September 05, 2022 • Paul Rodden • Season: 2022 • Episode: 145
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In episode 145, How much can pink hydrogen accelerate the hydrogen economy? It could be even more beneficial than we originally thought. All this on today's hydrogen podcast.
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How much can pink hydrogen accelerate the hydrogen economy? It could be even more beneficial than we originally thought. All 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's 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 the the hydrogen podcast.
In an article from the street.com Maxx Chatsko writes forget green hydrogen pink hydrogen is heating up after years of hype and broken promises. Investors are hoping this time it might really be different for hydrogen stocks. Stocks, a sudden Sense of Climate urgency and boardrooms and government alike has spiked interest in emerging technologies that could help reach aggressive decarbonisation goals. That includes hydrogen, especially hydrogen produced with renewable energy to create truly carbon free fuel. This so called green hydrogen could decarbonize industrial processes, and perhaps make marginal contributions to transportation and heating as well, and all sounds so promising, but it's important for investors to remain realistic production costs economies of scale storage and transportation, all present significant hurdles to green hydrogen and the hydrogen economy at large. But if hydrogen ever lives up to its potential as a wonder fuel, that it may be, thanks to nuclear power plants. Although the supply is also carbon free, environmentalists are a sensitive bunch. Therefore, this is referred to as pink hydrogen. It could be just what aging nuclear fleet need to remain economically relevant.
So let's dive into exactly what pink hydrogen is. So we all know hydrogen can be manufactured in numerous ways. The most referenced process is electrolysis, which uses electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. electrolysis is the process used to manufacture green hydrogen, where electrolyzers are supplied by companies such as plug power, and electricity is supplied by wind or solar farm. Pink hydrogen can also be manufactured via electrolysis, but with the electricity supplied by nuclear power plants, however, the manufacturing process would be tweaked slightly. Due to low efficiency and poor economics. The chemical reactions needed to manufacture hydrogen requires significant amount of energy. Whereas methods to produce green hydrogen must rely primarily on energy in the form of electricity or cold electrolysis. Nuclear power plants can leverage waste energy from the heat they produce. That opens up a whole new economic reality for pink hydrogen. Nuclear power plants could manufacture zero carbon hydrogen using four different processes. This according to the World Nuclear Association.
The first is called electrolysis, which we just talked about. The second is low temperature steam electrolysis, or LTS E, which uses both electricity and heat. Next is high temperature steam electrolysis, which uses both electricity and heat. And lastly is high temperature thermo chemical production, which uses only heat processes that use heat benefit from higher efficiencies and potentially lower production costs. Although they can be limited by material science. That's because the membranes used in htsc can be quickly degraded by the high temperatures. Similarly, existing nuclear reactors aren't optimized for high temperature thermo chemical production, which would be the holy grail of low cost hydrogen production. Next generation nuclear technology now in development could provide viable manufacturing pathways in the 2030s industry isn't waiting idly in the meantime, the potential of the manufacturer hydrogen with excess heat and electricity could significantly alter the economics of atomic energy. Nuclear power plants could use off peak electricity to manufacture hydrogen more efficiently and in greater volumes, then renewable energy then sell the supply to existing industrial customers. For an additional revenue stream. A single 1000 megawatt reactor could produce nearly 500 metric tons of hydrogen per day. For perspective, plug power has announced a goal of achieving the same level of production by 2025, but needs 13 Green hydrogen production sites combined to reach that same volume.
This isn't to suggest industrial suppliers such as plug power or Bloom Energy can't benefit from paying hydrogen. Rather, this provides an additional potential source of funding partners and future business. Indeed, Bloom Energy is working with Westinghouse and others to develop htsc processes for pink hydrogen production. The US Department Energy supports the hydrogen shot program, which aims to develop the technologies required to produce clean hydrogen for $1 per kilogram, green hydrogen gets all the glory but pink hydrogen from nuclear plants is also eligible for funding. The DoD has provided millions of dollars for pilot programs exploring htsc processes, including in Arizona and Minnesota. Xcel Energy has been one beneficiary. The electric and gas utility recently began a pilot project at its Prairie Island nuclear power plant. Although the work remains in the earliest stages of development, the utility is interested in extending the life of its atomic fleet, selling hydrogen to industrial customers, and possibly mixing hydrogen into its own natural gas network. Additionally, the bipartisan infrastructure Act passed earlier this year, set aside $8 billion to create four regional clean hydrogen hubs. Across the United States. sites have yet to be finalized, but investors can expect nuclear power to play a central role in these so called h2 hubs. Now while green hydrogen tends to receive all the coverage and excitement, pink hydrogen boasts several notable advantages, nuclear power plants can provide hydrogen at lower cost and higher volumes and closer to end users. In this case, industrial customers the newer projects based on renewable energy, and it could also be a win win scenario.
If the nation's atomic fleet gains commercial traction with first generation processes such as htsc, then it could provide incentives to develop next generation nuclear reactors capable of operating at higher temperatures that would deliver safer nuclear energy, increase the nation's supply of carbon free electricity, and reduce or even eliminate nuclear wastes. All while having the added benefit to manufacture the lowest cost hydrogen on the market through thermo chemical processes. Now there's no guarantee that hydrogen economy will emerge on the timeline or scale expected by investors or politicians. But if and when it does expect nuclear power to be a critical piece. Okay, so really a great article by Maxx Chatsko detailing how we can and should start leveraging atomic energy to start creating hydrogen. Now, by now you've heard me talk at nauseam about the different technologies all coming together to begin producing hydrogen, the all hands on deck mentality, and htsc developed hydrogen using atomic energy is one of the best ways I can think of especially right now to start creating a large amount of hydrogen with good solid economic returns. Now, as of March 22 2022, there are 93 operating nuclear facilities in the United States, with roughly a third of those losing their operating license by 2035.
So with that being said, a lot hinges on this Xcel Energy Project at Prairie Island nuclear power plant, if they can show economic viability with this work that can not only extend the life of the current nuclear plants in the United States, but also aid in supporting future financial investment decisions for other proposed power plants. And something else to keep in mind on hydrogen production at these power plants.
This article stated that one 1000 megawatt reactor could produce nearly 500 metric tons of hydrogen per day. And so how many of these 93 power plants in the US are over 1000 megawatts, all of them, with the smallest being 1677 megawatts, and the average being 3184 megawatts. But what about Europe's nuclear landscape? Well, assuming Europe follows the United States and supports the development of htsc, hydrogen, France could really leverage their 56 power plants to help supply hydrogen all around Europe. This includes hydrogen hungry, Germany, right next door.
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Hey, this is Paul. I hope you liked this podcast. If you did 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.