Based on educated guesses, which one of the following promises a better future for storing energy for grid scale, automobiles etc as opposed to batteries:
1) Fuels synthesized form CO2
2) Hydrogen (Ideally Green or Blue Hydrogen in the long run)
I am debating between which one of these two technologies to choose for my graduate research. My main goal is to help develop an alternative to way to store energy from renewables, an alternative to batteries.
I know the cost of producing fuels from CO2 is relatively high at present and Hydrogen comes with its own unique challenges like embrittlement and a relatively low round-trip efficiency. But considering all of these factors, which one of the two has a better shot getting a wide scale adaptation?
The idea of using CO2 derived fuels in existing infrastructure is appealing. But at the moment, there seems to be push towards Hydrogen in a lot of places, even though the technology is more expensive than batteries at the moment. Would the cost of Hydrogen would eventually come down with economies of scale and R&D?
My concern is that batteries won't be able to offer a large scale energy storage solution and suffers from relatively short life cycles. And also the supply of transition metals used in it won't be assuring once wide adoption picks up.
I would greatly appreciate any feedback or suggestions.
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Dear Jay Deshmukh
You would have to consider that synthesizing fuels from CO2 also requires hydrogen. Thus, the round-trip efficiency is even worse than with pure H2. Why not consider both of them and find out in your research which one would be better suited for which applications?
Thanks for your input Pietari Puranen
Yes, both are worth diving into at this stage.
According to the IAEA on the future of hydrogen, the following are some important elements to be considered:
1-The time is right to tap into hydrogen’s potential to play a key role in a clean, secure, and affordable energy future. Clean hydrogen is currently enjoying unprecedented political and business momentum, with the number of policies and projects around the world expanding rapidly. It is now time to scale up technologies and bring down costs to allow hydrogen to become widely used.
2- Hydrogen can help tackle various critical energy challenges. It offers ways to decarbonize a range of sectors – including long-haul transport, chemicals, and iron and steel – where it is proving difficult to meaningfully reduce emissions. It can also help improve air quality and strengthen energy security. Despite very ambitious international climate goals, global energy-related CO2 emissions reached an all-time high in 2018. Outdoor air pollution also remains a pressing problem, with around 3 million people dying prematurely each year.
3- Hydrogen is versatile. Technologies already available today enable hydrogen to produce, store, move and use energy in different ways. A wide variety of fuels are able to produce hydrogen, including renewables, nuclear, natural gas, coal, and oil. It can be transported as a gas by pipelines or in liquid form by ships, much like liquefied natural gas (LNG). It can be transformed into electricity and methane to power homes and feed industry, and into fuels for cars, trucks, ships, and planes.
4- Hydrogen can enable renewables to provide an even greater contribution. It has the potential to help with a variable output from renewables, like solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind, whose availability is not always well-matched with demand. Hydrogen is one of the leading options for storing energy from renewables and looks promising to be the lowest-cost option for storing electricity over days, weeks, or even months. Hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels can transport energy from renewables over long distances – from regions with abundant solar and wind resources, such as Australia or Latin America, to energy-hungry cities thousands of kilometres away.
5- There have been false starts for hydrogen in the past; this time could be different. The recent successes of solar PV, wind, batteries, and electric vehicles have shown that policy and technology innovation has the power to build global clean energy industries. With a global energy sector in flux, the versatility of hydrogen is attracting stronger interest from a diverse group of governments and companies. Support is coming from governments that both import and export energy as well as renewable electricity suppliers, industrial gas producers, electricity and gas utilities, automakers, oil and gas companies, major engineering firms, and cities. Investments in hydrogen can help foster new technological and industrial development in economies around the world, creating skilled jobs.
6- Hydrogen can be used much more widely. Today, hydrogen is used mostly in oil refining and for the production of fertilizers. For it to make a significant contribution to clean energy transitions, it also needs to be adopted in sectors where it is almost completely absent at the moment, such as transport, buildings, and power generation.
However, the clean, widespread use of hydrogen in global energy transitions faces several challenges:
E-fuels or biofuels (both fuels ultimately synthesised from atmospheric CO2) have the advantage of fitting right into today's ICEs, i.e. they have a humogous potential consumer base already. What they lack is the ability to scale to the entire energy system (biofuels) or energetic and economic efficiency (e-fuels).
Similarly to the debate of hydrogen vs. batteries, the answer is "to each its own": there will be niches where bio/e-fuels will find applications, and not necessarily so small ones: long-haul flights require so much energy that even hydrogen's energy density may not be enough. In the short term, they may be used to reduce emissions from ICEs that will still be on the road for a few decades before they are all supplanted by EVs (either batteries or hydrogen).
Also: beware anyone who says that "hydrogen is more expensive than batteries" (or the exact opposite, for that sake). The cost structure of the two technologies is radically different and fits different purposes, and they will be better each at its own game.
Thanks for your insight Federico Zenith , yes I agree that Battery and H2 are aiming for different markets for the most part.
Yes use of the ability of CO2 derived fuels to work with existing infrasturce is appealing.
But I think I think that in the future H2 and CO2 derived fuels will be competing with each other for the market share and most likely one of them would be decisive.
Hydrogen has twice the the energy density per unit mass than gasoline. And if the gasoline was derived using CO2 (and obviouly H2), it looks like a more energy intensive process for the synthesis part.
But unlike H2, little to no energy is required to store gasoline in reasonalbe volumes.
How would we compare the cost of synthesizing and storing H2 and CO2 derived fuels ?
Hello Jay Deshmukh , you could compare the on-board hydrogen option vs. e-fuels by pitting on one side compression and pressure tanks vs. CO2 extraction and plant for e-fuel synthesis. Compression is actually not that expensive (about 1-2 kWh/kg over the total 33 kWh/kg of hydrogen, depending on starting pressure), and while I don't have hard numbers I don't presume CO2 extraction from the atmosphere (a few hundred ppm) can compete with that. It would work better where CO2 has a higher concentration, as in biogas (but again, it does not scale enough) and in the output of CCS (but that is supposed to go underground eventually, not end up as fuel).
Also, hydrogen tanks are not that expensive either - we are talking 10-20 $/kWh, which is 10 times cheaper than batteries.