The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy
A book by Darryl McMahon
Last updated 2021.10.13
We Have a Winner!!
Dateline: San Francisco CA - Thursday May 12, 2011 - The International Green Book Festival announced
the results of its competition, and awarded The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy with Runner-up
(second place) in the non-fiction category, coming in ahead of entries by many notable 'green' authors
such as David Suzuki.
A Personal Energy Plan will save you money now,
and in the future as energy prices rise again
The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy
in the news
October 2021It's a long time since I revisited my book or this part of the website. It was always
my intention that the book was strong enough, backed copiously with solid research citations, that it would
would stand on its own. In the past year, I have seen a resurgence in the hydrogen hype, unaccompanied by
any substantive advances in the technology. Other than a 'hail mary' by the nuclear and fossil fuel
industries (notably fracked natural gas) to soak up more taxpayer money to greenwash their dismal
businesses, I don't understand the play. The technology is substantially
the same as it was 150 years ago, with incremental improvements. But the fundamentals of the laws of
thermodynamics and economics have not changed.
I have also had multiple requests to update and republish the book. I recently went through the book
again, and it has held up remarkably well over 15 years. I will happily update the book if someone wants
to pay for my time to do so. Otherwise, not interested. It's still a solid read, educational and
occasionally entertaining as is.
I was asked to do an update presentation to a group of which I am a member starting a year ago. I relented
this past spring, but have not published the slide deck until now, because I did not have the time to deal with
the flame wars that would ensue. I HAVE been here before.
Anyway, with winter approaching, I may have a bit more time for this, as COVID-19 seems to continue
pushing off work on my other projects to infinity. Here's the slide deck, and possibly in future some
additional articles which shine the reality light on the hydrogen hype. (Intermittent and as time permits)
The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy - Update 15 years on (March, 2021) (PowerPoint PPSX file)
How green is blue hydrogen? April 2021
TL;DR "This best-case scenario for producing blue hydrogen, using renewable electricity instead of
natural gas to power the processes, suggests to us that there really is no role for blue hydrogen in
a carbon- free future. Greenhouse gas emissions remain high, and there would also be a substantial
consumption of renewable electricity, which represents an opportunity cost. We believe the renewable
electricity could be better used by society in other ways, replacing the use of fossil fuels."
October 28, 2021 - This is a bit of a slog - about 3 hours - but it's an eye-opening reality check from the
conference on Hydrogen (what's needed to make the hydgrogen economy real). TL;DR - it's not ready, funding
is a huge problem because lenders see the technology as very risky, and while taking climate change
seriously is necessary to give the hydrogen economy a push forward, the case for hydrogen as a climate
change solution is shaky.
One speaker (starting at about the 44 minute mark) doesn't even address typical
ground transportation as a niche for hydrogen fuel. For those with real skin in the game, it must
be clear that plug-in battery and grid-connected electric drive has already captured that market.
He speaks to heavy industry, long-haul transport, and maritime sectors as the key markets for
hydrogen fuelling sometime after 2030.
This assumes that 'direct electrification' technology will
remain stuck in circa 2020 commercial technology levels. That is a poor assumption as battery
technology continues to improve dramatically year over year. Electric long-haul transport is being
implemented now with Class-8 battery trucks and electrified highways. There are already battery
electric ferries in commercial service. The potential for using biofuels is completely ignored.
The world is already building infrastructure for liquified natural gas, not only for more compact
transport, but also fueling ships. LNG may be a 'bridge fuel', but it will likely appear in
precisely the time window to obliterate any niche for hydrogen fuel. LNG based on bio-methane
may have a longer life than fossil methane depending on GHG-reduction incentives. Heavy industry will use
whatever energy source is available and provides maximum financial advantage. Hydrogen will not
be a winner on financials.
Industry promoters still can't bring themselves to give straight answers about
GHG emissions, continually blurring the impacts of grey vs. blue ve. green hydrogen. A bit problem
for green hydrogen is that there simply isn't enough primary green energy available to power the
electrolysis. (My addendum: because it takes 7 times as much energy to power the green hydrogen
energy cycle as it does to use green primary energy to charge batteries and power homes, industry
and transportation. See my March 2021 PowerPoint deck referenced above.)
Hydrogen - Is it rocket science? (Wikborg|Rein)
October 31st, 2021 - It is not only All Hallows Eve, but scarier still, it is also the eve of the Conference of the Parties
26th annual gathering of the apologists and deniers (COP 26) creating massive GHGs from jet travel
for the self-congratulatory PR fest for the powers that be, and where true advocates and problem
solvers are left outside the gates. I'll state now that the end-of-event statement will once again
mouth platitudes about the scope of the problem, that we must act now, and then serve up zero hard
commitments that any government or corporate entity will have to stand to account for, or suffer any
penalties for simply continuing the charade as staged regularly since Rio. Happy to have saved you
some time with this spoiler.
November 3rd, 2021 - One of the purported future uses for (green) hydrogen is to inject it into
existing natural gas pipelines for use as a heating fuel to reduce the carbon content of the
delivered heating fuel. As I cover in my
book, hydrogen is the smallest element, difficult to contain and highly reactive. That means,
hydrogen gas - as would be injected into the pipeline infrastructure and into homes and businesses -
is very hard to contain and really likes to catch fire or explode.
This white paper, "The H2 readiness of gas shut-off valves in gas meters" (Author: Stephan Brückner,
Johnson Electric Smart Metering) contains thiis paragraph:
"To achieve an unlimited infeed of hydrogen in gas distribution networks, all the links in the supply
chain will need to be H2 ready – from the entry point through to the exit point where the gas will
be used. Intrinsic infrastructure components and materials will have to be investigated and tested
for specific compatibility limits with hydrogen admixtures and pure hydrogen."
(paper can be downloaded
Think about that for a moment. Think of the enormity of what that implies. Every steel pipe
in the NG distribution grid will have to be lined, sealed or replaced to avoid embrittlement. Every
connection will have to be replaced. Every cut-off valve will have to be replaced. Where will all
that "H2-ready" gear come from in a very short period? Where will the workforce come from?
And it has to be a short period, because
the distribution network can't distinguish between NG with H2 in it and NG without. Once the H2
starts to be injected, it will be present everywhere within minutes to days. There is no gradual
phase-in option for H2 being fed into the distribution network; it's effectively a instantaneous
cut-over with the first feed-in.
I think it's a safe bet that the hydrogen energy advocates are not posting that as a
headline for their fantasy energy nirvana posters. Because it means they can't simply
piggyback on the existing NG distribution infrastructure, they'll have to replace it.
But it begs a more fundamental question, What is the benefit of putting hydrogen into a
natural gas distribution network? It's not GHG emissions reductions. In a world where there
isn't enough renewable electricity to go around, we're not going to use 7 times as much to
make 'green' hydrogen to mix with methane to make a slightly less potent GHG energy carrier.
So, that's going to be blue or grey hydrogen, which means we stripped off the carbon molecules
upstream somewhere, but they're still being created, just not at point of use. If the objective
is heating from green sources, we'll be much better off using electricity to the point of use
to power heat pumps for space and water heating. For industrial process heat, it will depend
on the desired temperature as to the device used: heat-pump; resistance heating or electric
plasma or electric blast furnaces. They're all off-the-shelf tech today, and don't require
replacing an existing infrastructure to deploy.
The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy now cited by
[*dead link: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/resources/db/higheredcatalogs/H2.do?state=book&bookId=195"
the U.S. Department of Energy as a textbook on Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology
article on The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy 2007.01.13
A Local Review
The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy by Darryl McMahon
This book is a great read for the energy conscious person who is concerned with the environment
and how ours and future generations will cope with our depleting fossil fuels. At present, McMahon
believes hydrogen is not the answer. He reviews the many ways that hydrogen can be produced.
McMahon points out that although hydrogen is an exceptional environmentally friendly fuel, its
production uses fossil fuels which contribute to global warming. Hydrogen is not viable at present
but can be a very clean and efficient 'future fuel' when technology finds ways of manufacturing it
using alternative energy sources.
With the world's fossil fuel supply quickly running out, the author uses the latter portion of
the book to suggest ways of conserving energy. This section is a must read for everyone who wants
to use less energy and save money at the same time.
( Peter Bayfield )
Edmonton (Alberta) Outlets for the Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy
Audrey's Books 10702 Jasper Avenue NW
North Bay (Ontario) Outlets for The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy
[Link has bitrotted: http://www.gulliversbookstore.com] Gulliver's Books 157 Main Street West
Ottawa Outlets for The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy
Check your favourite bookstore to get your copy of The
Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy to prepare yourself for a future of
rising energy prices.
Shoppe (800 Bank Street)
Ridemore 456 McArthur (at St. Laurent)
Perfect Books (258
Elgin Street, near MacLaren)
(If your favourite store for new books does not have The
Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy, ask them to get it for you.)
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