expensive to store and transport. What makes matters worse, it is such a small molecule that it goes right through the steel containers used to store the more common commercial gases.
I understand the love affair with hydrogen, and if we had sources that were realistically available there are a host of engines that could use it as a fuel, starting with fuel cells for the techy folks, but let me remind you that you could use it in our standard internal combustion engines quite inexpensively and achieve the same end result: no tailpipe carbon dioxide or NOx.
Taking electricity which is a highly refined energy source and using it to split water molecules has to be the silliest idea I have heard in my energy career. There is no source energy expert who would agree. You never take the most highly refined energy source … electricity … and then degrade it deliberately at scale to do anything. You store the electricity in batteries if you have to, or use other compression/recovery methods similar to pumped hydro.
I guess the good news is that everyone is beginning to wake up to a simple fact. We are measuring carbon dioxide levels and new legislation around full life cycle carbon accounting is emerging. That should fix this. But, perhaps not. Just take a look at the stupidity of burning wood waste and trees under the fictitious math of lifecycle methane release logic. Burn a tree in seconds because somehow you are avoiding the rotting tree emitting methane over decades? No … I am not making this up!
Perhaps IQs have dropped while I was here among you.