Labor’s Hydrogen Plan Is A Lead Zeppelin

Labor hydrogen plan

Why Australia Is Unlikely To Ever Export Large Quantities Of Hydrogen

As Michael reported this week, Labor has announced in a media release that, if elected, they will spend $3 million building a “National Hydrogen Innovation Hub” in Gladstone and make over $1 billion available in loans for to develop hydrogen production.  Labor also say they will remove regulatory barriers and make research into hydrogen production, storage, and transport a priority .

I think this is a pity because the projections for massive hydrogen exports Labor mentions here:

hydrogen export projections

Are never going to happen.

A Billion Dollar Announcement With $3 Million In Funding

Before I explain why I think — in my not at all humble opinion —  that Australia is never likely to export large amounts of hydrogen, I’d first like to point out that despite Labor boasting:

Labor hydrogen investment

The actual amount of taxpayer’s money they are throwing out there is only $3 million to be spent in Gladstone.  The rest consists of over $1 billion in financing and promises to change research priorities and improve regulations.  The loans shouldn’t lose the government money as they will only be made if they’re sure they’ll get it back plus interest.  But they have the drawback that it’s over $1 billion that won’t be financing other things that could be more valuable to Australia.  I find Labor’s promise to make hydrogen research a priority disturbing because there is no mention of additional funding.  This means any new focus on hydrogen research will come at the cost of less research elsewhere.

Because the $3 million Labor will actually provide is such a tiny amount compared to the billion dollar announcement, it makes me wonder if this is just all part of a con to make Japan think we’re all on board the hydrogen train together to dupe them into investing hydrogen development money in Australia.  The problem with this is, conning your friends1 is not nice.  Also, I have no confidence our leaders are capable of remembering the most important part of a con job — don’t be the sucker.

Hydrogen Gas Is Not Laughing Gas

Labor included the following text in their press release:

Hydrogen Olympics

So some countries’ politicians said they are transitioning to hydrogen and Labor believed them?  You’d think a politician would be the last person to trust another politician, wouldn’t you?  If we look at it the other way around we should assume Japan and South Korea believe what our government says and thinks we’re going to build a dozen new coal power stations.

I am being facetious here.  To be fair, Japan and South Korea have both ponied up piles of money for hydrogen.  South Korea is spending $3.2 billion over 5 years on hydrogen car infrastructure and Japan spends around $2 billion a year on hydrogen research.  But to put that in perspective, Japan currently spends about $16 billion a year on nuclear power research.  This is despite the fact they had literal hydrogen explosions occurring inside nuclear reactor buildings in 2011.

I presume their motivation is they want to move away from oil but think they need a substitute and have latched onto hydrogen.  Their splashing of cash will help hydrogen vehicle sales, but I think they will be dwarfed by sales of battery electric vehicles.  Once Toyota starts producing electric cars in large numbers for sale in Japan it will probably be game over for hydrogen cars there.2

3 Reasons Why Hydrogen Demand Won’t Be Huge

Hydrogen may become an important fuel for aviation and shipping.  It’s also used in many industrial processes.3  So there definitely could be a demand for hydrogen produced from renewable energy and not natural gas which is used for 96% of the world’s current hydrogen production.  But I’m certain predictions for a massive demand for hydrogen imports from Australia are not going to pan out because:

  1. Hydrogen won’t dominate road transport because battery electric vehicles have it beat on both cost and energy efficiency.
  2. Energy losses from the production, liquefaction, transport, and electricity generation on top of other costs are likely to make it too expensive for any country to generate a large part of its electricity from imported hydrogen.
  3. Rather than importing hydrogen it could be cheaper to use natural gas and then pay to have the CO2 that is released removed from the atmosphere and sequestered.

Battery Electric Vehicles Outclass Hydrogen Vehicles

A modern hydrogen car is an electric vehicle but instead of batteries it is powered by a fuel cell that is fed hydrogen from a tank.  The main disadvantages of hydrogen electric cars over battery ones are:

  • They are more expensive to buy.  A Honda Clarity Fuel Cell costs around $85,000 and a Nissan Leaf around $42,000.4
  • They cost more to fuel.
  • The limited power of the fuel cells means their performance is generally worse.
  • It is much more expensive to build a hydrogen fueling network than a battery vehicle charging network.
  • A full tank of liquid hydrogen in a passenger car can boil away by itself in under 2 weeks.  Update 10:19pm:  But most hydrogen fuel cell cars use tanks of hydrogen gas compressed at up to 680 atmospheres.  Leakage from these is trivial.   

Where hydrogen fuel cells vehicles have an edge is with range.  A 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell has a range of 589 km on a full tank of liquid hydrogen.  This is more than twice the 240 km range of the 2018 Nissan Leaf when new.  But if you can afford a Tesla S sports car with a large battery pack it can have a range of 539 km which is only 8-9% less.  While greater range will appeal to some drivers it’s not strictly necessary in crowded countries such as Japan and South Korea.  Tesla has successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of a large-scale supercharging network.  Here’s what theirs looks like in North America:

Tesla electric vehicle charging network

Red dots are superchargers. Grey dots are not quite so super destination chargers. (Image: Tesla)

At the moment there should be over 3.5 million battery electric cars in the world.5  This article says at the start of last year there were 6,475 hydrogen cars in the world.  Even assuming that number has increased by a quarter over the last year battery electric vehicles outnumber them by over 400 to 1.

With battery prices continuing to fall I don’t see any realistic prospect of hydrogen cars beating battery electrics on purchase price and it’s probably unavoidable that they’ll be more expensive to fuel.

Hydrogen Energy Efficiency Is Poor

A battery electric car can supply around 85% of the energy that is used to charge it to its motor.  But even under very favorable circumstances, imported hydrogen produced from renewable electricity goes through the following energy losing steps:

  • Electricity is used to generate hydrogen at 80% efficiency
  • It’s liquefied at 87% efficiency
  • It’s transported with 99% efficiency6
  • 10% loss from leaks and hydrogen boiling off
  • Fuel cell efficiency 50%

This gives a total efficiency of 31% from the source that’s used to generate the hydrogen to the car’s motor. In practice it could be considerably worse.  This means a hydrogen car requires roughly 3 times as much energy per kilometer as a battery electric car.

Electricity From Hydrogen Is Expensive

If liquid hydrogen is transported in bulk to a power station in Japan, losses from leaks and boiling off will probably be minor and can be  ignored.  (Although cigarette smokers at the power station probably shouldn’t ignore the possibility of leaks.)  If the hydrogen is used to generate electricity with 50% efficiency then it will only produce one-third of the electrical energy expended to make the hydrogen it in Australia.  This makes it a very inefficient intermediary for moving electrical energy from Australia to Japan.  It also contributes to its expense.  Japan estimates the cost of an imported kilogram of hydrogen will be $4.20 in 2030 which makes the fuel cost of electricity generated from it around 21 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Currently Germany predicts they will be able to produce solar electricity for under 4 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2030.  Japan is sunnier than Germany so they should consider using solar plus a low cost form of storage such as pumped hydro before looking at hydrogen.

Natural Gas Plus Sequestering CO2 May Be Cheaper

Natural gas in Japan at the moment is roughly $11 a gigajoule.  This means with 50% efficiency it costs around 8 cents to generate 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity.  In Australia we should be able to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it for less than $100 per tonne.7  To be on the safe side I’ll assume it will be spot on $100 per tonne.  This means to remove the CO2 released from generating one kilowatt-hour with natural gas at 50% efficiency would cost 4 cents.  This would make the total cost 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

I’m not saying this is a good idea.  I think renewable energy plus some form of energy storage will be even cheaper.  But if burning natural gas and then sequestering the CO2 released is under 60% of the estimated cost of generating electricity from hydrogen, it makes hydrogen look like a very bad deal.

Competition Means Hydrogen Won’t Be Exceptionally Profitable

If it turns out I am wrong (this may have happened once or twice before) and there is a strong future demand for imported hydrogen in Japan and other countries, this does not mean exporting hydrogen will be highly profitable for Australia.  Other countries that are made out of sand and sunshine and not much else will be competing with us by using solar energy to produce hydrogen for export.  As Australia has no special advantage over them there will be no extraordinary profits for us to make.  There will only be ordinary profits.  So we shouldn’t go shoveling money into developing a hydrogen export industry now when there is no reason to expect the return will be impressive.

Of course this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play up our particular strengths when it comes to sales.  “You don’t want to buy hydrogen from unstable nations!  You want to ensure your supply by getting it from a stable, democratic country!  We’re so democratic that, at the current rate, by 2031 everyone in Australia will have been Prime Minister at least once.”


  1. We weren’t friends when Japan pulled a Tracy and demolished Darwin, but we recovered from that.
  2. Nissan got the ball rolling with its electric Leaf, but the giant company Toyota has to join in to get Japan to decisively shift away from internal combustion engines.
  3. Hydrogen may also be in demand by militaries.  Because hydrogen is so light it makes it easy to fly it to distant locations.  Fingers crossed there won’t be much military demand for hydrogen in the future.
  4. This comparison is based on US prices but given in Australian dollars.
  5. There should also be around 1.7 million plug in electric vehicles that can be charged from the grid but can also get power from an internal combustion engine.
  6. This is not a mistake.  It takes less than 1% of the energy in a kilogram of liquid hydrogen to transport it from Australia to Japan.  Cargo ships are a very energy efficient way of moving things around.  Some hydrogen will boil off during transport, but I’ll assume it’s used to power the ship.
  7. The cheapest methods of removing CO2 from the atmosphere and locking it up long term appear to be turning agricultural waste into biochar and burying it or simply sinking agricultural waste in a suitable location in the ocean.
About Ronald Brakels

Joining SolarQuotes in 2015, Ronald has a knack for reading those tediously long documents put out by solar manufacturers and translating their contents into something consumers might find interesting. Master of heavily researched deep-dive blog posts, his relentless consumer advocacy has ruffled more than a few manufacturer's feathers over the years. Read Ronald's full bio.


  1. Laurens Bloem says

    Under the Tesla charger map, the comparison between numbers of electric cars vs hydrogen has an error: they both say ‘electric cars’.

  2. ” This article says at the start of last year there were 6,475 electric cars in the world…”

    Laughable stats.

    Even your estimate of today’s stats is w-a-y off… but you’re correct in every other respect. Labor appears to have lost the plot here… perhaps attempting to pacify future unemployed QLD coal miners.

    Tesla will sell 70,000 Model Ys p.a. by 2021.

    Disclosure: I’m a TSLA shareholder. My kids bought me a share as a Xmas present! 🙂

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Yes, I wrote “electric” when I should have written “hydrogen”. A rather silly mistake on my part.

    • Enjoy your Tesla share. How much dividend do they pay?

    • Stephen Morley says

      Hydrogen is a feul of the future, your ill founded views are off fools of the past.
      How can you be so stupid. In 60 years Australia is at risk of being UNINHABITABLE. for goodness sake wake up!

      • Gordon Dolan says

        You should re-read the article as you haven’t understood it at all.
        hydrogen is not ideally suited to use in small vehicles, whereas it may well be the fuel of the future for aviation, shipping and other heavy transport options.

        Sadly, you come across as arrogant, pompous and ill-informed. You might also learn to spell fuel!

  3. Geoff Miell says

    Hi Ronald,

    Transport & Environment (which bills itself as Europe’s leading NGO campaigning for cleaner transport) released on 22 Aug 2017 an interesting graphical comparison of the energy efficiency of three types of power-trains (from production through use): battery-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and CO2 from air capture converted via Fischer–Tropsch process to produce hydro-carbon fuel to power a conventional internal combustion engine.

    The overall results are:

    – BEVs: 73%
    – FCVs: 22%
    – ICEs: 13%

    Interesting graphic and interesting numbers!

    • Marc L Jackson says

      Hydrogen can be combusted at over 50% thermal efficacy, F1 uses our Oz innovation TJI turbulent jet ignition for this developed initially using hydrogen assist jet ignition.
      Fuel cell into our polymer graphene supercaps
      Better that than explosive solid fuel bombs I mean li-ion cells with solid electrodes and current carriers with their constant volume heat addition why secondary detonation occurs li-ion cells
      TT Zero bikes being binned burning nothing we could do but watch

      • Geoff Miell says

        Marc L Jackson (Re: Jan 25, 7:33pm & 7:44pm),
        You state (at 7:33pm, see your reply above):

        “Hydrogen can be combusted at over 50% thermal efficacy, F1 uses our Oz innovation TJI turbulent jet ignition for this developed initially using hydrogen assist jet ignition.”

        This prompts me to ask you a few questions:

        1. Did you actually look at the Transport & Environment graphical comparison that I linked to (via twitter)?
        a. If you didn’t look, then I suspect you may have misunderstood the meaning of the numbers quoted. The numbers I’ve quoted relate to “from production through use” (not just combustion thermal efficiency). Have you misunderstood the numbers?
        b. If you did look, then are you disputing the numbers provided by Transport & Environment in the linked graphical comparison? If so, that’s a big call – what’s your compelling evidence and data that contradicts those numbers? Please provide links to accessible peer-reviewed evidence/data. Perhaps you may be correct, but I’m not going to just take your word for it.

        2. In your later reply below to me (at 7:44pm) you state: “Current F1 using Oz innovation TJI exceeding 50% efficacy to rear wheels”. So, which is correct: “over 50% THERMAL efficacy”; OR “exceeding 50% efficacy to REAR WHEELS” (my capitals to highlight the apparent discrepancy)?

        You state (at 7:44pm, see your reply below):

        “Hydrogen has advantages and 70% will be achieved next decade.”

        What advantages? 70% (of) what? Hydrogen has too many efficiency losses from production, pressurization/liquefaction, containment leaks, transport and in the final drive to the wheels, compared with battery-electric vehicles. Battery-electric vehicles convincingly beat and will dominate over hydrogen-powered vehicles both on cost and energy efficiency. What evidence do you have to indicate otherwise?

    • Marc L Jackson says

      Current F1 using Oz innovation TJI exceeding 50% efficacy to rear wheels
      We developed this and achieving 59% in unoptimised existing diesel engine using gasoline. Hydrogen has advantages and 70% will be achieved next decade.

      Nothing quoted here is up to date in anything, these stories take days off research to get right.

      Oz fuel cells and porous polymer graphene material, which will now not go into li-ion cells as Nanode Nano Nouvelle no more.

  4. Peter Seligman says

    Some typo? You said there were 6475 electric cars in the world. I suppose that’s meant to be hydrogen

  5. Graham Revill says

    Is biochar really an efficient way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere? Does the charcoal last forever in the bottom of the ocean? I think the idea of burying CO2 in a hole in the ground and telling it to stay there for 60000 years is just not realistic. I have seen that CCS proponents are willing to call 70% in the ground as a success. There is some theory that the CO2 would combine with minerals in the bottom of the hole and that would make it permanent. If that’s the case then make it combine before you bury it and we know it will be safe.

    • David warren says

      Have there been any sucessful CCS projects in the world? We have had politicians in hard hats, vis vests and protective glasses trumpet on at the ‘opening’ of CCS plants and then deathly silence.

      • Ronald Brakels says

        Well, there’s one in Texas that apparently captures 9.1% of it’s emissions. All they have to do is increase that by 11 times at a lower cost than generating energy from renewables and they’ll be onto a winner.

        • Marc L Jackson says

          Yes it’s NRG’s 240 MWe slip stream combustor using a 70 MW has turbine for heat and power.

          The US DOE NETL research labs senior researcher gave a talk on it during his lectures on new combustion technology 2017 Princeton University CEFRC combustion summer school.

          Some of us educate ourselves on latest in all energy related technology.

      • Geoff Miell says

        David Warren,
        You ask:

        “Have there been any sucessful CCS projects in the world?”

        None. Three reasons why CCS is not an option:

        #1: It doesn’t work. Some examples that that have tried and failed include:
        • Southern Company’s Kemper “clean coal” plant in Mississippi, USA – US$7.5 billion;
        • SaskPower’s Boundary Dam 110 MW unit CCS plant in Saskatchewan, Canada – C$1.4 billion;
        • Queensland government’s Stanwell ZeroGen CCS retrofit project abandoned – AU$96.3 million.

        #2: It’s more expensive to produce energy with CCS than without. Significantly more fuel is consumed, and a substantial quantity of energy diverted to operate the associated CCS equipment for a given net output, compared with a generator unit without CCS. New renewables with ‘firming’ are now cheaper than new gas and coal electricity generator technologies without CCS, and cheaper than existing gas and coal plants with retro-fitted CCS. There’s simply no economic benefit for coal- or gas-fired generators to utilize CCS.

        #3: CCS will not stop all CO2 emissions entering the environment. CCS doesn’t capture 100% of a plant’s emissions. Any emissions that are captured need to be captured forever. Any storage site will inevitably leak (whether that’s in a few years’ time, decades, centuries, millennia, or more) posing toxic air pollution risks to people and the environment nearby. CCS does nothing to reduce methane and dust emissions during the extraction and transportation of coal and does nothing to reduce dust from the disposal of fly ash after the coal is burnt.

        CCS fails technologically, economically, and as a pollution reduction measure.


        • Marc L Jackson says

          NRG 240MWe Slipstream plant in Texas uses a 70 WM gas turbine for heat and power to achieve CCS successfully.
          Not 10% effective. See DOE NETL research papers do your homework first before sprouting crap.

          • Graham Revill says

            I don’t understand this. What is a 240MW plant that uses a 70MW gas turbine to acheive CCS effectively? What does effectively mean? 100% sequestration? In some US papers effective means 30%.
            But then you say its not 10% effective? Sounds like you subtract 70MW from 240MW and then get 9% effectiveness.
            Doesn’t a CSS plant use an extra billion dollars of capital?

  6. Boys,
    There’s an election coming this year.
    We’ll hear lots of things more insane than this….

    All you have to remember is that it’s a sound-bite to try and grab some votes.

    It’s not meant to be taken SERIOUSLY, as if it’s a carefully thought-out, costed, peer-reviewed policy, or sump’n.

    • Marc L Jackson says

      They’ve taken advise from the world’s best vs Author terrible effort.

      Try reading professor Derek Abbott papers, Adelaide University.
      Solving the world’s energy needs for the next 1000 years.

    • Not many people working at service stations these days. Per ‘station’, one counter-jumper ringing up the sales of fuel, and retail+25 odd% goodies.
      Maybe EV drivers would use them for something on the way home to plug in the chargers. The corporations providing the servos are not our friends, so why is GovCo (apparently that’s us) busy looking after their interests? Clearly the distribution model for Hydrogen is more of the same.
      And Yes indeed, we need a different battery technology or three to sort out the liability mess of Li batteries.

      Yet another grand-standing project out of bloody Gladstone makes me sick.

  7. Marc L Jackson says

    Well done you’ve carefully picked some obsolete reasons to support your opinions and biases.
    Planning the future for the next 1000 years not an intermediate solution that’s inherently flawed energy and power density. Just try running a li-ion cell at 120 C rating to any useful depth of discharge, You can’t safely. You have to sacrifice the top 20% and bottom 30%.
    Heat release is a huge issue as is degradation. F1 starve their drivers yet package 18mj to use only 4mj the regulations allow. That’s a huge mass overhead.
    Hydrogen won’t dominate road transport because battery electric vehicles have it beat on both cost and energy efficiency.
    Energy losses from the production, liquefaction, transport, and electricity generation on top of other costs are likely to make it too expensive for any country to generate a large part of its electricity from imported hydrogen.
    Rather than importing hydrogen it could be cheaper to use natural gas and then pay to have the CO2 that is released removed from the atmosphere and sequestered.
    Hydrogen won’t dominate road transport because battery electric vehicles have it beat on both cost and energy efficiency.

    This is solar thermal production and full spectrum use of sun’s energy.

    Energy losses from the production, liquefaction, transport, and electricity generation on top of other costs are

    likely (means you can’t prove your bias)

    to make it too expensive for any country to generate a large part of its electricity from imported hydrogen.

    You COULD just not say below

    Rather than importing hydrogen it


    be cheaper to use natural gas and then pay to have the CO2 that is released removed from the atmosphere and sequestered.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Marc L Jackson,
      You state:

      “Rather than importing hydrogen it could be cheaper to use natural gas and then pay to have the CO2 that is released removed from the atmosphere and sequestered.”

      Natural gas won’t remain cheap for much longer and Carbon Capture Sequestration (CCS) doesn’t work (technologically, economically, and as a pollution reduction measure).

      Fossil natural gas is finite, one-time use, non-renewable, and rapidly depleting – it’s probable that global gas supplies will peak soon (i.e. 2020s) and then begin a sustained decline. Here’s why:

      Per “BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018”, pp26&28, the world’s top ten gas producing countries in 2017 (total annual production) were:

      #_1 USA: _ _ _ _ _ 734.5 billion cubic metres, 20.0% global share, R/P _11.9 years;
      #_2 Russian Fed.: _635.6 billion cubic metres, 17.3% global share, R/P _55.0 years;
      #_3 Iran: _ _ _ _ _ _223.9 billion cubic metres, _6.1% global share, R/P 184.4 years;
      #_4 Canada: _ _ _ _176.3 billion cubic metres, _4.8% global share, R/P _10.7 years;
      #_5 Qatar: _ _ _ _ _175.7 billion cubic metres, _4.8% global share, R/P 141.8 years;

      #_6 China: _ _ _ _ _149.2 billion cubic metres, _4.1% global share, R/P _36.7 years;
      #_7 Norway: _ _ _ _123.2 billion cubic metres, _3.3% global share, R/P _13.9 years;
      #_8 Australia: _ _ _ 113.5 billion cubic metres, _3.1% global share, R/P _32.0 years;
      #_9 Saudi Arabia: _ 111.4 billion cubic metres, _3.0% global share, R/P _72.1 years;
      #10 Algeria: _ _ _ _ _91.2 billion cubic metres, _2.5% global share, R/P _47.5 years.

      The world’s top five natural gas producers represent more than half (52.9%) of global share, and the top ten represent more than two-thirds (68.9%) of global share.

      USA, Iran, China, Norway, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Algeria are gas producers currently at pre-peak (i.e. still increasing production year-by-year). The Russian Federation, Canada, and Qatar are gas producers that are currently at peak (i.e. production has plateaued).

      Conventional gas production is in decline in Europe (since the 2000s) excluding Norway, and North America (since the 1970s).

      Shale gas production in USA is unlikely to see significant further expansion. The nature of shale play developments is that they decline quickly, such that production from individual wells falls 70–90% in the first three years, and field declines without new drilling typically range 20–40% per year. Continual investment in new drilling is required to avoid steep production declines. Shale plays also exhibit variable reservoir quality, with “sweet spots” or “core areas” containing the highest quality geology typically comprising 20% or less of overall play area. Drilling has focussed on these “sweet spots” which provide the most economically viable wells. As these “sweet spots” are exhausted then new shale developments are by necessity left with less productive and more costly areas to exploit.

      The Russian Federation, the world’s second largest gas producer (not far behind USA), faces a struggle between declining production from ageing fields and new expensive and time-consuming developments in Northern Siberia and offshore. The delayed developments of Shtokmanskoye in the Barents Sea and of other fields in the Yamal Peninsula are unlikely to be sufficient in the longer-term to compensate for the decline of ageing current fields.

      Domestic consumption in Russia and growing demand from Asia will put greater stresses on volumes available for export from Eurasia to Europe in the coming years.

      Iran and Qatar are expected to feed the rising demand for liquefied natural gas over the next decades. Though these countries have large reserves, it’s highly probable that these reported reserves are exaggerated.

      In November 2018, Australia surpassed Qatar to become the world’s largest LNG exporter. Australia’s rapidly increasing gas production over the last few years (18% growth in 2017 alone) serves to deplete its limited gas reserves (1.9% global share, ranked world’s 12th largest in 2017) much sooner.

      A balancing act is occurring between declining and growing gas producing countries. The whole system will peak when US shale gas peaks (in the Marcellus and Utica plays) because of geology, lack of finances in the next credit crisis, and/or other factors, and adverse weather and geological conditions within the Russian Federation’s remote production regions. Added risks include Canada’s gas production declining because of geology, and the impact of sanctions on Iran. Global ‘peak gas’ supply is inevitable; when is the question.

      In an inevitable global post-peak oil and gas supply world, oil and gas will become scarcer and more expensive. Preparation for a contingency oil and gas allocation system is needed to minimize disruptions to critical infrastructure.

      CCS fails technologically, economically, and as a pollution reduction measure.

      Your (Jan 26, 4;26pm) comment in response states: “NRG 240MWe Slipstream plant in Texas uses a 70 WM gas turbine for heat and power to achieve CCS successfully” confirms that CCS consumes more energy to function. It doesn’t capture 100% of emissions and the captured emissions are used for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) which has limited applications that generate more emissions (i.e. burning of petroleum). Also the CCS plant was budgeted at US$1 billion. So, your example offered shows CCS uses more energy, costs more to build and run and doesn’t capture all emissions, and is used to produce more emissions – it doesn’t work technologically, economically, and as a pollution reduction measure.

      Humanity must leave fossil natural gas, before gas leaves us.
      Humanity must leave fossil natural gas, before 2050, to mitigate dangerous climate change.

  8. Marc L Jackson says

    Efficiency is of the energy density
    So 30% of 12,877wh/kg
    Far better than
    75% of 230wh/kg

  9. Greg Seymour says

    Modern implementation of fuel cells (e.g. Honda Clarity) don’t use liquid hydrogen, just highly pressurised hydrogen (10,000 PSI). So it won’t boil away. I’m all for BEV over fuel cell vehicles, but you need to check your facts carefully.

  10. Marc L Jackson says

    Nearly everything in this is wrong.

    You’ve referenced obsolete data not using the latest processes.

    It’s using Australian developed process to produce nh3, so no evaporative losses. Using full spectrum sunlight energy heat and solar photovoltaic energy dilution production of electricity to support production. Photovoltaic losses are the most significant contributor to losses.

    The errors are everywhere in this document. Comparing future electric to old hydrogen. Lots of ‘I believe’ every assumption you’ve made is factually incorrect.
    Australia leads the world in efficiency in producing hydrogen by huge margin.

    Rarely do I find something so full of errors, it’s impossible to correct without it being better to start again.

    Hydrogen fuel cell cars

    • Erik Christiansen says

      The new Aussie process for transporting hydrogen as ammonia (NH3) is yet to be commercialised, as far as I have heard. What was not elucidated in the article I read was the energy loss in each conversion; 3H2 + N2 -> 2NH3,
      and 2NH3 -> 3H2 + N2

      OK, one conversion will be endothermic, the other not, but it’s not certain that the energy recovered during the exothermic conversion will be sufficient to drive the process. It’s good enough to beat the compressed H2 energy loss only if the retrieved H2 is used industrially. If it has to be compressed to 680 atmospheres for vehicle fuel on arrival, then that loss is still there.

      As for the sequestration myth, CO2 won’t stay down there forever, but leak back up over time. Still, the bozos selling it will have their money and spent it a generation or two by then. The fact that it takes 30% of the generated energy to drive sequestration makes it economically dubious to put it mildly.
      Burning fossil fuels can’t compete now, without that extra 30% cost, plus amortisation of the thumping great sequestration plant.

      • Graham Revill says

        Can anyone answer this.
        If the CO2 is used to pressurise old and failing oil wells.
        I have read (somewhere) that the CO2 is more active than just squeezing the oil out. The story was that it mixes with the oil and forms a foam that then bubbles up the oil well. Is this correct?

        If thisa story is correct then this would seem to suggest that some proportion of the CO2 is released back into the atmosphere almost immediately.

        When the well is declared to be really empty then all we have to do is seal the old well holes with something that will last 60000 years. How long does concrete last? I have read that some of the Romans concrete is still recognisable 2000 years ago. Did the Egyptians or Chinese use concrete?

        • Hi Graham,

          Injection of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery is technology that is decades old. In that case, yes, the CO2 does mix with the oil and comes out of the reservoir again. This was never originally intended as a way to permanently store CO2 in reservoirs.

          The more modern concept of CO2 injection as a disposal method has a different objective in that the CO2 is indeed intended to stay downstairs.

          Some proponents have mixed the two objectives, which is confusing, in those cases permanent CO2 disposal can’t really begin until oil production stops.

          Oil well cement (and by extension CO2 well cement) barely resembles Roman concrete as we know it so it’s not quite a fair comparison. That would have endured thousands of years of wind, rain, smoke, vandals and whatever, gradually wearing away the surface and continually exposing new material to more weathering. Oil well cement, once placed and cured, is not subject to these dynamic forces – for all intents and purposes it may as well be rock.

          (Someone else here mentioned Macondo which is a good example of getting it wrong. In that case the failure became evident pretty quickly. The vast majority of the time, it’s unremarkable.)

  11. Marc L Jackson says

    Please educate yourself on current state of the art in other alternative energy systems and viability.

    Do not cherry pick to suit your biases.

    This is terrible journalism.

    Every paragraph is full of errors and opinions contradicted by facts

  12. Jamie Capurso says

    If you put all of your articles together over the last few years I think it would be worthy of an award winning comedy special 🙂

  13. chrispydog says

    Hydrogen will have niche uses. There are many forms, like ammonia, which would easily deal with heavy transport. It won’t reach the energy density needed for commercial aviation, (except if someone resurrects the Hindenburg! 🙂

    Smaller vehicles will surely trend towards EV’s, with hydrogen in Japan an experiment they’ve pursued for political reasons.

    But the biggest omission in this piece, and I mean really glaring, is the production of hydrogen from water is very low efficiency at normal temperatures and rises dramatically at very high ones. So for truly industrial scale production, hydrogen won’t be made with low energy density weather harvesters. Not beyond boutique levels.

    But there are even better and more efficient ways, all requiring very high temperatures. These are cheaply provided with nuclear power.

    But so is electricity. There’s no competition for scalable low carbon electricity generation: nuclear.

    But I’d assume that’s never even a subject for discussion in a solar marketing magazine.:)

    • Ronald Brakels says

      The Soviet Union flew a test bed liquid hydrogen airliner 30 years ago so we know it can be done. Whether people will want to do it in the future is another matter:

      We have an electricity market in Australia. A nuclear power station would have to be built and run on the wholesale price of electricity. Last year it averaged under 6 US cents per kilowatt-hour. Historically that’s high and it’s trending down.

      • Marc L Jackson says

        No nuclear needed hydrogen production uses the sun’s full energy spectrum heat and light for solar photovoltaic energy dilution production of electricity the most inefficient aspect of production.

        Read the latest Australian research papers from people involved with this effort, directly involved.

      • chrispydog says

        Across the NEM prices vary. Example: Infigen’s ‘revenue’ for 2018 came in at $142/MWh and that was of course, including ~$80/MWh of LGC’s or Large Generating Certificates, which you and every energy user see in the cost of electricity.

        Tell me again about ‘cheap’ “renewables”! “Renewables” are only cheap until you actually try to run a grid on them. PERIOD.

        If you wish to discuss the NEM, and the glaring gaps weather harvester have left in it after we’ve spent many tens of billions on intermittent wind and solar, then please, use real dollars, not imaginary artifacts conjured from spreadsheets in the green echo chamber of innumeracy.

        Thanks in advance 🙂

        • Ronald Brakels says

          If you have an unshaded roof I recommend you look into getting solar panels so you can benefit from the savings they provide to your electricity bills. You are under no obligation to use STCs that lower the cost of rooftop solar as part of the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme or SRES if don’t want to.

          Our Solar 101 Guide is a good place to start if you need information:

      • chrispydog says

        btw a cryogenic store of hydrogen on a plane…built in the late 80’s, well that tells you ALL you need to know.

        It took off as a viable concept then?

        Interesting, but proves my point. Precisely.

        • Ronald Brakels says

          I salute you, sir. In mere seconds you have reduced my years of impassioned advocacy for liquid hydrogen flight to ashes leaving me broken husk of a man. My dream of once again tasting Soviet flavored water vapour drifting down from jet contrails has been crushed.

    • Marc L Jackson says

      Facts for BEV due to li-ion cells limitations in smaller vehicles where I have experience in optimisation of energy storage and very good understanding of all the issues.

      Moto E GP bikes only race 15 minutes when bikes twice the mass. So just to be equal they need to improve by factor of 6 to old ICE bikes hindered by regulations so really a 10 fold improvement needed given ICE in GP is obsolete spark ignited low efficiency ~24% not 58%+ currently achieved in unoptimised form using Oz innovation TJI which came from hydrogen assist jet ignition.
      The advantages you get from smaller lighter power train in ICE to aerodynamics and handing have huge potential to improve safety. Every gram makes two wheel inline vehicles more dangerous.

      10 fold improvement needed in bev to be equal.

      • Graham Revill says

        I don’t know if the Moto E GP has any relevance to the bike I ride to work but I find this article confusing. Are you saying that there is a rule against using TJI on moto GP bikes even though it would more than double the output power? Is this to do with fuel injection design or port design? So does that mean we should have ICE running as a diesel? Is the exclusion of 2 stroke cycles the rule that is preventing TJI being used?

    • Graham Revill says

      There seem to be lots of references to half finished nuclear reactor projects around the world. Perhaps they just attract attention because of the amount of money involved.
      In the US there was a project to add two reactors to the two already at a power station. Quote was USD9billion the project was abandoned after several billion had been spent because the estimate to completion had blown out to USD29billion. The schedule was similarly afflicted. There is another project in UK that is liable to be abandoned. There is also a big project in Chernobyl that is about to cost billions just to build another entombment.
      Nuclear is not all smooth sailing even without the cost of dismantling a power station at the end of its life. I’m sure each of the failed projects has a story of excuses but its a lot of precious capital taken out of the community.
      One manufacturer used to claim one GW for one Billion dollars but somehow the ones they sold all had their excuses for cost blowouts.
      It would be interesting to see some verifiable values for downtime that include all routine maintenance as well as unplanned stoppages.

    • Des Scahill says

      Hmmm… I read with some interest the various claims that ‘nuclear’ is ‘reliable’, ‘cost efficient’ etc’. The vague adjective ‘scalable’ gets thrown in from time to time as well, presumably to infer to the naive reader that the same adjective can’t be applied to other forms of energy generation.

      Recently I came across various overseas articles bringing news of extended outages from a number of Belgium’s nuclear plants. The articles began in June 2018, and the length of the outage has progressively extended.

      The first article (which is found here:( ) also mentions that ‘ More than half of Belgium’s electricity is generated by the four-reactor Doel plant in northern Belgium and a three-reactor plant at Tihange in the east, near the German border.

      At that point in time the outage only applied to the Doel 4 reactor, and the nuclear plant was forecast to be back on-line around 24 hours later.

      In September 2018, a news item which you can find here: informs any disheartened Belgium electricity consumer that the operator of the plant – French energy group Engie – has advised that ‘… the outage at its Tihange 2 nuclear reactor was extended until May 31, 2019 from end of October, while stoppage at Tihange 3 was extended until March 1, 2019 from end of September 2018.

      Moving forward in time… A later Oct 2018 article in the Guardian found here: has the rather gloomy headlines:

      ‘Belgium faces winter blackouts amid nuclear reactor shutdowns. Emergency plans for homes, roads and industry as country loses 40% of power supply’.

      At this point, we can see that the one day outage originally forecast in the June 2018 article morphs into an almost 3 month actual outage by the end of September, with forecasts that outages will also extend a further 8 months (till May 2019) in some cases.

      To quote further from the article:
      ‘A forced shutdown of one nuclear reactor in the lead up to winter may be regarded as unfortunate. But the closure of six of the seven reactors responsible for supplying 40% of Belgium’s electricity is raising eyebrows, even in a country so prone to chaotic administration.

      An emergency “load shedding” plan has been updated, under which motorway lights will be switched off, industrial production suspended and rolling three-hour blackouts launched in homes nationwide should temperatures drop in the coming months and demand outstrip the now limited electricity supply.

      Residents have also been warned bills could increase, despite the suggestion that they might need to iron less and use just one pot to cook.’

      But it seems very likely that this won’t be the end of the story. According to this Reuters article published in late October 2018 at:

      ‘This year, Belgium extended the area within which it distributes free iodine tablets for use in a nuclear emergency to all its territory and parts of Germany and the Netherlands, although it said there was no specific risk from the reactors. … A law passed in 2003 extended the lifetime of the oldest reactors to 2025, with phasing out due to start in 2022.’

      Belgium’s near neighbour France is also phasing out its aging nuclear power stations due to safety concerns, and in June 2018 the French government announced a new plan to speed up PV development, and to make surfaces for large-scale solar plants available.

      France’s new package of measures included doubling the volume of tenders for PV projects on agricultural land and increasing by 50% the volume of tenders for rooftop PV.

      If anything, there seems to be a move by a number of countries away from nuclear power generation due to ‘safety’ concerns of various kinds. One can argue the technicalities, relative merits and costs at great length if one chooses too. What these all seem to indicate is that nuclear power CAN be made ‘safe’ but it costs billions of dollars to achieve this.

      Because of the lengthy build period for a reactor, its a long time before it ran generate electricity, get integrated with the grid etc, and start earning some income from the project. In fact its so long, there’s a huge business risk involved.

      Someone might invent a new method of battery storage, an increase in the efficiency of PV cells occurs or some new method of manufacturing them is discovered, wind turbine technology improves – and your billion dollar outlays suddenly becomes near worthless.

      One ‘risk category’ that can’t be catered for though is what the insurance industry refers to as ‘Acts of God’. The tidal wave that wiped out the Fukishima nuclear power site in 2011 is an example. One estimate I saw was that Japan may ultimately need to spend something like 200 billion dollars to finally solve the problems caused. Meanwhile, they are running out of tank storage space for the 150 tonnes of additional radioactive water generated each day.

      Closer to home, there have been a number of safety scares over the years about the Lucas Heights nuclear medical facility in Sydney, which I’ll leave the reader to research for themselves.

      What it all seems to boil down to is that nuclear technology does have a valuable role to play in modern society, but once you start scaling that up and use such a sophisticated technology merely to mass produce what is essentially just a ‘commodity product’ such as electricity, the consequences if ‘something goes wrong’ can be astronomically cataclysmic. Just ask Japan.

      So why take such a risk, when some combination of: Solar PV, hydro, pumped hydro, geothermal, wind, and tidal power can probably be achieved in the very near future (especially in a large country like Australia) to create a relatively stable supply at far less initial cost?

      It seems too that ‘Solar is now the most popular form of NEW electricity generation worldwide’ according to a Aug 2017 article published on ‘The Conversation’ website ( at ) with wind power generation second.

      • Energy is of course, a beauty contest and with some very deep study of a few ‘articles’ you’ve reinforced opinions that were wrong to start with and even more wrong now.

        I won’t bother informing you, you’ll find out the hard way. And it will be very hard, there will be tears.

  14. Warren Newson says

    It’s way to early to write off hydrogen power. 20 years ago solar PV was a niche market that no ordinary person could afford. Today it’s mainstream and prices are still going down.

    As more research and money is put into developing the hydrogen economy prices will surely go down and efficiencies go up. And I would expect hydrogen would have advantages in areas such as heavy transport, aviation and shipping.

    Studies have been made into using hydrogen for utility scale power generation and reportedly that’s looking promising. It has to be an option worth pursuing for countries with hardly any renewable resources of their own.

    Maybe hydrogen will never be mainstream, time will tell. But you can’t take efficiencies and prices of an immature technology and say it will never work.

    • Is the article about whether or not hydogen can be succesfully used for energy storage and transport?

      Or… is the article about whether it will be economic and environmentally sensible to export coal-sourced hydrogen from Australia to Japan?

      Quite separate and different issues,
      I would suggest.

      I don’t have any problem with the first idea, but I think this article is about the second one.


    Japan can and will do it with high efficiency processes. We’ve hyped up an “opportunity” in a stage in the electoral cycle that you’d expect these sorts of announcements. Shorten has simply upped the bluff.

    At high temps from gas or nuclear, hydrogen production can be much more efficient that cracking lignite (!) and hiding the carbon dioxide. Not to mention transporting it to Japan as well.

    But we’re in the age of delusion that wind and solar and water can power the planet so what is one more green fantasy on top of that?

    “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

    Amen to that.

    • Geoff Miell says

      You state:

      “But we’re in the age of delusion that wind and solar and water can power the planet so what is one more green fantasy on top of that?”

      Fossil and nuclear fission fuels are finite, one-time use, non-renewable, and rapidly depleting (except thorium).

      IF, as you say that “we’re in the age of delusion that wind and solar and water can power the planet”, THEN what does humanity do when global supplies of petroleum oil, fossil natural gas, coal, and uranium and thorium ores become inevitably scarce and unaffordable? Unaffordable energy means life becomes unaffordable!

      Evidence I see indicates global supplies of petroleum oil are likely to peak soon (i.e. 2020s), then begin a sustained decline. That has profound implications for the whole economy, unless we find affordable alternatives and rapidly deploy them soon.
      See my comment:

      Evidence I see indicates global supplies of fossil natural gas are likely to peak soon (i.e. 2020s), then begin a sustained decline.
      See my comment:

      Evidence I see indicates there’s approximately 100 years of global supply of high-grade uranium ores remaining at CURRENT rate of consumption.
      See my comment:

      CCS fails technologically, economically, and as a pollution reduction measure.
      See my comment:

      And then there’s this pesky climate change problem that presents an existential risk to humanity. Humanity must leave petroleum oil, fossil natural gas and coal, before 2050 (preferably sooner), to mitigate dangerous climate change.

      So, chrispydog, if wind, solar and hydro can’t provide humanity with reliable, affordable, sustainable, clean energy then human civilization will decline, due to both climate change and energy resource depletion reasons, and the clock’s ticking so we need to get our act together really quick. Your comments indicate you are ill-informed. Please be better informed.

      ‘Firmed’ renewables offer the only long-term sustainable, zero-carbon emissions, affordable, reliable, rapidly deployable, safe solutions for Australia’s electricity generation in the 2020s and beyond.

      • Des Scahill says

        ‘Tidal’ and ‘geothermal’ can probably be included as ‘renewable’ energy as well. Tidal is perhaps a variation on ‘pumped hydro’ with the Moon doing all the heavy lifting and not charging us anything for it.

        Expertise is needed with large-scale geothermal to ensure that the ‘draw-down’ of energy from the available source doesn’t exceed the sustainable replenishment rate, otherwise the amount of power generated will steadily decline over time.

        Iceland seems to have got it worked out – 29% of their total energy supply is now sourced from geothermal sources. So too does NZ, who source some 13% of their energy from a number of sites through-out NZ and have been doing so for many years.

        Basically the geothermal process is to pump a mixture of water and steam perhaps a kilometre or even more below ground, it gets heated via the molten or super hot volcanic material below, the superheated steam is then sent back up and used to drive steam turbines, and the by then cooled down mixture of water and steam residual is then sent underground to be heated and recycled again.

        There are/were some environmental concerns, due to the fact that the water/steam mixture absorbs hydrogen sulfides and carbon dioxide whilst underground, but generating plants uses ‘scrubbers’ to remove the hydrogen sulfide.

        Overall, larger scale geothermal has the major advantage of being weather-independent and geothermal power plants emit 97% less acid rain-causing sulfur compounds and about 99% less carbon dioxide than fossil fuel power plants of similar size.

        There are ‘small scale’ 100% environmentally friendly variations of geothermal, which simply take advantage of the modest temperature differences that exist
        between the ground surface and the temperature a few metres underground and use that differential to provide energy for heat pump hot water systems or even for pre- drying some materials where doing so is needed as a preliminary for a subsequent treatment or manufacturing process.

        Currently, ‘geothermal’ doesn’t seem to be on many radars, but a large amount of untapped geothermal resources exist world-wide as this map from
        GeoEducation. org in the USA will show:

        Just to quote one Canadian example I found on that site: ‘In Canada, 10-20degrees C groundwater is used directly or with heat pumps to heat more than 30,000 buildings, including Carleton University in Ottawa and factories in Nova Scotia (using water from the flooded Springhill coal mine of the ballad). In the Yukon geothermal keeps city water pipes from freezing.”

        • chrispydog says

          LOL…nice try, but seriously “tidal/wave”? Ever seen a global energy chart with either included as an item?

          Guess why? Because in real terms they’re unicorns.

          Geothermal in Iceland yes, NZ yes, Hawaii yes…see a pattern here? Another rounding error in global energy.

          You people don’t ever give up believing in unicorns riding in on rainbows, do you?

          Laughable. Get numerate, you are WAY out of your depth in the waves of waffle.

          • Des Scahill says

            You forgot to mention ‘Geothermal’ within the USA itself, where – to quote from the Geothermal Education website – ‘California generates the most geothermal electricity with about 824 MWe at the Geysers (much less than its capacity, but still the world’s largest developed field and one of the most successful renewable energy projects in history)’.

            Try as I might, even after re-reading ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to in order to sharpen my fantasy skills, I can’t really see how ‘one of the most successful renewable energy projects in history’ could be classified as a ‘unicorn riding on a rainbow’.

            Nor apparently can the US Navy either who operate a number of geothermal plants within the US.

            It seems too that: ‘Due to environmental advantages and low capital and operating costs, direct use of geothermal energy has skyrocketed to 3858 GWh/yr, including 300,000 geothermal heat pumps. In the western United States, hundreds of buildings are heated individually and through district heating projects (Klamath Falls, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; San Bernardino, California; and soon Mammoth Lakes and Bridgeport, California). Large greenhouse and aquaculture facilities in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, and Utah use low-temperature geothermal waters, and onions and garlic are dried geothermally in Nevada’

      • There is no shortage of fissionable actinides on this planet.

        The oceans contain approx 4 billion tonnes of U, which we can separate if and when we ever need to, which is unlikely, ever.

        Your claim about ‘firmed renewables’ is highly amusing. Have you any idea about the scale of these things?

        Pretty clearly not.

        Please don’t bother replying, my limit of inanity has been breached.

        • chrispydog says

          Des comes back with more ‘what aboutism’, and rants about geothermal.

          Anyone who hasn’t even bothered to check out global energy use data should at least consider that “renewables” (all of them) are “Other” of which geothermal is a very tiny part.

          All up, renewables etc are 2% of global energy.

          Remember, numeracy. But it appears Des is still keen to be in fairy land.

          • Erik Christiansen says

            It is clear that one can’t teach an old dog new tricks, not even when he’s chrispy. Fortunately slow learners are no permanent obstacle to the accelerating rate of change in global energy generation; in fact, they’re just not relevant to rapid escalation of the measures being implemented to minimise the dislocation and climate threats our children will experience – much worse than the increasing mayhem we’re beginning to see already.

            As for power generation which glows in the dark, Belgium had an outage of reactors which was supposed to be for one day, but became several months. Now they’re gearing up to decommission that unreliable long-term threat to themselves and their neighbours, even though it was 40% of national power output. Japan showed us just what nuclear unreliability can be achieved, with hundreds of thousands still not allowed back home. The Russians were well ahead in the scientific demonstration of just how much of the countryside can be rendered uninhabitable, and how many can be killed, both quickly (the workers sent in) and more slowly.

            But fission/fusion fans can glow with pride, because we are rapidly increasing the use of nuclear fusion to power the planet. The wireless power distribution network is something out of this world, as I’m certain you will agree. Safety is so many orders of magnitude superior to dangerous and unreliable on-planet problem-pit reactors, with only an occasional mass emission of charged particles to roil our magnetosphere and disturb telecommunications and long wire power distribution. They’re attenuated by their 150 million km journey, and local PV is not affected.

            OK, the transition to more sustainable, more durable, more reliable, much cheaper, energy generation has barely begun, particularly in this country temporarily inflicted with a fossilised governing party captive to a degenerate right hind-brain, evidently not intellectually capable of moving beyond reptilian reactions fixated on black crud left over from the time of its ancestors. That ends in May, but the world is not waiting for laggards like us to catch up.

            Just as coal power is an uneconomic dinosaur, incapable of being being revived in new plant builds, radioactive power generation hasn’t a chance of being able to be sold, either socially or commercially. It’s a just fugly way to lose money, now.

            Still, your views are valued, Chrispydog … as entertainment. (Nostalgia for a dwindling past is poignant (or pitiful), but the energy train has left the station – howling to it will not bring it back.)


          • Des Scahill says

            Hmmm… well Crispy, Australia’s population of just under 25 million people represents a somewhat microscopic 0.33% of the entire world population.

            Your evident ability to link fallacious reasoning processes with statistics that have little or no relevance at all to the issue at hand, may well be capable of being usefully applied to other areas

            If you could convince a coterie of intoxicated cartographers to publish a new world map on April 1st from which Australia is totally absent because it is so completely insignificant, (using as ‘supporting evidence’ the fact that 0.33% when rounded to a whole number becomes ‘zero’), a potentially lucrative career in journalism might well await you in the ‘fake news’ industry.

        • Geoff Miell says

          You state:

          “There is no shortage of fissionable actinides on this planet.
          The oceans contain approx 4 billion tonnes of U, which we can separate if and when we ever need to, which is unlikely, ever.”

          The quantity of fissionable materials is not the issue. The fundamental issue in the question of extracting fissionable materials at very low concentrations from seawater is one of energy, because it requires enormous amounts of energy pumping enormous volumes of seawater to capture, concentrate, then process these tiny amounts of materials into a useable form for nuclear reactors.

          The limits to mineral extraction (whatever resource is being extracted) are not limits of quantity, but of energy.

          Nuclear fission’s Energy Return on (Energy) Invested (ERoI, or ERoEI) will inevitably steadily decline as concentrations of fissionable resources steadily decline due to resource depletion of high-grade ores.

          Renewable energy technologies continue to improve; cheaper to build and more energy efficient – meaning ERoI is likely to continue to improve (i.e. go higher).

          Per “Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis – Version 12.0” (published Nov 2018), unsubsidised:

          Solar-PV – Crystalline Utility Scale: _ US$_40 – _46 / MWh
          Solar-PV – Thin Film Utility Scale: _ _US$_36 – _44 / MWh
          Solar Thermal Tower with Storage: _ US$_98 – 181 / MWh
          Geothermal: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ US$_71 – 111 / MWh
          Wind: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _US$_29 – _56 / MWh

          Gas Peaking: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _US$152 – 206 / MWh
          Nuclear: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _US$112 – 189 / MWh <<
          Coal: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ US$_60 – 143 / MWh
          Gas Combined Cycle: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ US$_41 – _74 / MWh

          And Lazard’s LCOE analysis isn’t an outlier. The CSIRO/AEMO published their inaugural “GenCost 2018” showing in Figure 4-3: Calculated LCOE by technology and category for 2030, that Nuclear SMRs are much more expensive (i.e. more than 2.5 times) than ‘firmed’ wind and solar.

          Nuclear just cannot compete anymore with renewables – it’s too slow to deploy, it’s too costly to build, it’s too costly to run, large-scale nuclear is not ‘dispatchable’, it’s too costly to decommission, it presents a tempting target for terrorists, and high-grade nuclear waste sticks around forever.

          Meanwhile the Federal Australian government continues to ignore scientific advice about the best energy solutions (and climate change) and seems hell-bent on promoting tax-payer funded coal-fired power stations before they likely get kicked-out at the next election in a few months time.

          You also state:

          “Your claim about ‘firmed renewables’ is highly amusing. Have you any idea about the scale of these things?”

          Yep. Did you watch the YouTube video I linked to in my comment above? Would that probably require too much effort on your part? It seems to me you think it's much better for you to remain ill-informed and keep your mind closed to other quicker, cheaper, more reliable, safer, lower risk possibilities. You must keep that ill-informed ideology pure, eh, chrispydog? Can’t have inconvenient facts ‘polluting’ your mind, can we, chrispydog?

          While ill-informed debate continues nothing gets done. Meanwhile our energy infrastructure (i.e. coal-fired power stations) continues to age and become more unreliable. The day of reckoning is fast approaching and there will likely be a weeping and a wailing, and a gnashing of teeth!

          • chrispydog says


            You people have no idea.


            Renewables are only “cheaper” until you actually try to run a grid on them.

            Name one major grid (note ‘major’) that runs more than 30% wind and solar. Or ANY that have emissions well below 100gCO2/KWh.

            All major grids that clean also use nuclear (unless like Norway, they have MASSIVE natural assets). ALL OF THEM.

            Don’t give Lazard, give me reality. They are egregious fudgers of reality, and I’ve been around long enough in this space to know that.

            Unlike the green-eyed innumerates here.

          • Geoff Miell says

            crhrispydog (Re: Feb 1, 1:06pm)

            You state:

            You people have no idea.”

            The CSIRO/AEMO “GenCost 2018” report concurs with Lazard’s LCOE analysis. Are you saying the CSIRO/AEMO have no idea too, chrispydog? Or is it you, chrispydog, that has no idea? I think you don’t have any idea.

            You then ask:

            “Name one major grid (note ‘major’) that runs more than 30% wind and solar. Or ANY that have emissions well below 100gCO2/KWh.”

            That’s a straw man question. New technologies need to start from a small base. Same question applied when nuclear first started.

            Nuclear power’s electricity generating capacity risks shrinking in the coming decades as ageing reactors are retired and the industry struggles with reduced competitiveness, according to a new IAEA report. (10 Sep 2018)

            “Overall, the new projections suggest that nuclear power may struggle to maintain its current place in the world’s energy mix. In the low case to 2030, the projections show nuclear electricity generating capacity falling by more than 10% from a net installed capacity of 392 gigawatts (electrical) (GW(e)) at the end of 2017. In the high case, generating capacity increases 30% to 511 GW(e), a drop of 45 GW(e) from last year’s projection. Longer term, generating capacity declines to 2040 in the low case before rebounding to 2030 levels by mid-century, when nuclear is seen providing 2.8% of global generating capacity compared with 5.7% today.”

            Does the IAEA have it all wrong too?

  16. Re the Romans:
    Yes Jim, it’s concrete, but not as we know it.
    The surviving concrete was made with Manganese Oxide.
    Currently we’re using Calcium Oxide stuff. It’s cheaper, and locally sourced.
    The MnO was local for the construction of the long lasting stuff you mention.
    The furious digging at Groote Eylandt (nothing whatsoever to do with James Cook) is chasing Manganese Oxide.

    Concrete pumped down wells? Think Macondo. They didn’t get a chance to see how long it would last. Just a thought about capping high-pressure sequestered CO2 and friends storage round here.
    And then there’s fly-ash.

  17. I have had it said to me a couple of time”yes but the production of the batteries themselves produces more green house gasses than the electric cars save”. are there any FACTS about this point??

  18. I have read with interest the to and fro on pros and cons of H2 production. No mention of Denmark deploying H2 production and delivery network. Small dense population compared to Oz with close dense markets. It seems an obvious example of what can be achieved with renewables, 140% of their energy demand with a renewable energy availability far less than Oz.
    Distibuted enegry generation avoids transmission losses, PV with H2 storage and Stationary, SOFC, regeneration, Grids are inefficient energy carriers 16% loss from what is put into an interconnected grid and when compared to the 37% conversion efficiency from coal it makes energy generation from fossil fuel inefficient.
    I would think in handling a valuable commoditiy such as energy we ought to operate on the principle that pig abattoirs do, the only thing that isn’t used is the squeel.
    Re energy source, all fossil fuels are captured and stored sunshine. Fossil fuel is finite, so are actinides. Solar energy is finite also it will run out in about 13billion years.
    Geothermal is tidal power derived from the gravitational effects on the earth’s liquid mantle. No mention of the geothermal plants in Italy.
    NH3 as a storage medium for H2 has knobs on it. NH3 once used as a refrigerant not used to the same extent now because it is dangerous, heavier than air and invisible. Its pungent odour is a dead give away. There is an existing transportation network for agricultural use and handling safety is well established. But to get the quantities required as an energy storage medium it must be transported in pipelines that can rupture. Public health risk is high.
    H2 being the lightest element rises rapidly, if it ignites there is a vertical flame, yes very hot but a vehicle’s ruptured H2 fuel tank that is ignited does not destroy the vehicle as does petrol or battery.

    Just some thoughts on what has not been mentioned.

  19. Martin Dicker says

    Hi Roland,

    thanks for your article – provocative as always but a great way to kick off the conversation on Hydrogen.
    Electric cars are perfect for about town or short country trips, but how much extra time on an already long 800 – 900 Km trip will the recharge add ?
    The CSIRO have made a step forward with a new process to extract hydrogen from ammonia, resolving the efficiency constraints of liquifaction & transportation.
    Much more innovation is required to eliminate Methane as the predominate feeder of industrial hydrogen and will required much more funding than the token amount announced by Labor, but it’s a start.
    Some say I’m a dreamer…. but I’m not the only one 🙂

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Martin

      How much extra time on an already long 800 – 900 Km trip will the recharge add?

      From nothing to many hours.

      First, looking at what’s already exists:

      A Tesla S electric sports car with the larges battery pack can already travel over 500 km on a charge and when supercharged can go from almost no charge to 50% in 20 minutes. So charging would add about 45 minutes.

      But if you are driving a Leaf the charging required would take a long time.

      If you are driving a plug in electric then it would all depend on its range characteristics. Maybe you’d only have to stop once for petrol.

      More speculatively:

      If you wanted to build battery swapping stations it might only take a minute to get fresh batteries. Building battery changing stations would be a big job but building hydrogen refueling stations is a bigger job.

      If we use self driving cars then you could simply change cars when the battery in one ran flat or a another self driving car could recharge another while they are both in motion meaning no need for a car carrying a passenger to ever stop for charging.

      • Graham Revill says

        In Germany there are a couple of autobahns (probably not public but I don’t know) with overhead cables like a tram where trucks can recharge while moving.

        Obviously if its easy to power a high speed train through cables and pantagraphs then a truck is no challenge. I am always amazed when I think of the current flowing between the cable and a VHST Of course they sometimes melt when trying speed records and so forth but generally this system seems to be reliable in Australia and most of the rest of the world.

        You might not need to install overhead cables for the whole route and you can install PV and wind on a few hundred hectares right beside the tracks.

        There are also experiments being carried out with a slot car track on the road. These are serious experiments being funded by people willing to spend lots of money in search of a real solution.

        It raises the question about driving the trucks onto a railway wagon and delivering them 1000km away so only local delivery can be by batteries. That saves rubber particle pollution as well. Very high speed freight trains?

        Of course I prefer a fine 4-12-4 loco streaming smoke and steam. I rode on several of these in China in 1985. Two years ago when I visited there didn’t seem to be any left. I don’t know what % of China’s power is renewable but you can see the horizon in many big cities and breathe the air without it smelling like London in the 1950s I think the world has made great progress and one way or another we will have to get better as people understand what “Finite” means.
        The world is lucky that Australia is only .3% of the population. If we had a big country to run we would have stuffed up the whole world by now.

  20. chrispydog says

    “140% of their energy demand with a renewable energy availability far less than Oz”

    Allow me to express dismay at the typical innumerate twaddle: Denmark wind/solar is near 60% of total generation, BUT is like S Aust, a tiny population connected to BIG generating neighbours, eg Sweden & Norway to mention just two.

    Regardless, Denmark’s grid emission intensity is closer to Germany’s ie over 400gCO₂e/kWh as I type.

    France: 64 gCO₂e/kWh (For over 30yrs, & achieved in about 15yrs)

    So spare me the virtue signalling, the gobsmacking innumeracy and simplistic belief in low energy density weather dependent intermittent generation. Without nuclear ALL it does is sit on top of a fossil fuel powered grid. This is a simple verifiable fact, just get out of your echo chambers and take good hard look!

    Ask Germany, the faux ‘green’ basket case of Europe that just announced this week it “pledges” to get off coal by 2038! Ha! So another BILLION tonnes on the bonfire of inanity because German “greens” wet themselves at real scalable low carbon generation?

    What a travesty.

    So, spare me your ‘renewabes’ hype, it’s a delusion of the willfully blind or the congenitally stupid.

    • Erik Christiansen says

      Yes, Chrispydog, it was only on one day in 2015 that Denmark produced 138.7% of electricity network consumption from renewable energy, and Australia will have to build quite a bit of pumped hydro to compete with that. (The Danes export would have kept Swedish hydro water in storage dams for future consumption, with similar storage effect.)

      While their wind/solar output is only around 60% as you say, there’s another 18% of renewables in their output, i.e. wood, waste, straw, and biogas, which helps deal with intermittency, to a degree. That only leaves of the order of a quarter being non-renwable, and their firm goal of 100% renewable by 2050 as achievable. (They have some big piggeries, and I thought that biogas generation would be on-site, but a pig producer I spoke to said they truck his muck to a local larger-scale biogas works.)

      For now, here we could aim at 100% renewables for powering otherwise network-breaking aircon loads on scorching days. (Cloud cover can’t affect the whole NEM.) It’ll take CST to really make inroads, though, so it’ll be a decade before you join us on this side of the barricades, I figure.

      And I admit I’ll have to buy a bit of biofuel for the generator in order to be 100% renewables out on the farm, as it doesn’t make economic sense to buy a whole shed full of batteries. Rome, Rome, why can’t we build you in a day?

      • Ronald Brakels says

        Note that capturing CO2 released by the use of fossil fuel peak generators from the atmosphere and sequestering it is an option. All else equal it would make little difference to the economics of current Australian generators that mostly only operate during critical peaks.

      • Nickel Iron batteries. Replace cheap electrolite every now and again. Very Long Life batteries and apparently one needs some extra capacity (usually) PV to distill water since they use more than Lead Acid.
        They’re being studiously ignored by all sides for a reason, I guess.

        • Erik Christiansen says

          Looks like you can buy NiFe cells at least up to 500 Wh size, for around $1 per Wh. Forty of the 200 Wh size would be 9.6 kWh at 48v. Closest supplier to me is a couple of suburbs away, with free delivery.

          But if NiFe batteries were studiously ignored there could be a couple of reasons, perhaps. The high nickel content is supposed to make them expensive, but admittedly that’s an old perception, comparing lead, not lithium and cobalt. The more prominent reason might be energy density; 10 kWh (i.e. equal to a ZBM2) would occupy 333 L, and weigh half a tonne. That’s about 1.5 ZBM2 volumes and a lot more weight, but less than lead acid.

          They’re not sealed, and emit a bit of hydrogen during overcharging, so the battery enclosure would need venting, like lead acid.

          Wikipedia suggests: “Nickel–iron cells should not be charged from a constant voltage supply since they can be damaged by thermal runaway”. But that’s not a problem these days. It looks like efficiency will never be better than 75%, if charging voltage is 1.6v/cell and discharge voltage is 1.2v.

          A preferred charge rate of C/7 would be a problem in winter, if there’s only 4 hours of really good array illumination.

          Thanks for rattling the cage. They’re worth a look, as everything makes them look about the same as Redflow’s ZnBr batteries – except the need to discharge to zero capacity a couple of times per month. They very seriously need to be included in that battery study mentioned in one of Ronald’s blogs.

    • Des Scahill says


      I don’t think its churlish of me to point out that ‘tiny power’ South Australia has from time to time supplied much-needed electricity to far less solar orientated and much larger places that for one reason or another can’t meet their electricity demand.

      But – please enlighten me further, I don’t quite get the relevance of your point that because a population is ‘tiny’ (however one defines that time), solar is somehow ‘OK’, BUT its not OK for a ‘NOT tiny’ population. Does this mean that the near 43% and steadily rising % of the households in my suburb who have roof top solar are congenitally stupid?

      If so, it must be catching. A not-too-far-away neighbour who is still doubtful about the benefits of solar, is currently gazing with despondency at a power bill of over $1000 for the last quarter. He looked even more despondent upon learning during a casual conversation that my electricity bill for the same period was zero,

      I can’t say for sure yet that he’ll end up joining the population segment YOU describe as being ‘congenitally stupid’ though, but I think he might.

      As well, most of the congenitally stupid readers if this blog realise that your consistent denigration of the opposing point of view with insults rather than reason has always been the last resort of those in the final desperate stages of defending a losing position.

      I took the trouble too, to look up the definition of the word ‘intermittent’, which according to the Cambridge English Dictionary means: ‘not happening regularly or continuously; stopping and starting repeatedly or with periods in between’. Those are quite different meanings of course from words such as ‘fluctuating’, and ‘cyclic’, and I do wonder if the word ‘intermittent’ was deliberately chosen by the anti-solar brigade in order to foster the notion of ‘unreliable’.

      Any reader concerned about the alleged ‘intermittency’ of the sun, will be reassured to learn that during some 55,075+ days of adult life (I’ve left out the childhood years), I have never once encountered a day that the sun has not risen in the East, nor have I ever seen it flip-flop to and fro in and out of a black non-emitting state for numerous short periods through-out the day, or go completely out of action for days, weeks, or even months.

      Nor has it even been shut down, and you could drop as many hydrogen or atomic bombs as you like upon and it wouldn’t even notice.

      I could be wrong, but as well, there does seem to be a reliable consistent pattern to the sun’s movements that causes it to appear on my local easterly horizon every day.

      I admit that my approach lacks true scientific rigor. After all, it could be argued that the confidence level attributable to a sample size of a minuscule 55,075 observations out of a total possible population (total days) number approaching infinity is quite small.

      As well, my observations were not continuous, and it is possible that unobserved ‘intermittent’ flip-flops between ‘on-off’ states of solar emissions occurred during periods spent inside, although none seem to have ever been reported in human history

      Coping with the ‘night and day cycle’ inherent in a solar system is of course what ‘batteries’ are all about. In the meantime, the fact is that even without a battery, a properly installed quality solar system can meet much of your total household electricity demand and significantly reduce your electricity costs, on a long-term basis, with a level of reliability that would satisfy most.

  21. I am not knowledgeable enough to comment on the efficiency of using hydrogen v batteries to power cars.

    But on a related issue, could someone advise if the hydrogen storage ‘form factor’ problem has been solved for cars?

    This issue is discussed in a BBC podcast from some years ago (one of their ‘Elements’ series of podcasts) which included the following information from the Hydrogen Storage Team at the US Dept of Energy:

    *Hydrogen has high energy by mass, but low energy by volume.
    * In cars, it is stored at either 350 or 700 times atmospheric pressure.
    *It needs a very high stress carbon fiber tank to hold that pressure, including a ‘leak before break’ mechanism for safety reasons.
    *At 700 times atmospheric pressure, a tank that stores enough hydrogen to give a car 300m/500km range, would be about 4 times larger than a
    petrol tank that gives the same range.
    *Therefore the necessary tank is both large, and a very rigid shape. Unlike a petrol tank or batteries, there is no obvious location to put this in a car. The whole car design has to be altered to take into account the fuel storage.
    *To deal with this, current hydrogen cars use multiple smaller tanks. This added complexity drives up the cost ’cause each tank has to have valves, pressure regulators, ‘leak before break’ mechanisms, etc.

    This info from the US Dept of Energy Hydrogen Storage team is now a decade old – does anyone know if a cost effective solution to the hydrogen storage ‘form factor’ problem has been found?

    If an answer to the storage ‘form factor’ problem can’t be found, then all the discussion about ‘whether the hydrogen fuel cycle is an efficient way to power a car’ may be academic.

  22. Erik Christiansen says

    Apart from the cost of building hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in addition to EV charging stations, here in Victoria hydrogen fuel has an enormous problem. A few days ago the ABC published on their website plans for a coal to hydrogen trial in the Latrobe Valley. The story includes performance figures. It is to consume 160 tonnes of brown coal to produce 3 tonnes of hydrogen, emitting 100 tonnes of CO2 in the process. That is insanely polluting for so little output!

    OK, at the point of consumption the spin doctors can lie through their teeth, saying “Look! No black balloons,only water vapour from the exhaust.” Just don’t look behind the curtain, where the 3 tonnes of hydrogen have already emitted 100 tonnes of CO2, much much more per useful joule than any other way of burning coal.

    Hopefully that can be killed after May, environmental disaster that it is. But what about hydrogen from electrolysis, using solar power? Granted, electrolytic cells tend to be inefficient, so you wouldn’t want to be paying for the power. Well, when AEMO runs a negative FIT, there’s no opportunity cost to stuffing excess PV generating capacity into hydrogen.

    My limited understanding is that comressed hydrogen isn’t the answer, but adsorption onto the surface of suitable media is the in-vehicle storage technique of choice. Cheaper than batteries? Maybe, but does the hydrogen go into fuel cells on an EV, or an IC motor? The latter seems primitive.

  23. I agree that ammonia has a high energy density, is easier to transport and has other uses, Hydrogen must be first produced before combining with nitogen to form ammonia. What is the energy cost for this reaction and what are the energy cost for the beakdown for energy release.
    Thee needs to be an energy mix. We ought not return to the battle of who is better and better doesn’t always win, Mr Diesel got tossed overboard and Sony’s betamax lost the video recording battle.
    Regardless of what it is renewable energy requires a storage medium. Ground based is easy as mass is not a problem. Degradation of batteries and membranes is. The vehicle systems are base on 5000hours of operation. The vehicle based/tansport storage systems require low mass, high pessure, now settled on two 3500psi and 7000psi. All of the standads for vehicle based systems are now in force in the US.
    We seem to be arguing of semantics when the horse has long since bolted.
    Deployment of off the shelf components is possible for a hydrogen based economy. Denmark is doing it. The US and Canada have hydrogen highway. We don’t need to do more research, it has been done, the components are being manufactued, the vehicles are being deployed in the US and othe countries. Do we have a vehicle industy that could build carbon fibre shells, no. Do we have the raw materials and the expertise to do it, yes. There seems to be a large disconnect in ability and action.

  24. Social Ecologist says

    Sadly this article has deep philosophical flaws, and so does most of the discusson. CSIRO and Labor are on the right track, and the sooner the electorate gets behind them and stops putting money into holes in the ground, the better off humanity will be.

    The core problem is the problem of reductionist scientific thinking. To understand an issue it has to be dissected, in doing so it is too easy to lose sight of the complex and dynamic relationships between the parts, even if they are known.”Man dost murder to disecct”, William Shakespeare.

    It is only by largescale global scientific collaboration and modelling, as we have seen with climate change, that we can build some degree of confidence about the composition and dynamics of a phenomenon. The thinking has to develop beyond the reductionist phase to the integrative or creative phase of building conceptual models and testing them for integrity, reliability and predictability.

    And so it is with humanities relationship to energy usage. Given the huge strides we have made with mathematical modelling, courtesy of the information revolution and practical application in climate and genomic modelling, now is the time to switch the effort to the energy ecosystem transition. I will back it in that CSIRO, Koreans and Japanese well understand the complexity of the ecosystem, and see the profound logic of a hydrogen economy.

    So sad to see so many intelligent people trying to defend a flawed paradigm by attacking or putting on another down. Better if you are feeling emotional about your topic, take a sabbatical and do some deep meditation. This conflict only serves those that have an interest in the status quo and delays the necessary human adaptation and minimisation of suffering.

    I admire the depth of technical understanding but creative collaboration in the common cause needs a wider view and more maturity.

    • Leon Surawski says

      I agree. Iceland attempted to convert to a hydrogen economy in 2002. Bokris proposed the hydrogen economy in1971 while at University of Adelaide. There has been a lot of thinking and not a lot of action in Australia. Labour is on the right track.

  25. Even Wikipedia has the answers, Hyundai Nexus has three fuel tanks, total capacity 6.3kg for a range of 800km.

  26. Lindsay Murray says

    if you want the good news on carbon capture and storage watch Toney Lovells TED talk at Dubbo

    • graham3196 says

      I can’t see any good news about CCS. The proponents make claims that appear to be impossible to prove and the practical examples seem to be few and far between. It has to store CO2 FOREVER to be any use. How long is forever? 60000 years? What has man built that has lasted 60000 years? Proponents claim success if as little as 30% of CO2 is captured. The amount of coal burnt for the same amount of delivered energy goes up by 30-40% and the capital cost is huge. It seems apparent that in 20 years time there will be no thought of CCS as the cost of renewables and some sort of energy storage becomes cheap and easy. Batteries have a long path ahead to keep improving and becoming cheaper and new batteries a coming along monthly. I think the silicon battery looks pretty good but perhaps I haven’t seen enough about it.
      CCS is a big investment to make with batteries improving so quickly. I think it will take big government subsidies to finance the risk of becoming obsolete and stranded by technology change. If you were a bank would your shareholders be happy about betting a few billion dollars on an asset that will take 40 years to pay off and has a higher cost that existing coal stations that are being phased out on financial grounds in other countries and even in Australia. You would have to add a few million in “special fees and consulting” for any politician to vote for it

    • Graham Revill says

      I think I found the wrong Tony? Its search engine couldn’t find anything there about CCS?

  27. The missing key is diversity. No one is banking on the world’s energy consumption ever being close to 100% electricity. 30 years from now it could maybe, maybe be 50% and even that would be a huge achievement. There has to be room for other energy sources. Fossil fuels can’t be fixed with carbon capture alone because there are still pollutants released at the source. Hydrogen is one of the few with potential to be truly “green” end to end. Replace even a portion of the current natural gas market and the numbers are significant. Bottom line is that the world needs alot of energy. Efficiency becomes secondary to simply getting the job done.

  28. John Poot says

    Umm, Gladstone is the Gas terminal. If you take the view the damage is done, I suppose it’s all good:-)

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