October 07, 2021 • Paul Rodden • Season: 2021 • Episode: 53
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In episode 053, New technology from UT could have a drastic impact on the green hydrogen market. New Mexico looks to become a hydrogen hub. And the IAEA sees an encouraging sign on the important low carbon hydrogen expansion. All this on today's hydrogen podcast.
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New technology from UT could have a drastic impact on the green hydrogen market. New Mexico looks to become a hydrogen hub. And the IAEA sees an encouraging sign on the important low carbon hydrogen expansion. 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.
In a news release from the University of Texas at Austin, making clean hydrogen is hard, but researchers just solved a major hurdle. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have found a low cost way to use sunlight to efficiently split off oxygen molecules from water. The finding which was published recently in nature communications represents a step forward toward greater adoption of hydrogen as a key part of our energy infrastructure. And so as early as the 1970s, researchers were investigating the possibility of using solar energy to generate hydrogen. But the inability to find materials with the combination of properties needed for a device that can perform the key chemical reactions efficiently has kept it from becoming a mainstream method.
According to Edward Yu a professor in the Cockrell schools Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, you need materials that are good at absorbing sunlight and at the same time don't degrade while the water splitting reactions take place. It turns out materials that are good at absorbing sunlight tend to be unstable under the conditions required for the water splitting reaction. While the materials that are stable tend to be poor absorbers of sunlight. These conflicting requirements drive you toward a seemingly inevitable trade off. But by combining multiple materials, one that efficiently absorb sunlight such as silicone and another that provides good stability such as silicon dioxide into a single device, this conflict can be resolved. However, this creates another challenge the electrons and holes created by absorption of sunlight in silicon must be able to move easily across a silicon dioxide layer.
This usually requires a silicon dioxide layer to be no more than a few nanometers, which reduces its effectiveness and protecting the silicon absorber from degradation. And so the key to this breakthrough came through a method of creating electrically conductive paths through a thick silicon dioxide layer that can be performed at low cost and scaled to high manufacturing volumes. To get there, you and his team used a technique first deployed in the manufacturing of semiconductor electronic chips by coating the silicon dioxide layer with a thin film of aluminum and then heating the entire structure. arrays of nanoscale spikes of aluminum that can completely bridge the silicon dioxide layer are formed. These can then easily be replaced by nickel or other materials that help catalyze the water splitting reactions.
And so when illuminated by sunlight, the devices can efficiently oxidize water to form oxygen molecules, while also generating hydrogen at a separate electrode and exhibit outstanding stability under extended operation. Because the techniques employed to create these devices are commonly used in manufacturing of semiconductor electronics, they should be easy to scale for mass production. The team has filed for a provisional patent application to commercialize the technology. Improving the way hydrogen is generated is key to its emergence as a viable fuel source. Most hydrogen production today occurs due to heating steam and methane that relies heavily on hydrocarbons and produces carbon emissions. Now going forward, the team worked to improve the efficiency of the oxygen portion of water splitting by increasing the reaction rate.
Again, according to Yu, we were able to address the oxygen side of the reaction first, which is the more challenging part, but you need to perform both the hydrogen and oxygen evolution reactions to completely split the water molecules. So that's why our next step is to look at applying these ideas to make devices for hydrogen portion of the reaction. So what makes this research so important and so valuable in the hydrocarbon market is the implication that holds for drastically reducing the price of green hydrogen. And so if they can utilize this research and ultimately split water and oxygen and hydrogen and capture the hydrogen using these materials, that drives the cost down substantially. Next, in an article from s&p Global Platts, author James Burgess writes, The International Energy Agency sees encouraging signs that the global low carbon hydrogen market could achieve the rapid growth and cost reductions needed to overcome current limited production and use of the energy carrier is said on a report October 4.
However, governments need to move faster and more decisively on implementing hydrogen policy measure, particularly around demand for the world. To stand a chance of reaching midcentury Net Zero Mission goals, the IAEA said in its global hydrogen review of 2021. It noted that global production of low carbon hydrogen is currently limited. Costs are not yet competitive in its use in sectors with potential such as industry and heavy transport remain constrained. But there are encouraging signs that it's on the cusp of significant cost declines and widespread global growth. IAEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said. It is important to support the development of low carbon hydrogen. If governments are going to meet their Climate and Energy ambitions. We've experienced false starts before with hydrogen so we can't take success for granted. But this time, we are seeing exciting progress and making hydrogen cleaner more affordable and more available for use across the different sectors of the economy. governments need to take rapid action toward the barriers that are holding low carbon hydrogen back from faster growth, which will be important if the world has to have a chance of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
He added the report sets out recommendations for stimulating the low carbon hydrogen economy through carbon pricing mandates and quotas and the requirements for public procurement. It also notes the need for international cooperation on standards and regulations for low carbon, hydrogen and support to develop global markets. stimulus and incentives to date have been focused on low carbon hydrogen production, the IAEA said, but more support was needed now to enable greater use in the industry and transport along with the associated infrastructure required for storage and distribution. The IAEA said electrolyzer capacity used to produce green hydrogen from electrolysis of water powered by renewables had doubled in the last five years to just over 300 megawatts by mid 2021.
The project pipeline indicates production could reach 8 million metric tons per year of hydrogen by 2030, up from below 50,000 metric tonnes a year now, if all projects were realized, however, this is well short of the 80 million metric tonnes a year the IAEA says is needed by 2030 to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The EIA estimates at $1.2 trillion of investment in the hydrogen economy will be needed between now and 2030. For a net zero by 2050 pathway, public sector investments amounts to at least $37 billion. That said, with announced private sector investment reaching an additional 300 billion to date, global hydrogen demand was around 90 million metric tons in 2020.
This according to the IAEA. Now, I do believe this article should be taken with a grain of salt, especially when it talks about the project pipeline, and which projects may or may not be coming online in the near future. Because it is highly suspect that all announced projects will be coming online by their indicated start date. That being said, I do believe that the realization of projects will increase logarithmically. Meaning as more projects come online and infrastructure gets built out and demand increases, we'll see more and more projects come online to meet that build up in demand. And lastly, an article from the Albuquerque journal. Kevin Robinson-Avila writes the my home state of New Mexico moves to fast track hydrogen hub.
New Mexico is barreling forward with industry and government plans to turn the state into one of the nation's first hydrogen hubs. But the pace of new developments is generating alarm among environmentalist's who are scrambling to pull the emergency brakes. industry and government officials. both the state and federal levels believe hydrogen can provide a powerful tool to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
That's because hydrogen has many potential applications as a relatively clean burning fuel that doesn't emit carbon dioxide. It could help decarbonize transportation on electric batteries are not good options, such as long haul industrial vehicles like tractor trailers, maritime shipping, and even planes and trains. It could also help clean up heavy manufacturing operations such as steel and cement production that require intense heat, making electricity from renewables, like wind and solar in efficient and impractical because of the immense power levels needed.
And it can be used to produce electricity replacing hydrocarbons like coal or natural gas to run turbine generators in power plants with no carbon emissions that could provide a critical source of backup generation as local and national grids become heavily dependent on intermittent production from solar and wind farms. In fact, given its broad ranging potential hydrogen has been called the Swiss Army Knife of energy, a powerful tool to transform hard to decarbonize sectors beyond the electric grid as the country strives to build a fully non carbon economy by mid century. As a result, hydrogen development enjoys broad bipartisanship support at the national level or significant funding is likely to be approved by the US Congress, as it debates massive investments proposed by President Joe Biden to combat climate change.
That includes $8 billion to build four initial hydrogen hubs around the country, plus billions more in federal assistance for hydrogen technology. The research and development. The US Senate has already approved funding in that $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill it passed this summer, which is now under debate in the house. But environmental groups in Mexico and elsewhere are sounding warning alarms about growing enthusiasm for all things hydrogen. That's because many questions remain unanswered about its actual ability to lower carbon emissions in the hydrogen production process itself. Plus a potential danger of applying hydrogen solutions to decarbonize energy in areas better served by renewable resources. But that national debate is now playing out in full force in New Mexico, where governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, his administration is considering a wholesale embrace of strategies to turn the state into a center of excellence for a future hydrogen economy. Now that broad state level support is emerging alongside advanced industry plans to build out the hydrogen economy in New Mexico, and that includes three big projects involving different companies and investors.
The first one is NewPoint Gas LLC and Brooks Energy company, which are pushing a joint project to transform the coal fired Escalante Generating Station near Grants, which tri state generation and transmission Association shut down last year into a hydrogen production and generating facility. The second is Libertad Power, a new company that launched in 2014, which is now working to construct the state's first newly built hydrogen production and generating facility in Farmington, which it says could be up and running by 2025. The plant would be an anchor for establishing broad hydrogen production and distribution hub in San Juan County, the provides clean electricity for utilities throughout the West, plus hydrogen as fuel for transportation and industrial uses. Over the summer it submitted a detailed project proposal to the US Department of Energy to be considered for federal hydrogen hub funding Once approved by Congress.
The proposals significantly broaden Libertad focus to also build a second hydrogen hub in Lee County in the Permian Basin. The third is Albuquerque based BayoTech Inc., which is building compact mobile hydrogen generators based on technology originally developed at Sandia National Laboratories, which is now beginning to deploy its first units in New Mexico and elsewhere to provide on site hydrogen production and fueling stations where needed. The company established a partnership with Farmington based process equipment and services company, or PESCO, to build the generating units. In terms of technological development and deployment, BayoTech is by far the most advanced with for generating units rolling off the pesco production line this fall, and at least seven more next year, is according to a company CEO Mo Vargas. BayoTech which employs 110 people now and plans to hire another 50 or 60 next year, has racked up a $1 billion potential sales pipeline with customers worldwide. Establishing a legal framework for the hydrogen industry in New Mexico can help accelerate business development. According to Vargas, we're encouraged with the current administration's ambitions to turn New Mexico into a central hydrogen hub.
This again according to Vargas, as he explained to the journal, the legal framework can help us move forward faster. The article continues to go on showcasing the political debate that many are having between green hydrogen and blue hydrogen, some even saying that state of New Mexico shouldn't even invest in anything but green hydrogen, although it's not nearly as economic. But all of that aside, the three projects that I talked about earlier, are very intriguing and have quite a bit of potential. The first one located in Grant's, now Grant's New Mexico is just south of the San Juan basin, with a lot of natural gas lines leading to that facility. Now the San Juan basin is a very gasous play, which means that a hydrogen hub located along that mass of pipeline could supply Albuquerque, New Mexico with a lot of hydrogen. And a second project located in Farmington, New Mexico is smack dab in the middle of the San Juan basin, which could have limitless supply of natural gas for hydrogen generation. But more so than that.
It's also located right next to the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, which could supply a lot of jobs and revenue to a group that needs it desperately. And lastly, the BayoTech project with their mobile hydrogen generators developed at Sandia National Laboratories just south of Albuquerque. Now, these mobile units could come in very handy in New Mexico and throughout the world to aid in isolated gas plays, where you cannot pipe the natural gas out. So it's going to be interesting going forward to see how New Mexico plays this out. Will politics get involved and crush the system? Or will bipartisanship win out, and the state moves forward, becoming a great hub for hydrogen.
Alright, that's it for me, everyone. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about today's episode, Come visit me at my website at thehydrogenpodcast.com and let me know. I would really love to hear from you. And as always, take care. Stay safe. I'll talk to you later.
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