Tag Archive for: hydrogen fuel

Green hydrogen ‘comes back to the future’

Green hydrogen as a source of fuel can be essential for decarbonizing the transport sector, especially for covering the limitations of electric solutions and other clean energies, since it is found easily and thanks to the increase of research projects worldwide, green H is getting cheaper.

Anthony-Rampersad_Unsplash_Green Hydrogen

What is ‘Green Hydrogen’?

Green Hydrogen is a source of energy that has no colour, no odour or taste, is abundant and it does not emit any carbon dioxide emissions when used to power fuel cells.

There are different types of hydrogen and every type has its characteristics; they’re essentially colour codes, used within the energy industry to mark each type of hydrogen.It can be grey, blue, green, brown and even yellow and pink, depending on the type of products used, different colours are assigned to the hydrogen.

As the iconic movie trilogy of the mid-’80s “Back to the future” predicted, we can say that hydrogen “comes back to the future”.

Many factors make this raw material so appealing as a great alternative in comparison to electric and carbon fuels. And especially, now is the time to incentivise green fuels as the need for decarbonising the planet is one of the goals that countries around the world have set for 2050, especially the European Union.

How does Green Hydrogen work?

As explained before, hydrogen has no colour, but the name of the colour is given by the type of waste in the production process. Grey and blue come from fossil fuels that generate CO2, and the resulting emissions are captured, stored and not released into the atmosphere. Pink hydrogen comes through electrolysis powered by nuclear energy, yellow is a relatively new phrase for hydrogen made through electrolysis using solar power. Brown hydrogen is made using black coal or lignite (brown coal), these black and brown hydrogen are the opposite of green hydrogen in the hydrogen spectrum and the most environmentally damaging – whereas green hydrogen does not generate any emission neither in the production process nor the combustion.

Green Hydrogen is produced with no harmful greenhouse gas emissions and is generated by using clean electricity from surplus renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to electrolyse water. Electrolysers use an electrochemical reaction to split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, emitting zero-carbon dioxide in the process, according to National Grid information.

How can the transport sector make use of green hydrogen?

Since the transport sector represents the source of one-third of total CO2 emissions in Europe, it could benefit from the renewed attention on hydrogen to replace fossil fuels and meet the European Union decarbonisation goals. This way it could be a lead actor in the transport sector where batteries are an impracticable solution to substitute fossil fuels powering ferries, coasting trade or inland waterways and in rail applications.

Currently, the production of green hydrogen represents a small percentage of the overall, this is due to the elevated costs of production. Green hydrogen will come down in price as it becomes more common, providing an answer to one of the great challenges facing the energy sector. Developing systems to store surplus energy from renewables on a large scale, reduce Europe’s energy dependence, and cover gap areas since electric energy cannot be used in all transport systems as in maritime transport.

What are the obstacles to using green hydrogen?

So, can green hydrogen be implemented right away in the transportation sector? One of the biggest barriers to the adoption of this fuel for the transport sector comes from the low supply, since FC vehicles are expensive, although mass-production could reduce costs, as well as the difficulties of mass market diffusion in hydrogen storage. If applied in the current scenario of mass production vehicles for transport and fuels, hydrogen could reach areas where batteries and electric energy sources cannot cover.

Application in maritime transport

One of the major consumers of oil products and heavy fuels is the maritime sector, harming the quality of air, especially around ports. If applied to the engines of the maritime transport sector, green hydrogen could reduce not only emissions during sea navigation, but also those deriving from port operations.

In the last year, there have been some steps towards creating the world’s first hydrogen-powered cargo ship. Implementing this technology on ships, ferries and other coastal crafts could strongly reduce CO2 emissions.

Application in rail transport

Currently, it is difficult to electrify certain sections of railway lines on which fossil fuel-powered trains are used. Hydrogen trains are considered competitive for those railway sections that don’t depend on electric energy, with a low frequency of service and operate on long distances. These conditions are frequent in rail transport, making hydrogen rail mobility interesting from an economic point of view and an excellent opportunity to further decarbonise public transport, according to Enea, (Agenzia nazionale per le nuove tecnologie, l’energia e lo sviluppo economico sostenibile).

 

Certainly, we will see green hydrogen powering sectors that strongly depend on carbon fuels as companies and countries meet the goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, especially in the maritime and rail transport sectors. This is without a doubt a comeback to clean and essential sources of energy and as the famous DeLorean from the film, engines will be using clean hydrogen to keep up the pace.

 

Sources:

The hydrogen colour spectrum | National Grid Group

 Hydrogen and “green transport” – EAI (enea.it)

Green Hydrogen: an essential element for decarbonization (cepsa.com)

Alternative Fuels Data Center: Hydrogen Benefits and Considerations (energy.gov)

 

Clean fuels, electrification, water and hydrogen – How are ports handling energy transitions?

Written by Lidia Slawinska

Written by: Lidia Slawinska, Consultant

Over the past few months, a lot of our articles have focused on sustainable solutions in intermodal transport – whether they were connected to port operations, maritime transport or port-railway solutions. Focusing on alternative and clean energy solutions is vital, in particular in light of this summer’s heat waves, floods, and other weather phenomena which are gaining in strength every year. The European Union has recently renewed its dedication to the Green Deal, committing itself to substantially lowering the carbon emissions of the EU by an extremely ambitious 55% by 2030, and to eliminate net emissions by 2050. Taken together, all of this suggests that sustainability needs to take centre stage in all of our transport operations if we are to meet those goals and help protect our Blue planet.

The Escola is committed to promoting sustainable transport and incorporates its principles to all of its courses – and this is why this month we wanted to touch upon one of those. The upcoming course on Energy Transitions in Ports will take place in October of this year, and will aim to raise awareness and provide information to the management and technical staff of port authorities that are part of the MEDPorts Association on specific aspects related to energy transition in ports. However, when we talk about said “energy transition”, what do we mean?

The current climate

According to some scientific estimates (2019: The Atlantic), it is likely that sea levels will rise considerably by the end of this century, therewith putting 14% of the earth’s major ports susceptible to flooding and erosion. This is near-universally explained by the rising global temperatures, which contribute to a faster melting of the ice caps.

Maritime transport currently is responsible for about 80% of freight transported globally (by volume). As such, nearly 3% of CO2 emissions are sent into the atmosphere alone – a percentage that has increased by more than 30% in the last two decades. This characteristic of the current “golden age of oil” has had a detrimental effect on our climate already. Continuing on this same trajectory will increase this number to nearly 17% of all global emissions by the middle of our century – therewith further hastening the rise of the sea levels.

All of this suggest that leading ports need to take action now and adapt their infrastructures to offset any threats that may arise from the rising sea.

Clean fuels

When thinking about the prospect of energy transition in ports, the fuel used by the visiting vessels is central. Ships – whether they are cruises or container-carriers – need to stay in the ports they visit – to load and unload, and to re-supply. This requires the ships to stay powered whilst these operations are taking place, and ports have had to design alternative electrical systems of On-Shore Power Supplies (OPS) to lower their emissions in-port. Many ships have already started to run on new alternative fuels that have considerably smaller carbon footprints – including LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), hydrogen, ammonia and ethanol.

The vessels that operate within a port – the ones transporting the pilots or tugging the larger vessels entering the harbour – would also need to be modified. Some ports have already taken initiative such zero-emission crafts – one example being the Hydrotug boat under construction in the Port of Antwerp.

This transformation of the vessels, which also includes the capacity to be powered by the on-shore electrical or gas-powered systems, would need to be accelerated for the industry to become greener.

Electrification

As hinted in the previous section, electrification is a vital process in the energy transition of ports. Making sure that the modern ports have adequate electric facilities and technologies in place, be it through either OPS, electrified wharfs, or electric ferries or vessels that perform other port operations.

Energy production

Trying to make sure that the energy transition in ports is not a double-edged sword, which then puts increasing pressures on existing power infrastructures in their hinterlands (and therewith continue to leave a significant carbon footprint), ports also need to think about using their vicinities to generate their own power. Turning seawalls into energy producers, or having offshore wind turbines can significantly increase the Gigawatts that the ports will depend on – therewith limiting the strain on the traditional infrastructures. It is vital that ports transform their mindset and develop new technologies that can create electricity from solar power, marine power, or bioenergy. Ports will need to become electricity producers that depend on a multitude of sources to supply their operations, whilst making sure that they are doing so with limited or no emissions to comply with the emerging global regulations.

In fact, some estimates now say that by the middle of this century, industrial ports will have the capacities to generate ten times more than today. This data was presented in the DNV GL’s study on Ports: Green Gateways to Europe. The report also stated that the energy transition methods that many ports are either considering or already implementing could easily account for the increase in port activities – traffic has been consistently increasing as globalisation has driven the economies forward. In order for this to take place consistently, the report recommends 10 specific transitions that would need to take place:

  1. Electrification of port-related activities
  2. Fuel switch for maritime transport
  3. Electrification of industry
  4. Integration of offshore wind
  5. Energy system integration
  6. Hydrogen as a feedstock and energy vector
  7. Phase-out of fossil-fuelled power plants
  8. Carbon capture and storage
  9. New regulations
  10. A circular and bio-based economy

(Source: Offshore Energy)

Final thoughts

Transforming our current energy infrastructure has taken centre stage is both our political and social dimensions. The transport sector has also taken note, and many private and public entities have already taken (sometimes) drastic steps to try to lower the carbon footprint of transport. Ports, in particular, have taken note – knowing that they represent the connection between the sea and the land, and therefore need to lead in the sustainable revolution and guide both land, rail and sea transport operators on the path towards decarbonisation.

Automation and innovative technologies already exist that can help ports become energy-efficient. With new laws and guidelines already in place, including the Paris Climate Agreement, the European Green Deal, and the latest EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework, the path ahead for ports is doubtlessly difficult and winding, but righteous. Smart Ports and Green Ports are now becoming synonymous with the Ports of Tomorrow. The journey forward is green, and to survive, ports need to make sure that they on it.

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