Whats New with Hydrogen

Whats New with Hydrogen

Wondering where things stand on the transition to the greater use of hydrogen as part of the clean energy revolution?  We had a great discussion last night (October 28) with three individuals right at the center of activity.  We hosted Jennifer Hamilton of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, Roxanna Bekemohammadi, Executive Director of the Western States Hydrogen Alliance, and Leslie Goodbody of the Air Resources Board.  

We heard lots of interesting tidbits:

  •  The CEC has begun approving larger clusters of new fueling stations, rather than just a few at a time in an effort to pick up the pace.  About 50 stations are in operation and 60 in the pipeline, with a goal of having about 155 in operation by 2025.  Details are found in the latest AB 8 report from CARB.  Some of the details found there include new production facilities, the number of FCEVs deployed to date (7,993) and the impact of COVID on the roll out program.  The goal remains having 200 stations by 2025.
  • The difference between the wholesale price of hydrogen (around $3 per kilogram which equivalent energy to a gallon of gasoline) and the retail pump price (about $12 per kg) will likely come down with more competition.  The pump price for larger stations for heavy duty fleets (buses, trucks) is more like $8 right now.  Economies of scale help.
  • The goal for hydrogen price for the commercial and industrial sector is parity with diesel.  (Not sure whether that is price per gallon equivalent or cost per mile.  Fuel cells are much more efficient than diesel engines so that narrows the difference substantially if accounted for.)
  • The hope for hydrogen is reaching a wholesale price of $1 per kg.
  • FCEV manufacturers provide “gift cards” for hydrogen to those that lease their vehicles.  The amount on the card is intended to provide for three years’ worth of fuel.  That was news to those who are not that close to issue.
  • There are many competing ways to use hydrogen as a clean fuel (blending with renewable natural gas or conventional natural gas, using pure hydrogen or blends in conventional gas turbines, producing synthetic renewable conventional fuels) and probably several options will be needed to meet aggressive goals to reduce fossil carbon emissions.
  • The competition between hydrogen plus fuel cells for vehicles or storage and batteries is serious.  The panelists offered that hydrogen has advantages in long-duration storage and in lighter-weight drive trains for long distance trucks.  As we have heard from similar discussions with battery advocates, they do not concede these differences and point out that the kWhs that can be stored per kg is markedly improving (lighter weight per mile of range) and that energy density also improves the long-duration performance.  In addition, the battery advocates note that the “round-trip” efficiency of storing electricity as hydrogen and converting it back to electricity in a fuel cell is much lower than the in/out for batteries.  
  • Figuring out where the lowest carbon footprint for hydrogen vs. batteries depends on lots of details about where the hydrogen and the electricity come from.  Hydrogen from renewable gas has a particular advantage by avoiding emissions of methane from decaying biomass.  The amount of carbon per kWh of electricioty is dramatically changing due to the transition to zero carbon sources.  

The panelists were each asked where the opportunities are for innovators in the areas they watch.  Roxanna made a big point about the need for financial innovations to make the purchase and use of hydrogen easier.  Jennifer and Leslie saw more competition as an important element, along with ways to reduce the cost of pure “green” hydrogen, avoiding the collateral carbon emissions from the supply chain.  In addition, the entire logistics chain is in need of improvement, with opportunities in reducing the energy lost in compression and leakage, and in using pipelines vs. trucks.

This was one of the more fascinating discussions we have had, thanks to the experts we had on our panel and the active participation of the audience.  The session was recorded and is available on our YouTube channel.

Follow us on Social Media to keep upto date!

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

CleanTech Meetup: Alternative Fuels

CleanTech Meetup: Alternative Fuels

Join CleanStart for our monthly meetup. This month’s focus is alternative fuels.

At this month’s meetup, we will explore alternative fuels.

CleanTech Meetups are technology-focused monthly gatherings that feature presentations about products and technologies from companies that are already in operation as well as early-stage startups. Because of the pandemic, we will be meeting online via Zoom.

Presenters

  • To be announced
New Technology Could Boost Efficiency of Power-to-Hydrogen to 95+%

New Technology Could Boost Efficiency of Power-to-Hydrogen to 95+%

Israeli company H2Pro has raised $22 million from a group of marquee investors to scale-up its radical new way to extract hydrogen from water.  It claims to have a way to produce hydrogen at high pressure (50 bar) with 95+% efficiency (compared to 70% efficient current methods) and lower capital cost, which could mean a product price under $2/kg and maybe as low as $1.  (A kilogram of hydrogen is close to the energy in a gallon of gasoline or 114,000 Btu.  At $1/kg, hydrogen is equivalent to $8.80 per million Btu.  Natural gas at the wholesale level is going for $2.66/million Btu, for comparison).  

Currently, hydrogen at dispensers at refill stations is priced well over $16 per kilogram.  “Green” hydrogen from electrolysis of water is going for a wholesale price of $2.26/kg, and “grey” hydrogen produced from natural gas is priced at $0.79/kg.  The new H2Pro technology does not address the $14/kg added by the time the hydrogen gets to the dispenser.  Those costs are created by the expense of storing hydrogen and transporting it by pressurized tanker trucks.  The H2Pro process may not then be revolutionary, but its greatest feature may be the efficiency gain, making 35% more hydrogen available from the same renewable-based kWhs.  It opens up some more possibilities for using hydrogen.

There is considerable interest in blending “green” hydrogen into the existing natural gas pipeline system, maybe along with methane produced from renewable sources, to create a lower fossil carbon fuel that can contribute to decarbonization goals, if the hydrogen can be made inexpensively.  GE has announced its latest 64+% efficient gas turbine combined cycle plants can run on blends with hydrogen from 5% to as high as 95%.  However, hydrogen has a habit of leaking out of pipelines unless those pipes are specifically built to contain it.  Expect to see more on this topic if interest grows in the “blending” strategy for decarbonization.

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

2020 Predictions

2020 Predictions

Since I went 4.5  for 10 last year I felt I needed to return to my terot cards take another shot at ten fearless predictions for the coming year.  We will revisit these at the end of the year to see how we did.  If you have some insights or questions, let us know at Info@cleanstart.org and we will include those in a future newsletter.

    1. The momentum for the “hydrogen highway” will stall out.  Battery electric vehicles are proving to be superior to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in almost every way.  As a result, sales of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are lagging expectations and hydrogen sales have grown slowly.  About 152,000 battery electric and plug-in hybrids were sold in the state in 2019, compared to about 1500 fuel cell electrics.  Only 8 FCEVs were sold in the last quarter of 2018 in our ten-county region. Probably fewer than 30 were sold here in all of 2019.  The total registrations for FCEVs in the state stands at about 6,000 at year-end, while the total for battery and plug-in electrics is about 616,000.  (Exact data as of end of 2018 are 248,332 battery electrics, 216,042 plug-in hybrids, and 5,391 FCEVs). In 2017, the Air Resources Board projected that there would be 13,400 FCEVs in 2020 and 37,400 by 2023.  At one time, the goal was a million FCEVs by 2030. None of these will be even close to being realized.

      A huge reason is that hydrogen fuel has turned out to be much more expensive than gasoline and particularly more costly than electricity.  Currently, hydrogen is priced at about $12.50 per kg, with equivalent energy to a gallon of gasoline but with a fuel cell double the efficiency of an engine, the equivalent of gasoline is more like $6.25 per gallon.  Stated another way, gasoline costs about 12 cents per mile (at $3.15 per gallon), hydrogen 25 cents, and electricity 6 cents.

      This leads us to make several predictions for 2020: 
      • Sales of FCEVs in our region will fall below 10.
      • The number of hydrogen refueling stations will barely reach 50 statewide (there are 44 now, with 3 in our area).  Governor Brown’s goal was 100 stations by 2020, 200 stations by 2025, and 1000 by 2030. We may never see 100 stations in California.
      • The price of hydrogen locally will not fall below $10 per kilogram.
      • A major auto company will announce it is dropping its FCEV production. 
    2. The number of EV charging stations around Sacramento will exceed 1000.  According to ChargeHub, there are currently 566 charging stations within 15 km of downtown Sacramento.  Of these 478 are Level 2 (220 V) chargers and 88 are Level 3 (480 V, 110 A). We believe the total for this area will exceed 1000 by the end of the year with over 200 being Level 3.  We may also see the first fast chargers go into existing gas stations, an interesting development in itself.  
    3. One more independent EV company in the US will announce it is beginning manufacturing.  The field is getting crowded and one might think some companies would drop out.  They may, but at the same time we think there will be at least one more entrepreneur who will take the plunge. At the same time, we could see some other established car companies announce full battery electric cars this year. 
    4. There will be at least 15 nominees for Sustainable Innovation of the Year.  Stoel Rives and the Sacramento Business Journal will be conducting this contest again in 2020, the fourth year for it.  It has been a good way to highlight the best and brightest in clean tech. The number of companies nominated has been an indicator of interest in sustainability and of the level of activity in the clean tech community.  The first year, there were 16 nominees, but the number has trended down ever since. We believe there has been a surge in bringing innovations to market in our area and that should be reflected in the number of nominees. 
    5. Prices for a ton of carbon emission reduction in 2020 will still not break $20.  It has been rising slowly both in the prompt and futures markets, but the supply of carbon emission reductions has continued to grow, keeping a lid on prices.  The most recent price for carbon allowances for 2021 cleared at $19.53, so maybe next year we will have to take a closer look. 
    6. The installed cost of solar PV will rise modestly.  We were wrong about this one last year.  But with the new requirements for solar on all new homes and the continuation of the tariffs on Chinese panels, we cling to the idea that the cost will be pushed up a few cents from its current $4.50 per kW on homes. 
    7. The revenue generated by our regional clean tech companies will top $6 billion.  The last time we collected this information in late 2018, the total was $5 billion, but we see an upswell in sales success.  Maybe it will result in 20% growth over two years. Wouldn’t that be nice?
    8. A bill will be introduced in California to extend generous subsidies to homeowners to install storage.  The subsidies for PV panels are declining.  There are subsidies for grid-scale storage, but not much for the homeowner.  We expect there will be a move to change this, but it won’t pass. Maybe 2021. 
    9. Two renewable-based microgrids with over 1000 customers each will be established in Northern California.  The power shutoffs of last year are accelerating the interest of communities in creating sections of the grid that can be powered more reliably.  Already, PG&E has trucked-in engine-generators to provide power during shutoffs, but people are demanded cleaner solutions. Some clever communities, whether as part of the CCA movement or separately, are looking at solar, wind, hydro and battery combinations to give them better reliability.  Dozens if not hundreds of communities are having these discussions. There are already about 100 microgrids in the state serving a few large customers each in most cases. The question is whether this will spread to larger aggregations of customers and to the use of renewables. There are many obstacles, so getting two done in 2020 is actually a pretty aggressive prediction.
    10. One cleantech startup in our region will be acquired for a substantial sum.  We know there are several discussions underway.  Just waiting for the shoe to drop.

 Make sure to follow CleanStart this year and see how I do on my predictions.

 

Follow us on Social Media to keep upto date!

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStarts Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | Tobin, EY, Stoel Rives, Greenberg Traurig LLP

BlueTech Valley, Buchalter, Moss Adams, PowerSoft.biz

College of Engineering & Computer Science at Sacramento State


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