How to frugally „de-fossilize“ Europe’s Air

Lots of representations are held out about an Energy Transition at the energy production level. However the real challenges are synchronizing produced energy with actual demand and securing its availability all time. Further renewable energy production sites often need to be set up in different locations than fossil energy production. In addition the change over increases volatile supply aiming to substitute base-load supply. And aspiring to take large energy consumers all electric on top of all, represents a totally new requirement to connecting grids, given electricity is very tough to store in sufficient amounts. Maybe complexity could be reduced:
According to the BP Energy report Europe today generates 55% of its electricity Carbon-free! Decarbonization potential of -1.25Gt CO2 for remaining 45% are primarily Solar and Wind (without wanting to go into nuclear controversies) starting from a 1/6th share today. Without back-up issues hence approximately a need to 3-fold. Existing nuclear and hydro-electricity without any contingency represent theoretic 35% base-load back-up provided everything was connectable loss-free and peaks could always be covered by freely available volatile electricity. Endeavors for shaving load/demand variations plus all efforts towards further electrification will rather widen the gap though. Trying to close it by most efficient Power2Gas concepts via Electrolysis Hydrogen, its storage and re-Use by Utility Fuel Cells requires 3.7 times freely available surplus production of desired back-up capability. A recent Pöyry Study on Hydrogen attributed Electrolysis an accommodation of 45% surplus electricity, able to provide 0.6Mt Hydrogen for 15% back-up Fuel Cell utility. Taking this up to 35% of capacity, Wind & Solar would need to be scaled up to 4.5 times existing capacity (without any extra demand from switching transportation or industrial processes to electricity)!
Energetically usable biomass across Europe is quoted at 6 Exa Joule per year (190Mt bio-Carbon). It substitutes either 118Mt oil- or 87Mt Natural-Gas -Carbon. What a fatal misconception of Carbon Neutrality! Destroying Carbon into atmospheric CO2-stock adds to the Green-House effect equally as any fossil CO2. On the timeline one should also consider that CO2 produced from disposing Carbon after its last use within minutes into air takes Nature decades to accrete in new biomass. Direct biomass combustion co-burns Carbon with its extinguishant, water and therefore can never achieve maximum exergy recovery. Refining biomass can substitute 1.6 times the amount of crude oil than burning it and is key to multiple Use or even reUse of Carbon across more than 1 life cycle.
If biomass was used to just produce „Green Hydrogen“ off 115bln m3 Bio-Gas further 35Mt CO2 neutral Hydrogen could be unlocked for substituting fossils in chemical Industry. Splitting 150bln m3 Natural Gas saved in Power Generation into 27Mt „Blue Hydrogen“ plus 82Mt Methane Pyrolysis Carbon the latter could be reused for 57mln liter Synthetic Fuel (burning without VOP emissions). Hence total transportation incl. Shipping & Aviation could be decarbonized by 75% (-0.93Gt CO2). The 112bln m3 Natural Gas replaced by above „Green Hydrogen“ in Chemical Industry could be split into 21Mt „Blue Hydrogen“ plus 63Mt Carbon. The latter represents 45% of today‘s 139Mt fossil Carbon used in non-combustion applications. In a Carbon #Grave2Cradle Circular Economy these 45% would never get disposed as CO2 into air through consecutive life cycles. Hence this Natural Gas Carbon Capture reuse could substitute crude oil. 80% of the associated „Blue Hydrogen“ could cover the demand for transforming coal blast furnaces to direct Hydrogen Reduction Iron (according to Eurofer Europe produces 170Mt steel per year, hence needing 17Mt CO2-free Hydrogen).
Every Tonne Electrolysis Hydrogen produced and used for distributed power generation can deliver in CHP HVAC coupling 125GJ district-heat. For example the 29Mt Back-up electricity Hydrogen would be good for 3,500PJ district heat e.g. able to replace biomass used there today. This a.m. „Blue Hydrogen“ from Natural Gas reusing Carbon in existing non-combustion applications at a liter crude oil substitution of about 2 times the m3 Natural Gas Price might seems realistic for this industry to absorb. In comparison electrolysis Hydrogen would need one MWhel to sell par with 3.6GJ Natural Gas! Given the fierce challenges of electricity decarbonization it is obvious that electrolysis can’t calculate with first kWh prices. At last kWh prices it will make more sense to look into Natural Gas steel reduction with liquefied CO2 CCS.
Taking Europe’s Natural Gas grid to 660bln m3 per year as a backbone infrastructure to feed-in any biogene Substitute Natural Gas would allow to produce „Green & Blue“ Hydrogen at points of their use. The above outlined decarbonization options add up to -2.9Gt CO2 (-70%). Additional -0.22Gt CO2 Efficiency improvement in Carbon-neutral resource use contributing 7% Primary Energy takes total CO2 reductions to -75%
This scenario mitigates most implementation risks, particularly if Methane Pyrolysis uses our already 10 years ago industrially TRL7 validated process, ignored and suppressed for a decade in favor of all-electric society crazes.

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