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Category Archives: Greenhous gas

Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas have helped transformed our power and transport industries for decades till now. But recent geo-political situations, depleting fossil sources and Carbon pollution, global warming and climate change have raised serious questions about the future of fossil fuels. However, countries who have massively invested in fossil fuel infrastructure and who have been heavily relying on supply of fossil fuels have started realizing an inescapable truth that they are running out of time to find an alternative to fossil fuels. Recently Hydrogen has been suggested as an alternative source of energy and many countries are gearing up to promote Hydrogen on a massive scale. The countries who have been traditionally using fossil fuels are now focussing on generating hydrogen from fossil fuels as an easier option. But the basic problem with this approach is they still depend on fossil fuels which means they still contribute to Carbon emission and climate change. They can conveniently dispute or deny the fact that man-made Carbon emissions cause global warming in order to score political points among the ‘gullible public’. Democracy is all about numbers and as along as these number stack up the political parties will take advantage of the system and try to push their agenda. But all these efforts are only short term and they still cannot escape the truth that man made Carbon emission is transforming our world for the worst and the future looks bleak.

However, there is a silver lining in the dark clouds of global warming and climate change in the form of renewable Hydrogen. It is now possible to generate Hydrogen using renewable energy sources such as Hydro, solar, wind, geothermal and OTEC (ocean thermal energy conversion systems) that can used not only decarbonize our present economy and also has the capacity to transform future energy and to a cleaner and more sustainable environment. It is now possible to achieve a circular economy in energy sector which means the CO2 emission from existing and operating power plants using fossil fuels can be reversed using renewable Hydrogen so that one can continue to generate power but with Zero Carbon emission. This is a huge transformation.

However, the usage of fossil fuels will continue in other industries such as petrochemicals, polymers and additives, and other synthetic materials. But one can take advantage of using renewable Hydrogen even in such industries using Green Chemistry initiatives so that they can become more sustainable.

However Renewable Hydrogen is a currently very expensive though it is generated from abundantly available natural resources such as sun, wind and water because PV solar panels are made from high purity silicon material again made from simple sand. We cannot afford to take natural resources lightly because they are precious commodities. With limited usage of renewable energy at current levels the cost of PV solar panels is still very expensive but likely to come down as we deploy more and more solar panels in the future. We should also be careful how we use renewable Hydrogen. Our first and foremost usage of renewable Hydrogen should be to decarbonize the fossil economy and achieve a circular economy. It means we must convert CO2 emissions into renewable natural gas (RNG) suing renewable Hydrogen so that the Carbon can be recycled indefinitely with Zero Carbon emission while power plants using fossil fuels can continue to generate a base load power. By this way we will be able to address two issue namely meeting the rising energy demand at a cheaper price while eliminating global warming and climate change. All other use of renewable hydrogen such as Hydrogen vehicles for transportation using fuel cell etc will be secondary because they are not our priority. If we can generate a base load power (24 x7) using renewable Hydrogen with zero Carbon emission, then that should be our focus whether we believe it climate science or not. This will also help us conserve fossil fuels that may be rarely used to meet certain critical needs while substantially reducing the carbon emission.

Renewable hydrogen will require massive deployment of renewable energy projects all over the world. One can generate renewable energy and use it directly for domestic or commercial use. But they are intermittent and require large scale energy storage. Moreover, all HT transmission lines are old and designed for transmitting base load power. Such an approach will not help decarbonizing fossil economy currently widely used. That is why renewable Hydrogen will have to play a key role in the future energy mix. Renewable hydrogen can be used as a fuel for transport industries using fuel cell and Japan is leading the way in this field. But such an application has along way to go and it requires massive investment and creation of infrastructure by way of filling stations. Countries like Japan do not have vast land area for solar industries, and they are likely to use cheap nuclear power and sea water to generate large scale hydrogen infrastructure. By this way they can supply power to both hydrogen as well as electric (battery) vehicles. Alternatively, they are looking to import liquified hydrogen (LH2) from countries like Australia who are ready to use cheap brown coal to generate Hydrogen by gasification despite CO2 emissions. Currently Australian government is not very keen about cutting CO2 emissions, but they are keen to encourage LH2 from cheap coal. They have already approved a pilot plant in the state of Victoria and only future can tell whether such a decision is prudent or not. Japanese companies may prefer to invest in Australia to generate and export clean liquid hydrogen leaving behind all emissions including CO2 in Australia. They may generate LH2 from natural gas and export it to Japan, but it may not be acceptable by Japanese companies because it has a potential to poison the Platinum catalyst used in their Fuel cell cars. In fact, Australia has an enormous potential to generate renewable hydrogen and then use it locally as well as to export. This will be more sustainable in the long run.Toyota mirai layoutToyota mirai power supplyToyota miraiCO2 cloud

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Energy generation and usage is considered not only as a mark of progress of a nation but also security of a nation. That is why countries go to extraordinary distance to achieve such a security and everything else becomes secondary in the path of their goal. That is why countries with high oil and gas reserves enjoy good relationship and privileges with powerful nations of the world. Countries who do not have their own oil and gas reserves and who completely rely on import of oil and gas have no choice but maintain a good relationship with oil rich countries despite their difference in ideologies and policies. But with warming globe and changing climate the dependence on fossil fuels is fast becoming unsustainable and countries look for alternatives. It is good news for the whole world especially for nations who depend completely on import of oil and gas because they can develop their own renewable energy sources to lower their emissions. But there is one major difference. Countries who depend on import of oil and gas required to develop only an infrastructure to store and distribute oil and gas, But with renewable energy they have to develop an infrastructure to produce the hardware necessary to use alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal  but also energy storage such as batteries. The warming globe and changing climate have become a grave threat to the plant earth and a threat to lives of entire future generations. It is the greatest challenge of the industrialized world. One can view this as threat or as an opportunity. But it is time to act irrespective of our views and we must act now.

It is an opportunity for scientists and engineers to view energy sources and their applications in a new perspective. It is an opportunity to understand how human activities affect our environment and how not to damage them but preserve them for our future generations while developing new alternatives. Humanity is just a part of a larger environment and any damage to planet earth is at our own peril. It is an ancient wisdom, but we neglected them. When an aboriginal of Australia said “we belong to earth and earth does not belong to us” we failed to listen to them. We(people) became bigger than They (environment).

In pursuit of a new energy source one must be extremely careful in examining Nature and how she operates so that we do not make the same mistakes of the past. As we develop renewable energy as a potential energy source of the future, we should be aware of the life cycle of such a system and their impact on environment. Renewable energy requires hardware that uses exotic metals, catalysts, polymers, new Carbon sources and glasses. As we switch to Carbon free economy, we should make sure that there are no emissions in developing renewable energy sources and if necessary impose Carbon tax on such emissions and, to develop recycling technologies to recycle that hardware safely and environmentally friendly manner. It is critically important issue as we move forward. According to an article published in Chemical engineering News

“The potential quantities of waste are enormous. By 2025, waste batteries removed from electric vehicles will total 95 Giga watt hours, according to an estimate by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That pile will weigh roughly 600,000 metric tons.

A similar amount of old solar panels will have accumulated by then, according to projections by the International Renewable Energy Agency. IRENA anticipates solar panel waste could reach 78 million metric tons by 2050. And Europe could see 300,000 metric tons per year of decommissioned wind turbine blades in the next two decades, says the trade association Wind Europe.

Each year, approximately 300,000 metric tons of lithium-ion battery waste is generated around the world, says Sheetanshu Upadhyay, an analyst with India’s Esticast Research & Consulting. Most of those batteries come from mobile devices, but that waste will soon be overshadowed by old electric car batteries. Sales of plug-in electric vehicles are expected to surpass 2.6 million in 2020, according to Navigation Research.”

The above data shows the amount of CO2 emission associated with implementation of renewable energy sources soon. There is a potential for large scale recycling industries on renewables, but it will come with a price and environmental issues. Right now, the main problem is the CO2 emission and the only way to tackle this problem is impose Carbon tax on emissions while encouraging industries with low emission technologies. It should be possible for UN to pass a unanimous resolution among the nations to address climate change by imposing Carbon tax uniformly across the nation. By such resolution UN can bring all those countries to the table who are currently reluctant to be a party to the Paris accord. Countries can use “Carbon rating” similar to “energy ratings” currently used for measuring energy efficiencies in appliances such as Heaters and air-conditioners. The lowest emitting technologies will get the highest Carbon rating while high emission technologies will get the lowest Carbon ratings. By using such a method country who are reluctant to act on climate change will be disadvantaged; they will not be able to compete in international market or export their goods to low emitting countries based on Carbon ratings.

 

Recycling PV solar panelsRecycling renewablesRecycling wind turbines

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