Clean Synthetic fuels

The Missing Link to a Livable Climate, reveals how untapped options for clean hydrogen can put the world back on the pathway to the Paris climate goals. LucidCatalyst authored the report and TerraPraxis has been commissioned to disseminate, translate, and issue a summary of the report.

Our report reveals how untapped options for clean hydrogen can put the world back on the pathway to the Paris climate goals​—if sufficient, low-cost, clean hydrogen is produced to replace oil and gas in shipping, aviation and industry. However, the amount of hydrogen required is far more than can be produced with renewables alone, the report shows. For this reason, a new generation of advanced modular reactors will be required to produce enough climate-neutral fuel to displace the 100 million barrels of oil that are currently consumed around the world each day.

As part of a 2019 visit to explore strategies for Kenya’s clean energy future, our team visited a geothermal plant in Nakuru, operated by KenGen, the national electricity generating company.

lower costs to transition

These new reactors will need to be very different from current large nuclear power plants, however. The report outlines how new shipyard manufacturing approaches can produce abundant clean hydrogen at a price that can outcompete fossil fuels within 10 years.

The overall cost of this approach, the report reveals, is less than the existing investment that would otherwise be needed simply to maintain fossil fuel flows in future decades. The clean energy transition from oil to hydrogen-based fuels could be achieved with a global investment of $17 trillion, spent over 30 years from 2020 to 2050. This is substantially lower than the $25 trillion investment the oil and gas industry expect to spend in order to maintain fossil fuels flows in future decades, and dramatically less than the $70 trillion investment that would be needed for an equivalent hydrogen strategy based only on wind and solar. These new reactors will need to be very different from current large nuclear power plants, however. The report outlines how new shipyard manufacturing approaches can produce abundant clean hydrogen at a price that can outcompete fossil fuels within 10 years.

The world has untapped potential for an industrial breakthrough that could turbocharge the hydrogen economy we so desperately need. Highly productive shipyards can manufacture hundreds of units to power up the clean hydrogen economy and rapidly replace fossil fuels in shipping, aviation, and industry.

Eric Ingersoll, report co-author

Eric Ingersoll (right) and Bruce Hill visited a geothermal site in Iceland in 2018. Advanced geothermal could provide the energy for large-scale synthetic fuels production.

I felt for many years that the world would not make climate goals, that we would find out what it's like to live in a world with average temperatures increase more than 2ºC, the hard to decarbonise sectors—such as aviation, shipping—are just too hard to decarbonise cheaply enough at global scale; when I read the Missing Link report I thought for the first time that it found an approach that could work... Thank you for bringing things forward that bring hope.

Seth Grae, President and CEO of Lightbridge Corporation

options for "difficult-to-decarboniSe" sectors

New modeling results outlined in the report show that hydrogen must achieve a target price of $0.90/kg by 2030 to enable broad scale fossil fuel substitution. Current published projections for renewable-generated hydrogen estimate prices of $0.73–$1.64 will not be achieved before 2050.

According to the report, new hydrogen production facilities powered by advanced modular reactors could instead deliver at global scale for $1.10/kg, with further cost reductions reaching the target price of $0.90/kg by 2030. These cost reductions are enabled by this new shipyard-based manufacturing and delivery model for advanced reactors.

Most current climate policies ignore so-called 'difficult-to-decarbonise' sectors such as aviation, shipping, cement, and industry, and focus almost entirely on electricity. If difficult-to-decarbonise sectors continue to be ignored, the world risks experiencing increasingly extreme climate impacts. For example, if we miss the 2°C target, half the world’s population would be exposed to summer-time ‘deadly heat,’ Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets would collapse, droughts would increase by 500%, and the Sahara Desert would begin to expand into southern Europe. However, large-scale production of cheap hydrogen can act as a clean energy carrier and as a feedstock for synthetic fuels, such as ammonia. This can decarbonize aviation, shipping, cement, and industry using known and proven technologies.

The report also looks directly at physical space challenges resulting from different modes of hydrogen production. For example, the area required for solar generated hydrogen to replace the UK's current oil consumption is about the size of Wales. New advanced reactors take up less than one-hundredth of the space, thus avoiding 'energy sprawl' and land-use conflicts associated with country-sized renewables industrial developments or extensive use of biomass energy.

To achieve the lowest cost renewable-hydrogen, it is possible to co-locate wind and solar projects, in the best combined wind and solar resources, to deliver high capacity factors and hydrogen at around $2/kg within the 2030 timeframe. However, most of these locations are remote from populations and markets. Adding distribution costs from remote locations, for example, Australia to Japan, increases costs from $2/kg to $3.3/kg. This raises the cost beyond the threshold of economic competitiveness ($0.90/kg), which this report describes as essential to achieve wide-scale substitution of fossil fuels.

Just to be clear: we are strongly pro-renewables. The strategies described in our report are intended to be additional to the contribution from renewables, not an alternative. We need to throw everything we’ve got at the climate problem and this report shows we have an important new tool in the box.

Eric Ingersoll, report co-author


Read the full report:
Missing Link to a Livable Climate

English  |  Chinese  |  Korean   |  Japanese


Read the summary:
Climate Solution Profile / Missing Link to a Livable Climate
English  |  Korean   |  Japanese

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