May 16, 2022 • Paul Rodden • Season: 2022 • Episode: 115
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In episode 115, Elon Musk gets interviewed again about hydrogen. I'll go through the article and give you my thoughts on his viewpoint all of this on today's hydrogen podcast.
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Elon Musk gets interviewed again about hydrogen. I'll go through the article and give you my thoughts on his viewpoint all of this on today's hydrogen podcast.
So the big questions in the energy industry today are, how is hydrogen the primary driving force behind the evolution of energy? Where is capital being deployed for hydrogen projects globally? And where are the best investment opportunities for early adopters who recognize the importance of hydrogen? I will address the critical issues and give you the information you need to deploy capital. Those are the questions that will unlock the potential of hydrogen and this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Paul Rodden, and welcome to the hydrogen podcast.
So today, I would like to start off the show with something unique and that is an article from CNBC discussing Elon Musk's thoughts on hydrogen. In the article Anmar Frangoul writes ,the most dumb thing quote unquote, Elon Musk dismisses hydrogen as a tool for energy storage. Now I'm going to go through the article and give my thoughts on what he has to say. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has reiterated his skepticism about hydrogens role, and the plan to shift to a more sustainable future, describing it as the most dumb thing I could possibly imagine for energy storage. During an interview at the Financial Times future of the car summit on Tuesday, Musk was asked if he thought hydrogen had a role to play in accelerating the transition away from hydrocarbons. No, he said, I really can't emphasize this enough. The number of times I've been asked about hydrogen it might be well, it's well over 100 times maybe 200. He said, it's important to understand that if you want a means of energy storage, hydrogen is a bad choice.
Expanding on his argument, Musk went on to state that gigantic tanks would need to be required to hold hydrogen in liquid form. If it were to be stored in gaseous form. Even bigger tanks would be needed. He said, described by the International Energy Agency as a versatile energy carrier. Hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be deployed in sectors such as industry and transport. In 2019. The IEA said hydrogen was quote one of the leading options for storing energy from renewables, and looks promising to be a low cost option for storing electricity over days, weeks or months. The Paris based organization added that both hydrogen and hydrogen based fuels were able to transport energy from renewables over long distances from regions with abundant solar and wind resources such as Australia or Latin America, to energy hungry cities 1000s of kilometers away. Musk has a history of expressing strong opinions about hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells. A few years ago, when the subject came up during a discussion with reporters at the Automotive News World Congress, the electric vehicle magnate described hydrogen fuel cells as extremely silly.
And in June 2021, he tweeted fuel cells equal fool cells adding in July of that year, hydrogen fool cells make no sense. Judging by his comments this week, he remains unconvinced about hydrogen. He's quoted as telling the Financial Times it does not occur naturally on Earth. So you either have to split water with electrolysis or crack hydrocarbons. And when you're cracking hydrocarbons, you really haven't solved the hydrocarbon problem. And the efficiency of electrolysis is poor. And now today, the majority of hydrogen production is based on hydrocarbons. Another method of production includes using electrolysis with an electric current splitting water and oxygen and hydrogen. If the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar, then some call it green or renewable Hydrogen. Hydrogen projects using electrolysis have attracted some interest for major companies and business leaders in recent years. But it would appear that Musk is still not a fan. In his continued statement to the Financial Times he
says the efficiency of electrolysis is poor. So you really are spending a lot of energy to split hydrogen and oxygen. And then you have to separate the hydrogen and oxygen and pressurize it. That also takes a lot of energy and you have to liquefy hydrogen. The amount of energy required to make hydrogen and turn it into liquid is staggering. It is the most dumb thing that I could possibly imagine for energy storage. Now of course, there are different viewpoints and this article goes into those now, Musk may be dismissive about hydrogens role in the energy transition, but other influential voices are a little more optimistic. These include Anna Shpitsberg, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary for energy transformation at the US Department of State.
During a recent panel discussion moderated by CNBC is Hadley Gamble. Shpitsberg called hydrogen, a game changing technology that speaks to a variety of other sources because it can underpin nuclear, It can underpin gas, and it can underpin renewables. It can clean a good portion of it, and so can carbon capture utilization and storage. Elsewhere, February saw Michele DellaVigna, Goldman Sachs' Commodity equity business unit leader for the Europe, Middle East and Asia region and highlight the important role he felt it would have going forward. He said, If we want to go to net zero, we can't just do it through renewable power. We need something that takes today's role of natural gas, especially to manage seasonality, and intermittency. And that is hydrogen DellaVigna argued, going on to describe hydrogen as a very powerful molecule, the key said was to produce it without co2 emissions. And that's why we talk about green and we talk about Blue hydrogen. And just as a refresher, blue hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced using natural gas, which is a hydrocarbon. With the co2 emissions generated during the process captured and stored.
There has been a charged debate around the role of blue hydrogen and the role that can play in the decarbonisation of society, DellaVigna continues by saying, whether we do it with electrolysis or we do it with carbon capture, we need to generate hydrogen in a clean way. And once we have it, I think we have a solution that could become one day at least 15% of the global energy markets, which means it will be over a trillion dollar market per year. Okay, so now let's take a step back from this article and really think about what has been said. First, let's just take a look at Elon Musk. As of today, he is one of the if not the most influential person on the planet. But why people keep asking him his thoughts on hydrogen is beyond me. I don't understand why they care about his thoughts on it. And I say that for a very specific reason. Elon Musk really started getting noticed and really started making a big fortune by starting a battery company, and has sunk billions of dollars into building out that technology. And if you don't believe that Tesla is a battery company, you need to think again.
Asking Elon Musk's thoughts about hydrogen is akin in the United States, what a Yankees fan thinks about the Red Sox or or across the pond asking a Chelsea fan what they think about Manchester United, and Elon Musk's mind, hydrogen is his rival. Now I personally don't think that's the case. I think going forward in the future, there is room for both battery technology and hydrogen to work both independently and together. And I also think that batteries will play a critical role in small electronic devices now, obviously phones and things like that, but also, and things like yard equipment and power tools. And even in things like inner city personal transportation, when it comes to things like long distance traveling air transportation, or overseas shipping. Batteries just don't work. And so that's the first thing you really need to consider in this question is that Elon Musk is biased. And really, he should be he's invested so much in battery technology, that that's the only stance that he's going to take. Now to Elon Musk's point about it occurring naturally,
what we've covered on the show several times that it does occur naturally. And there are a handful of companies right now drilling for naturally occurring hydrogen in what has been labeled gold hydrogen, it is a zero carbon hydrogen generating opportunity, and heavily leverages existing technologies to pull it out of the ground, making it cheap and efficient. But let's look at his other points about transportation of hydrogen. Yes, liquefying hydrogen is very expensive. And there's a lot of money right now being thrown at ways to make it cheaper. Now, maybe those get flushed out, and maybe they don't only time will tell. But there are other ways of transporting hydrogen. First and foremost is ammonia. By combining hydrogen and nitrogen, the resulting ammonia has a much higher liquid temperature, meaning it can be liquefied easier, it can also be piped in greater densities around the world. But let's also talk about what he had to say in regards to green hydrogen or the electrolysis of water and hydrogen and oxygen.
Now, really green hydrogen would not be the sole product of a wind or solar farm, what would happen is that hydrogen would be made by the surplus energy during peak generating times. Now usually peak generating times equate to low utilization times, so a lot of electricity goes to waste. But if you can then take that excess energy and convert water into hydrogen, then you have a secondary source of electricity to use during peak utilization times. And just a couple of more points that I want to discuss. And the first is the global carbon impact of the battery industry. And if you've never seen a lithium mine, I highly suggest googling what those look like. They are not environmentally friendly, nor is the process used to extract the lithium out of the rock, refine it and put it into a battery and ship that around the world. Now, I don't have a crystal ball.
And I don't know the future of battery technology, there could be something coming down the pipe that makes mining for lithium obsolete. But as of right now, I just don't know about it. And lastly, and this one is a bit of a jab at Elon Musk, and that is his space X program. And as much as he bashes hydrogen, guess what fuel he uses for his Falcon nine rockets. That's right. It's a special methanol mix, liquefied and then burned with oxygen. So he is using hydrocarbons for his rockets. And SpaceX isn't alone. NASA also uses liquid hydrogen when launching their rockets. So there are many reasons to take what Elon Musk says, with a grain of salt. Now, usually about this time I cut away and say if you have any questions or comments to go ahead and email me, but in this case, I really do want to know what your thoughts are on this. Where do you believe batteries will be in the future? And where does hydrogen play a role in that mix?
That really is it for me today. And if you do have a second, I really would appreciate it. If you can leave a good review on whatever platform it is that you listen to Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google, whatever it is, that will be a tremendous help to the show. And as always, if you do have any feedback, you're welcome to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And until next time, take care. Stay safe. I'll talk to you later.
Hey, this is Paul. I hope you liked this podcast. If you did and want to hear more. I'd appreciate it if you would either subscribe to this channel on YouTube, or connect with your favorite platform through my website at www.thehydrogenpodcast.com. Thanks for listening. I very much appreciate it. Have a great day.