THP-E35: See How Japan Is Showcasing Their Hydrogen Strategy By Powering The Olympics And Conceptualizing Hydrogen Fired Power Plants And What It Means For Retrofitting Existing Power Plants To Capitalize

August 05, 2021 • Paul Rodden • Season: 2021 • Episode: 35

Welcome to The Hydrogen Podcast!

In episode 035 , Hydrogen coming in big at the Olympics, and what role hydrogen fired power plants have in the energy transition. All this on today’s hydrogen podcast.

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Hydrogen coming in big at the Olympics, and what role hydrogen fired power plants have in the energy transition. 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 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 it wasn’t really a surprise when I found out that the Tokyo Olympics were going going to be using hydrogen to power the Olympic flame. But I was amazed to find out how much hydrogen they’re actually using in the entire Olympics. An article from the they outline just how much hydrogen is being used at the Olympics. The Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 left a mark on the world in the form of the Shinkansen high speed train, a feat which this year’s repeat hosts look to match with a vision of the future of civic planning on during some criticism for going through the games during COVID-19. Tokyo is presented the world with a first hydrogen powered Olympics, complete with an entire fleet of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, a hydrogen powered pair of stadiums, hotel and Olympic Village.

Like most renewable technologies, hydrogen power has had its fair share of growing pains. But with the help from Tokyo’s Research Center for a hydrogen energy based society, established by the city government in the lead up to the games, these problems can be surmounted. According to Maurice Molloy, Director of sustainability at the International Olympic Committee. With their immense reach and visibility, the Olympic Games are a great opportunity to demonstrate technologies, which can help tackle today’s challenges such as climate change, Tokyo’s 2020, showcasing of hydrogen is just one example of how these games will contribute to this goal. Starting in 2017, Japan became the first nation state to adopt a national hydrogen strategy and increase their hydrogen power r&d to around $300 million to 2018 and 2019. As part of this push, they built one of the largest hydrogen fuel plants in the world, and a ton of Nami in Fukushima.

Their 10,000 kilowatts of clean energy produced 900 metric tons of hydrogen per year, helping power a fleet of 500 hydrogen cars 100 hydrogen buses and even hydrogen forklifts. 35 refueling stations have been built around the city at the intersection between the Tokyo Bay and heritage zones. The International Olympic Village is the first full scale hydrogen infrastructure in Tokyo, their hydrogen fuel cells power lights, heating and hot water to the dormitories and cafeterias, which temporarily housed 11,000 athletes. Once the games are concluded, the village will be converted into a hydrogen powered flats, a school shopping center and more.

And now hydrogen fired power plants and the role they’re going to play in the energy transition. In an article from, deep carbonization of the power system will not be possible without burning clean hydrogen for electricity generation. This according to senior executives at Siemens energy in Equinor. So why would anyone use renewable power to make green hydrogen and then burn it to produce electricity? The round trip efficiency would be less than 40%. So every 10 kilowatts of wind and solar energy will provide less than four kilowatts of electricity.

And why would anybody create blue hydrogen from natural gas with carbon capture and storage with all the added expense of methane reforming and compression, liquefying, transporting and storing the hydrogen when you could just add CCS to existing gas fired power plants, and yet major energy companies such as Siemens energy Equinor, and SSC believe there’s a bright future for hydrogen fired power plants? Why is that? Well, according to Eric zindel, Seaman energy’s vice president of hydrogen generation sales, if I have renewable power converted to hydrogen and then re electrify it with a total lifecycle efficiency of less than 40%.

It obviously only makes sense if you’re using hydrogen as long term storage and compensation for variable renewables. He continues if you really want to store power for days, weeks, months, or even seasonal storage, which using solar power for summer and winter or wind power from the autumn to the summer, you need to store electricity in a chemical way. You still need clean power for the dark doldrums period in winter, when there’s no sun and no wind blowing for two or three weeks, you need to have a hydrogen supply. This he tells to recharge news. That large scale hydrogen storage will also be useful to reduce curtailment of wind and solar power during windy and sunny periods. He says that once you go into the green hydrogen arena You can increase the amount of renewables that you want to build in the grid, because you can make use of the excess renewable energy that would otherwise be curtailed because it cannot be sold.

So by having electrolysis, which uses electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, and by being able to store that excess energy as hydrogen, you can really allow the electric system to expand renewables by a significant amount. Because if you don’t do that, it will quickly become limited, because there’ll be too much excess energy that you have to dump. Once you can make use of that excess power, then you can really double, triple or quadruple the amount of renewable energy you want to build. What about blue hydrogen power plants, Norwegian giant Equinor and Scottish utility SSE recently announced a plan to build a brand new 1.8 gigawatt hydrogen fired power station at Keadby in northeast England.

As soon as the end of this decade, the companies say will almost certainly be powered by low carbon, blue hydrogen, and used to help backup variable renewable power, probably offshore wind. So why would a blue hydrogen power plant be preferable? The natural gas generator was CCS? Well, Ecuador’s vice president of low carbon energy, Henrik Anderson, tells recharge that capturing carbon at the pre combustion stage is a lot more cost effective than capturing it post combustion at a gas fired power plant. In the flue gas, the pressure is very low and the co2 concentration is very low. So it’s very difficult. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. And the more co2 you take out, the smaller the needle gets to find the rest. And finally, you can get it in a blue hydrogen plant. It’s high pressure co2.

So we have many more needles initially. And that’s why you can capture much more co2 in a blue hydrogen plant, compared to a post combustion plant, because the pressure is so high, so you get down to 97 to 98%. The post combustion plant lets you ready to capture 90% plus of the co2 every time it runs, whether it’s a short term, or a long term, we think that all these starts and stops would mean the capture plant warms up and cools down too much so will not be able to capture that amount of co2. He also adds nobody has run a dispatchable power plant with CCS before. Nobody knows what the energy efficiency will be and the capture rate.

So there are some uncertainties there. But what about the cost surrounding all of this? Well, Equinor and SSE are planning to build brand new hydrogen power plants. Siemens energy is basing its business model around the conversation of existing fossil gas power plants, as well as construction of new hydrogen ready combined cycle gas powered facilities. Yet even though converting a gas power plant run on hydrogen will be fairly inexpensive. Using clean hydrogen to generate electricity today is not something that makes sense economically this according to Zindel. Natural gas is simply a lot cheaper than green, blue, and even unabated gray hydrogen. He explains, the cost of green hydrogen is estimated to be in the range of 2.50 to $6 per kilogram, that being today with blue hydrogen somewhere between $1.50 to $4. a kilogram.

If clean hydrogen was available at two euros per kilogram, to make it most cost competitive with natural gas would require a co2 price of somewhere between 200 to 250 euros per tonne, so it’s still far away. This again, according to Zindel. Zindel does believe that clean hydrogen will not be used for large scale electricity production until 2035. Partly because it will be more cost effective to use that hydrogen in other sectors, such as transportation heavy industry. He says we expect hydrogen electrification will occur in 2035, the 2040s on a large scale, when we really have to go into a deep decarbonisation of the power sector. Equinor has stated that its Keadby hydrogen facility would only go ahead with appropriate policy mechanisms in place. In other words, if it’s heavily subsidized, according to Anderson, he says we have a market failure. So we’re working on a business model that is probably more tailored towards some kind of producer contract for difference. The off takers would pay a price for the natural gas, and those producing blue hydrogen will get some kind of subsidy to cover the extra cost.

But why now, as Siemens energy does not believe the power sector will generate electricity from hydrogen for 15 to 20 years. Why is it marketing hydrogen fired power solutions today? Well, according to Zindel, for various reasons. The first one is we know what the future is. So we have to begin to work now. And our plan is to get to 100% hydrogen capability by the end of the decade. So we already available when we get to the first real commercial projects. We expect the combined cycle power plants will be the main technology of choice for providing residual load in a fully decarbonized power scenario. With these combined cycles running only 20 to 30% of the time, not more, because you’ll have sufficient wind and solar in the system. He continues.

The second and much more important point is that our customers need to build power plants today for natural gas. So if you have a natural gas power plant being built today, with commercial operation in, let’s say, 2023 to 24, the typical lifetime expectancy means these power plants will still be operational in 2050. When we’re supposed to be completely decarbonized, that means every new gas fired power plant to be built from now on will have to be very likely to be retrofitted to burn hydrogen in the future. So it’s very important that we prepare to build the plants to do that today. And that’s why we call the hydrogen ready concept.

So we make sure that we have the right materials the right electrical equipment selected, we have sufficient space for additional systems that will be needed when the plant is converted to run hydrogen. We see at least in Europe, nearly every customer is talking about hydrogen readiness for their new power plants. But other regions of the world are now getting very aggressive about carbon reduction as well. So it’s a very important topic in our industry. They have seen nuclear power plants being taken out of operation long before their commercial and technical lifetime ends. They’re now seeing coal fired stations being taken off the grid as well. They’re getting a little bit fed up with having stranded assets.

So they want to make sure these combined cycles built today are future proof. So some very interesting insights about the future of hydrogen and power plants. And also some very good advice about being an early mover in the hydrogen space.

Alright, that’s it for me, everyone. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about today’s episode, come stop on my website at and leave a note. I’d really love to hear from you. And as always, take care. Stay safe. I’ll talk to you later.

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 Thanks for listening. I very much appreciate it. Have a great day.

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