DOE Clean Hydrogen Plan: Breathing New Life into Brown Coal Plants – Watts Up With That?

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The farce of government agencies and climate warriors celebrating new CO2 belching coal plants which produce “clean hydrogen” is gathering momentum.

DOE Backs Projects to Produce Hydrogen from Coal, Biomass

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the agency has awarded $2 million to four research and development (R&D) projects aimed at advancing clean-hydrogen production technologies.

The DOE’s awards on March 15 are part of a push by the Biden administration in its fight against climate change. Jennifer Granholm, the new Secretary of Energy and former Michigan governor, has said reducing carbon emissions from the energy sector, and promoting more forms of clean energy, is a goal of her department.

“One of the important ways to achieve net-zero carbon emissions is to find innovative approaches to create clean sources of energy like hydrogen,” Granholm said Monday. “With these awards, we’re leaning on some of America’s most brilliant minds to turn these ideas into real solutions—at the same time creating clean-energy jobs and reducing pollution in the air we breathe.”

Australia’s People’s Republic of Victoria has stolen the march on US green hydrogen efforts. Victoria’s brown coal pilot plant has actually started producing hydrogen.

Dirty coal to hydrogen: Trial aims for clean-energy solution

Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy and Australian state of Victoria plan to create first international hydrogen-supply chain.

12 Mar 2021

A Japanese-Australian venture has begun producing hydrogen from brown coal in a 500 million Australian dollars ($390m) pilot project that aims to show liquefied hydrogen can be produced commercially and exported safely overseas.

The plan is to create the first international supply chain for liquefied hydrogen and the next big step will be to ship cargo on the world’s first liquefied hydrogen carrier.

“We have the potential here to be world leaders in the production and export of hydrogen and this project is developing up that technology to do exactly that,” Australian Energy Minister Angus Taylor told the Reuters news agency on the sidelines of a ceremony marking the event.

Australia, already dominant in the global liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade, is hoping liquefied hydrogen will give it a greener market for its coal and gas.

There is no requirement for any of these plants to sequester their copious CO2 emissions. Most players are so keen to kickstart the hydrogen economy by flooding the market with cheap subsidised hydrogen, they are happy to accept the CO2 emissions for now. There are vague plans to sequester the CO2 or switch to producing hydrogen using renewable electricity at some point in the future, presumably once the technology becomes economically viable.

A few green groups, zealots who actually believe CO2 emissions matter, have pointed out the allegedly green hydrogen produced by burning coal is insanely carbon intensive. But the “green hydrogen” plan is likely to be a new source of billions of dollars of government renewable energy grants, and could save the jobs of thousands of politically active coal workers, so for now the objections are being disregarded.

There are also plans to throw a few truckloads of plastic into the furnace along with thousands of tons of coal, so the green hydrogen plan is even the solution to the plastics crisis.

Soon politicians throughout the world will be subsidising the construction of new smoke belching brown coal plants, and celebrating their success at kickstarting our transition to a low carbon future.

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