Director of ANO “Center for Research and Scientific Development in the field of energy “Hydrogen Technology Solutions” Maxim Savitenko and Chief Technologist of ANO “Center for Research and Scientific Developments in the Field of Energy “Hydrogen Technological Solutions” Boris Rybakov – on the trend towards decarbonization and technologies for reducing carbon emissions.
— What is decarbonization and is it only greenhouse gases that play a role in climate change?
– As we understand it, decarbonization is a term meaning reduction of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, as mentioned in the Paris Agreement.
– The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and many others. The Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation issued on October 22 announces a complete list of greenhouse gases, some of which relate to emissions of chemical products, and some to fuel and energy companies, especially in the field of heat and electricity generation. There is a very simple formula that demonstrates how carbon dioxide is formed when carbon and oxygen are burned.
If we talk about the combustion of hydrogen, then only water vapor is formed in this process. And if we talk about the combustion of methane, taking into account that it consists of both carbon and hydrogen atoms, in the process of its combustion, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and nitrogen oxides are formed, which are also harmful gases.
We started to study the topic of burning gas and releasing СО2 at the same time. Many people know that water vapor is a greenhouse gas, but no one makes any practical conclusions at the same time, and no country is struggling with water vapor, while many talk about the need to switch to steam, when burning which water vapor is formed.
Each country has its own understanding of what hydrogen is, and each country chooses its own timing for the transition to low-carbon energy production technologies. But this is where the 21st-century mystery lies:
“Why is no one talking about water vapor yet?” We have repeatedly had discussions with scientists who promote hydrogen technology, and they saw a threat to the business associated with hydrogen technologies in the fact that water vapor can be officially recognized as a greenhouse gas.
We have analyzed Russian and foreign publications on this topic. In particular, I was struck by the doctoral dissertation of the Russian scientist Yuri Ivanovich Baranov, who cited the data of his experimental studies. The research was conducted in the 1980s and was devoted to studying the effect of mixtures of carbon dioxide and other atmospheric gases, such as helium, argon, nitrogen, hydrogen and water vapor on the absorption of infrared radiation.
In his work, Yu. I. Baranov notes that “Binary absorption coefficients for a mixture of carbon dioxide with water vapor are approximately an order of magnitude higher than the values of these values for pure CO2.” It is unclear why such facts are ignored. But everyone is talking about the coming climate catastrophe.
— How do these studies affect business?
– For many years I have been engaged in energy projects, in particular, foreign-made gas turbine installations with increased efficiency characteristics, reduced fuel consumption and reduced emissions, including greenhouse gases. And this is nothing but an increase in energy efficiency.
First of all, I can say that we are lagging behind European countries in this direction. First of all, because other countries have long been using environmentally friendly energy sources.
But the peculiarity of such sources is their instability and dependence on weather conditions.
It is obvious that solar power plants cannot produce electricity at night, while wind turbines, if there is wind, can produce electricity at night. But at night, the demand for electricity decreases. Then in European countries they decided to convert excess electricity into hydrogen, and to pump hydrogen into gas pipelines.
We conducted a series of studies in Europe and found out that a small concentration of hydrogen in the pipeline will not affect the gorenje and the metal of the pipelines.
The position of the Russian “Gaz-Prom” is not to let anyone “into the pipe” in order to avoid damage to gas pipelines.
But can Gazprom specialists prove experimentally at what concentration of hydrogen in a mixture with natural gas it is dangerous to exploit gas pipelines? Scientists have long known the problem of hydrogen reinforcement: in the USSR, hydrogen technologies used at chemical and oil refineries were and are still being used, and either special alloys are used there, or a large margin of safety of pipelines is provided.
As you know, in the EU they talk and write about various methods of production, storage and use of hydrogen, primarily “green” hydrogen. At the same time, when transporting hydrogen through existing gas pipelines, its concentration of up to 10-12% is allowed.
We are promoting solutions that can have an effect in the short term. Our opinion is that it is impossible to simultaneously abandon traditional energy carriers and there is nothing to replace such a volume of energy carriers.
— Is it possible to learn more about your proposals, because it is known that you have concluded an agreement with the MEI on this topic?
— We have signed a contract for R&D with the Moscow Energy Institute to study the process of gas combustion in domestic condensing boilers when hydrogen is added to it.
We are pursuing two goals. The first is to determine how much hydrogen can be added when burning gas in a conventional household boiler. The second goal is to study the chemical composition of condensate, which is formed during the condensation of water vapor. The second goal is aimed at studying the possibility of using condensate for hydrogen production.
If we consider the volumes of hydrogen production that are claimed all over the world and in Russia, then a sufficiently large amount of specially prepared water will be required — 9-10 liters of water are needed for 1 kg of hydrogen. And we need to know where to get this water from and what to do with the waste generated during the preparation of desalinated water. Thus, if people are talking about water shortages all over the world, and Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said this, then this issue will become even more acute. If we analyze foreign experience, then hydrogen production begins to go offshore, where wind farms of huge capacity are being built on the offshore shelf for the production of electricity and water. For the production of hydrogen, it is planned to use seawater, from which it is more difficult to obtain desalinated water for electrolyzers, but there are no problems with waste disposal.
In Russia, this topic is treated quite calmly, because we are a big country, there is an experience of non-compliance with Government resolutions, while we observe that no one is particularly involved in scientific developments.
ANO independently conducts R&D in order to understand the effect and prospects of these developments for business.
— In the past, we tried to purchase European equipment for water vapor condensation technology (condensers), which in Europe paid off in two years due to a larger volume of heat produced and gas consumption savings in the range of 10-11%. With an increase in the proportion of hydrogen in the fuel gas, the beneficial effect increases, while the economy of fuel gas burned in coal units increases to 18%, since when hydrogen-containing gas is burned, more water vapor appears in the combustion products, which can also be condensed and used to produce hydrogen. Water is also needed for the production of hydrogen by steam conversion from methane.
There is a serious departmental disunity. For example, Rosatom plans to produce hydrogen by electrolysis, while Gazprom wants to extract hydrogen from natural gas. Thermal energy is beyond the scope of this process, although it is at thermal power plants that carbon dioxide is generated, and in this area it is most necessary to produce hydrogen to reduce CO2 emissions, but this is not happening yet.
We are starting to test on a small scale the technology of condensation of water vapor on boilers, of which there are many in our country. Unfortunately, this technology is not patented, because it is well-known in the world. The only know-how can be methods of condensate purification for hydrogen production.
We are negotiating with foreign manufacturers of alkaline, proton-membrane and anion-exchange-membrane electrolyzers, by the way, the latter will be the most economical, since they do not use precious metals in their designs. The price of electrolyzers is important, since the price of hydrogen will depend on it. Russia had its own alkaline electrolyzers, but they were gradually replaced by foreign analogues. The same is true with fuel cells — they simply do not exist in our country.
– Everyone says that it is necessary to create a prototype in Russia, get a patent for it and then only send it abroad. We are trying to break this stereotype. I would like to note that Central Asia is very interested in our developments, and experts are ready to discuss their initiatives with us in the near future.
– As an engineering company, we have intentions to turn this topic into a comprehensive solution — there is support from the international industry community in this matter.
The editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Energy and Industry of Russia” Valery PRESNYAKOV spoke.