The blue hydrogen, methane and uranium con

Australia has a National Hydrogen Strategy which supports all production sources that are capable of producing ‘clean hydrogen’. However, the definition of clean hydrogen is hydrogen produced using renewable energy or using fossil fuels with ‘substantial’ carbon capture and storage (CCS). Currently there are three main methods for producing hydrogen. These are:

  • electrolysis (extracting hydrogen from water using electricity)
  • thermochemical reactions using coal (coal gasification)
  • thermochemical reactions using natural gas (steam methane reforming).

Producing hydrogen from electrolysis powered by renewable energy does not create any carbon dioxide emissions. However, producing hydrogen from coal or natural gas produces large carbon dioxide emissions and the only way this can be reduced is through CCS1.

While the coal and gas companies are enthusiastically embracing the production of hydrogen from coal or natural gas, their attempts to reduce the emissions through CCS have been less than stellar. CCS involves capturing, transporting and storing greenhouse gas emissions (mostly carbon dioxide and methane) from fossil fuel power stations, energy intensive industries, and gas fields by injecting the captured greenhouse gases back into the ground2.

In early 2018, I wrote a piece about the ethics-free zone that is Mathias Cormann and his lie that CCS was a proven technology for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At that time, CCS was used almost entirely to enhance oil and natural gas recovery by injection into the reservoirs containing oil and natural gas, thereby actually increasing greenhouse gas emissions. When I wrote the article, I asked if, apart from enhanced oil and gas recovery, there was anywhere in which CCS operated commercially. The answer was “nowhere”3.

Four and a half years later, not much has changed. Worldwide, CCS trials on coal-fired power stations have been monumental failures. The few that have got off the ground have grossly exceeded budget and schedule, massively underdelivered on carbon promised to be captured, such that now most have been shut down2

The largest CCS project in the world is Chevron’s Gorgon project, on Barrow Island off the coast of Western Australia, which the former Coalition government (that felt good, still) spruiked as a ‘flagship’ project. Attached to a gas plant plagued by leaks, which has to be frequently evacuated, the Gorgon CCS trial has been capturing less than half the emissions needed to make CCS viable, with the carbon dioxide injection project costing an estimated $2 billion. As of July 2021, Gorgon has reached a milestone, with five years of shortfalls on its emissions capture promises2

Regulatory approvals for the huge Gorgon project were predicated on Chevron’s commitment to each year re-inject four millions of tonnes of CO2 stripped from its gas into porous sandstones some 2km under the island. However, Chevron has confirmed that having missed its carbon dioxide injection target for the 2020-21 financial year, Gorgon would report an “additional shortfall” for the five-year rolling average period to July 17, 2022. It means that Chevron will have to again cover the shortfall to meet its regulatory obligations, almost certainly by buying and surrendering greenhouse gas offsets. The $3.1 billion sequestration scheme has been closely scrutinised as a test case for the oil and gas industry’s arguments that CCS can be a game-changer in helping fossil fuel producers meet their carbon emission targets and slow global warming4.

The petroleum and coal companies can see the writing on the wall and are trying desperately, somehow, to keep the money flowing. This was also the reason behind former Prime Minister Morrison’s ludicrous ‘gas-led recovery’. He announced that expanding the use of gas – to be used in electricity generation, for heating and as a feedstock in some manufacturing – is central to plans to re-establish a strong economy after the coronavirus recession. He said in an address that there is “no credible energy transition plan for an economy like Australia that does not involve the greater use of gas”5. This was also just a plan for his donors in the gas industry to keep the money flowing.

You will also hear many people in the media and online spruiking nuclear power. This rears its head fairly regularly, but from my experience, seems a little bit more intense in recent months. I even saw one person saying that nuclear energy is cheaper than renewables, which is so much equine ordure.

South Australia held the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in 2015 to work out if nuclear energy was feasible. A federal parliamentary inquiry followed in 2019. The royal commission concluded nuclear power was out of reach. The federal inquiry recommended that any such project should only go ahead if there was broad support from the public – an extremely unlikely prospect. While both reports agreed that the ‘next generation’ reactors showed promise, nuclear power as a whole remained a time and money sink.

As of 2019, the cost of a nuclear power plant had risen to $1.4 billion for 100 megawatts (MW) of generation capacity. Construction of a commercial-scale plant would take at least 15 years. If Australia had started work on a nuclear reactor before the pandemic, it would not be in operation until about 2035. The small or ‘modular’ reactors that are held up as the future of the industry won’t be affordable until 20506.

Wind farms are being built all over Australia. One of the most recent efforts is the MacIntyre Wind Farm southwest of Brisbane. It will have 1,026 MW installed capacity and will cost $1.96 billion (i.e. about $190 million for 100 MW of generation capacity)7. This is only about one seventh of the cost of the nuclear power mentioned above.  Large scale solar farms are being built all over Australia too. At the end of 2020, the cost of these was about $139 million for 100MW of generation capacity8, which is about one tenth of the cost of the nuclear power above.

The thing that upsets the energy mining crowd is that green hydrogen can be obtained from water and you don’t have to mine water. It is similar with hydroelectricity, all you need to do is to make sure your dams have enough water, and that mostly falls from the sky, so you don’t have to mine it. The energy miners are also upset that they cannot monetise the wind, nor can they monetise the sun. In general, they are upset that the fuel or feedstock for renewable energy is not something that they can dig up or suck out of the ground. It is an existential threat for them.

Sources

  1. https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/state-of-hydrogen-2021/australias-pathway-for-a-clean-hydrogen-future
  2. https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/what-is-carbon-capture-and-storage/
  3. https://blotreport.com/2018/02/22/cormann-lying-just-ignorant/
  4. https://thewest.com.au/business/energy/chevron-to-lay-out-millions-for-more-credits-to-cover-another-gorgon-carbon-capture-shortfall-c-7521146
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/17/scott-morrisons-gas-led-recovery-what-is-it-and-will-it-really-make-energy-cheaper
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/13/explainer-should-australia-build-nuclear-power-plants-to-combat-the-climate-crisis
  7. https://www.energymagazine.com.au/the-rising-power-of-wind-in-australia/
  8. https://arena.gov.au/renewable-energy/large-scale-solar/

13 Comments

  • Keryn booker says:

    What do you know about “green” hydrogen that Forrest is touting . Anything with green in it is now a red flag . Scientists have built a solar panel that now stores energy too .

  • Warren says:

    On the surface, it appears that the Twig, and people like Canon-Brooks, are demonstrating you don’t have to destroy the the planet to be rich. Are you listening Clive and Gina?

  • Jon says:

    We don’t need hydrogen, green or brown. We don’t need nuclear. We just need faith and prayer. Because, after all, we can see that faith and prayer have delivered everything humanity has ever hoped for. Who needs science, reason and compassionate human action? Faith and prayer has wiped out poverty and injustice, brought peace and prosperity, and overcome all human frailties (like greed, lust for power over others, and gross hypocrisy – for example). Don’t believe me? Here it is from the mouth of God’s chosen oracle:
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jul/18/we-dont-trust-in-governments-or-un-scott-morrison-tells-margaret-courts-perth-church
    Morrison, a pinup boy for all manner of self-righteous religious see you next tuesdays got one thing right in his latest biblical blathering. We should never trust politicians like him.

    • admin says:

      Jon,
      It always amuses me that the christians in government have been some of the most narcissistic, venal, lying arseholes I have ever seen anywhere in politics; Morrison be the prime exemplar. His ‘sermon’ was bizarre to say the least. And they wonder why people are leaving religion in droves. Their desperation to hold onto their power and privilege has driven them to talk absolute rubbish and to use tactics that make it certain they will lose their power and privilege. It is wonderful.

  • Jon says:

    https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-perils-of-politicians-praying-in-public,16097

    The reported $50,000 gift to Court’s religious sect plus the $500,000 paid to them under Frydenberg’s appallingly constructed and administered covid wealth redistribution scheme (when apparently the cult’s income barely changed) is arguably yet another case of misappropriation of government funds for personal use/gain. Surely Court and her camp followers should simply have prayed for manna from heaven, or absorbed the pain as a test of their faith?

    The Labor govt should have a new group under the Auditor General examining ALL payments handed out by Morrison and his Ministers under the multi $billion slush fund budget arrangements put in place by Frydenberg which gave Ministers discretionary control over taxpayer funds to play with according to their whims (this Morrison govt budget artifice has been previously exposed in the media for anyone interested in googling).

    Exposing Morrison’s excesses and hypocrisy would go some way towards chopping another of the heads off the “better economic managers” myth perpetrated by News Corpse hacks.

    Funny how things change. I thought Howard was the biggest prick to head this nation. The destructuive Abbott proved me wrong but fortunately didn’t last long enough to do irreparable damage. Little were we to know what lurked in the shadows behind the useless Turnbull. Morrison was not only the worst PM in my lifetime by a space, he’s the only one who I believed genuinely threatened democracy in this country.

    • admin says:

      Jon,
      Howard did more damage to the country in using the dogwhistle, and all his budgetary shenanigans, and his trying to prop up those with similar ludicrous beliefs to his own. The problem with Howard was he was a relatively competent bastard; that is why he lasted so long. Fortunately for Australia, Morrison was completely incompetent, so even many of the unengaged saw through him relatively quickly. He was all smirk, lies, word-salads and announcements, and bugger all else.

      • Arthur Baker says:

        “He [Morrison] was all smirk, lies, word-salads and announcements, and bugger all else.”

        Oh, if only that were true, his time in positions of power and influence might not have caused such long-lasting harm to many. I point to his characteristic vindictiveness, which caused him not to care who he hurt, and his deliberate delay on any issue that didn’t matter to him personally. . Refugees, including children, forced to turn back in dangerous seas, or arbitrarily detained for years, or denied the medical treatment they needed to survive. Welfare recipients, some of whom took their own life owing to illegal Robodebt harassment. Gay people who, despite his claim to want “government out of people’s lives”, were denied for years the right to marry their loved ones. Victims of rape and assault, denied justice owing to his inaction on women’s concerns. The children of the future, denied an environment fit to live in, because of his flippant refusal to acknowledge a climate crisis. People who needlessly died of Covid owing to his opposition to lockdowns and the tardiness of his vaccine stroll-out. Tens of thousands of Australians stranded overseas during the pandemic for months or years by his lack of action on repatriation. Interpreters and other workers abandoned to the whims of the Taliban on our exit from Afghanistan. People whose houses burned down after he refused to even talk to fire and emergency experts.

        There are many more – I could write this list all night. Morrison is a man with an extremely evil heart, whose dark legacy is regrettably extensive. Lest we forget.

        • admin says:

          Arthur,
          I look forward to the Robodebt Royal Commission. I want the bastards behind it figuratively hanged, drawn and quartered.

        • Jon says:

          Hear hear Arthur. The list is indeed very long, and the hypocrisy of Morrison’s words (and actions/inactions) is a stain on the religion/God he claims to serve. If you haven’t already seen it, there’s a hyperlink to a little of Morrison’s hypocrisy in the IndependentAustralia article I quoted above. It’s a short video by Tim Costello et al which compares Morrison’s words on entering parliament with just some of his populist deeds surrounding refugees. https://vimeo.com/670613344
          Tip of a very large and dangerous religious zealotry iceberg comprised of faux, self-righteous ordure held together by a combination of hypocrisy, ignorance, and mis-used biblical quotes.

  • Russell says:

    Frydenberg baby; yeah, the guy who clearly thought himself the Libs’ new “golden boy” for several years, while his party and its corrupt mediocre ministry mangled and ruined every aspect of our economy and body politic. That his aim to replace his lunatic swine leader failed to bear fruit is testimony that somewhere, somebody in Oz actually can think deeper than their next tax break….I hope. And now, in a very commonly seen natural flow-on of events, baby face, the ex-pretend-Treasurer is joining Goldman Sachs the merchant (moychant) banking giant. Have contacts will likely earn upwards of three million per year! Hey, didn’t “Goldman Steals” get forcibly removed from trading on “Made-off Street” back in 2010 after some minor downturn in the world economy caused thousands of ordinary banks, pension funds etc to lose billions? Come on, you’re not saying their sleazy type weren’t severely brought to book over practically wrecking the Yankee economy and a lot more……are you? I could almost believe that some nasty venal minority that’s very tightly knit was running both Washington and the BIG BIG end of Manhattan. But stop! And let’s leave it there, lest I be called a conspiracy theorist of the mostest horribelest kind.

    • admin says:

      Russell,
      I had to laugh at Peter Van Onselen, who some time ago tweeted a photo of Frydenberg and Porter and captioned it ‘The future of the Liberal Party in one photo’. Given that one is alleged to have committed a crime, received cash from undisclosed donors and is now out of office, while the other as a pompous, entitled git, is also now out of office, Van Onselen may have been correct, but not in the way he intended.

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