Monday, August 10, 2020

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Home Issue 26 Natural gas: Anything you can do I can do better

Natural gas: Anything you can do I can do better

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The Tweedledum, Tweedledee story doesn’t end with agreement over fracking: Now both the CLP and the ALP are buying into hydrogen.

 

And both are faced with the this dilemma: “The new chair of the Australian Energy Regulator, Clare Savage (pictured; quoted in Michael West Media) is saying that if the gas transmission networks do not convert to hydrogen, these assets may be stranded. That’s many billions of dollars in gas pipelines stranded.”

 

And both parties are coming up with the same answer: A little bit, say 10%, of hydrogen mixed in with the gas in the pipes is OK.

 

Of course the trouble with that is we’d be stuck with around 90% fossil fuels, and this of course is a big no-no. Or is it?

 

Hydrogen (the “H” in H2O – water) is made by separating it from the “O” (oxygen), using electricity. To gain electricity from hydrogen the process is reversed.

 

Minister for Renewables Dale Wakefield says she estimates 15% hydrogen in gas pipes is OK while emphasising that Labor’s intention doesn’t end with 50% renewables by 2030, but aims for “net-zero emissions by 2050”.

 

With 85% of gas in the pipes?

 

A faulty valve caused this explosion at a hydrogen service station in Norway (photo Fleet Europe).

 

Meanwhile a spokesman for the CLP quotes a group including GPA Engineering for the Government of South Australia: “The review found that the addition of 10% hydrogen (by volume) to a typical natural gas blend has no significant impacts or implications on gas quality, safety and risk aspects, materials, network capacity and blending (providing the mixture is homogeneous).”

 

With gas playing the dominant role in these policies we asked Ms Wakefield: “During 2019/20, [how much did] the NT Government spent on the gas industry in any form of subsides and public service costs managing and supervising that industry?” We received an answer to this.

 

We did not on this: “How much did the government collect from the gas industry in royalties and other income?”

 

We put similar questions to the Opposition which has now provided us this answer: All of the information on royalties and production is in the hands of the NT Department of Treasury and Finance. The information is not public and would be commercial in confidence.”

 

Ms Wakefield gave us these answers to the first question: “The Department of Primary Industry and Resources allocated budget for the Energy Division for 2019/20 was $2.22m.

 

“There were no subsidies paid to the gas industry from the Northern Territory Geological Survey (NTGS) in 2019/20.

 

“NTGS run a grants scheme as part of the Resourcing the Territory initiative, but all of the grants were awarded to the minerals industry not the oil and gas industry.

 

“All other Resourcing the Territory funds are used for geoscience programs, data acquisition and promotion, with none going to the gas industry as subsidies.”

 

A spokesperson for the NT Government, in response to our enquiries, said:–

 

• There are not significant implications to gas quality or safety for blending natural gas with up to 10% hydrogen by volume in the gas distribution network.

 

• The University of Queensland found that most people were unconcerned with blends of up to 10% hydrogen.

 

• Research projects trialling or studying the injection of hydrogen in gas distribution networks included Hydrogen Park SA (up to 5% hydrogen by volume); Western Sydney Green Gas Trial – Jemena (up to 2%); Canberra Institute of Technology (up to 100%).

 

• In the UK there are two projects which are trialling hydrogen injection percentages which are greater than 10%.

 

• HyDeploy, determining whether blending up to 20% is feasible.

 

• H21 Leeds City Gate is a study to determine the feasibility of converting the natural gas network to 100% hydrogen – presumably that includes how to avoid some nasty explosions.

 

• Once the useful life of a pipeline has passed then it will be decommissioned and the pipeline route will undergo environmental rehabilitation.

 

Not much of that is likely to swing an election in 39 days’ time: No cranes in the skyline.

 

And then of course there is the hydrogen bomb (photo Asia Times).

 

That of course didn’t stop the hype that has become the trademark of the Gunner Government, this time with Ms Wakefield on the microphone: “The NT’s first ever Renewable Hydrogen Strategy to turn our natural competitive advantages into clean, permanent local jobs … the Territory is well placed to position itself at the forefront of the developing renewable hydrogen industry … world-scale energy production and export industry … taking real action on climate change … the strongest protections for water and our environment the Territory has ever seen … local jobs.”

 

In a Me Too spirit Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro chimes in she will “aim to” connect the Territory (including Alice Springs and Tennant Creek) to the national electricity market, launch a hydrogen export pilot program, further develop solar “off the back of” onshore gas and become an “energy powerhouse,” selling our electricity to the East Coast.

 

It is a feature of Territory political life that voters ahead of polls don’t get solidly researched and costed options, but ideas that somebody will look into after the elections.

 

The CLP says it will direct the “Utilities Commission to conduct a full cost/benefit analysis” of all of this, including “defining the optimal mix of renewables to maximise the stability, reliability and affordability of electricity in the Territory”.

 

And what if the Utilities Commission finds out all this is a complete nonsense?

 

Ah well, “we tried” would no doubt be the answer for the next four years.

 

 

UPDATE July 20:

 

Minister Wakefield has replied to our question: How much did the government receive from gas royalties in 2018/19?

 

The answer is $445.6m.

 

 

 

10 COMMENTS

  1. “Net zero emissions” with on-going gas investments means the ALP hopes to offset emissions with carbon storage.
    Such vast carbon storage is impossible; even the idea of offsetting emissions is dangerous.
    Climate change is accelerating so we urgently need to end our economic dependence on fossil fuels. This means no new gas developments, increasing efficiencies and building a zero carbon economy.

  2. The important point should be made that other gases including methane and ammonia are being produced using renewable energy as the primary source.
    Cost and efficiency of conversion and transportability of the end product will all play into which horse wins the race.
    Renewable energy – solar and wind are now established as the lowest cost sources of energy world wide and the NT has significant resources.
    So long as fracturing rock and all the associated risks are abandoned then well may the NT have a gas led economic future.

  3. Quick google of “Hydrogen to LNG injection”.
    It ain’t going to happen this decade in the NT, that’s for sure.

  4. Is it so remarkable that the two major parties in the NT substantially agree on energy policy?
    Looking at the evidence and recognising that each party has had experience in government, perhaps they deserve credit for exercising commonsense rather than developing opposing policies for the sake of opposition or ill-informed populism in the search for votes.
    The fact is that it is very hard to predict the future of energy in the world and the argument has been profoundly contaminated by ill-informed idealism about so-called renewables (which, as Michael Moore’s film Planet of the Humans demonstrates, are not really renewable at all).
    Both parties are right to have two bob every way they can as technology and commercial and public attitudes evolve.
    It may be in the post-Covid-19 world that impoverished governments realise they can no longer afford the huge subsidies that wind and solar require.
    Or they become aware, through inevitable splinters in the green movement, of the ballooning damage to the environment caused by creating more wind turbines, solar panels and batteries at five or six times the rate they are currently produced, all in an effort to meet unrealistic emissions targets.
    Another possibility is that hydrogen may prove to be too expensive or dangerous to continue with.
    But, with new developments in both gas and solar suggesting that BOTH can be converted into hydrogen at the source (with the bonus of carbon capture in the case of gas conversion), there may be whole new ball games about to start.
    And of course there is also the chance public opinion will become sufficiently informed to recognise that we need to develop the use of nuclear power.

  5. Looking forward to seeing the new profracking ALP/CLP coalition post election. Should be pretty hilarious.

  6. Please google the Newcastle City Council presentation on local community radio this week to see what is possible in the way of job creation and replacement of carbon based energy with alternatives.
    Their exposition should be compulsory listening for all politicians.
    A friend in Adelaide has a hydrogen powered car developed and installed locally.
    In reference to nuclear reactors, both India and other countries are well ahead with thorium and molten salt reactors which consume conventional nuclear waste, while we sit here arguing.
    In junior high school, hydrogen is burned with a quiet blue flame and is perfectly safe but mix it with air / oxygen and stand back.
    I didn’t and have the forehead scar to prove it. Both SA and Queensland are full steam ahead on hydrogen while once again we stand here arguing.

  7. I seriously flunked chemistry at school, quite some years ago now so know nothing!
    However I know a chap with a “hydrogen maker” under the bonnet of his car, made himself, and claims on long runs in particular it gives him big savings on fuel.
    A couple of wires to a box and a pipe to the air intake, just don’t ask me how or why it works or what is inside of the box to make it work.

  8. How could anyone vote for any of these fools when none of us know the state of the economy, no budgets, no forecasts, no nothing.
    Yet all these promises of further spending and forecasted profits. No one in their right mind would let either the CLP or the ALP run a tuck shop … little own an economy.
    It has been proven the world over, there is no demand for gas, there is a glut of gas, investors are turning away from it, financiers are turning away from it, its impacting on the valuation and availability of finance for those that own the land and it is of significantly less value than a BTU of oil (which again there is an over supply of).
    The only thing keeping this argument alive is the amount of money already wasted and payed to those that stand to benefit.
    Mmmmm, now who could those people be? Well, its not the people that can run a tuck shop.

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