Orkney project shows potential of hydrogen as a fuel source. The gas may be best option for heavy transport such as trucks, ships and trains. Orkney, a sparsely-populated archipelago 10 miles off the northern tip of mainland Scotland, is not an obvious place to go looking for the future. Yet the windswept islands have become one of Britain’s foremost centres for innovation in renewable energy — including the use of hydrogen as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. Orkney’s focus on hydrogen stems from its need for a way of storing energy from the islands’ prolific wind and tidal resources, which frequently generate more electricity than the local power grid can accept. A range of public and community investors, from the EU to Orkney Council, have financed an electrolysis machine to turn surplus energy into hydrogen. The process works by splitting water into its component parts — hydrogen and oxygen — with an electric current. The resulting hydrogen is stored as compressed gas to be used at a later date in fuel cells which reverse the electrolysis process to produce electricity. The power is used as a substitute for fossil fuels in ships docked in Kirkwall, capital of Orkney, reducing local pollution and carbon emissions. Hydrogen has so far lagged behind battery technology in the race to become the dominant form of energy storage. Increasingly large batteries are being integrated into power grids to mitigate the volatility of renewable generation. The growing global fleet of battery-powered electric vehicles could also help balance supply and demand — if recharging is done when power is plentiful. Yet, hydrogen has several advantages. Whereas batteries are heavy and require supplies of scarce lithium and cobalt, hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant known element in the universe. It produces nothing but water as a byproduct when used to produce electricity. Enthusiasts say that, even if EVs end up dominating the passenger car market, the greater energy density of hydrogen will make fuel cells a better option for heavier transportation, such as trucks, ships and trains. Trials of a hydrogen-powered train developed by Alstom of France started in Germany last year. Hydrogen also has wider potential uses as a source of heating in homes and industries. A pilot scheme is planned to substitute hydrogen for methane in the local gas network of Leeds, in northern England, with an aim of cutting carbon emissions from heating by almost three-quarters. Hydrogen will be extracted from existing natural gas supplies and the carbon removed and stored underground. Planners say only minor modifications of existing gas infrastructure and appliances will be required. The scheme aims to be operational in the late-2020s with a view to nationwide rollout if successful. Advocates are counting on technological advances to make the electrolysis process more efficient, as the growing frequency of renewable power surpluses creates strong incentives for investment in energy storage.
FT 8th Jan 2018 read more »
Riversimple Rasa review – a Welsh hydrogen fuel cell runabout that could revolutionise the car industry. A hydrogen fuel cell, in the most basic terms, converts hydrogen and oxygen into pure water and electricity. The water is drinkable (I made a cup of tea with the effluent of a Toyota Mirai a few months ago) and is the only real emission, making the Rasa a healthy car to drive around town. But hydrogen as a fuel for transport has significant benefits on a global scale, even when compared to battery-electric cars – the well-to-wheel CO2 emissions of the Rasa are estimated to be around 40g/km. It’s not without its challenges. There are questions about where the hydrogen comes from, just as there are questions about how the energy to charge electric cars is made. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is a lack of infrastructure. There are just five working hydrogen pumps within the M25, and one just outside it at Cobham services – the only one on the motorway network.
Telegraph 8th Jan 2018 read more »