Decarbonisation links - 20 Feb 2021

Decarbonisation links - 20 Feb 2021

Feb 21, 2021

Decarbonisation is not an easy thing, but it is conceptually easy to grasp. It means systematically, going through industries and activities, and figuring out how to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions.

For the power sector, decarbonisation is conceptually 'easy' - in the sense of, reduce the most carbon intensive fuels, and where possible, adopt non-carbon alternatives. From coal, to oil, to gas. And then go to solar/wind/nuclear. Yes, the process is painful, requiring all kinds of policy change and subsidy shift, but in the end, the power system is decarbonised.

The next step could be a bunch of things. Swap combustion engines for electric where possible. Might be difficult for planes, trains, and ships, and for that, perhaps switch to hydrogen fuel cells, which might be a possible alternative, but requires a different supply chain altogether, depending on how you get the hydrogen.

There's blue hydrogen, where hydrogen comes from methane, with the carbon captured/sequestered or used.

But first, why it's a very good move to move away from carbon fuels.

Why it's a very good reason to move the power system away from carbon fuels - air pollution from burning fossil fuel kills people.

The Hydrogen Economy

There's green hydrogen, where hydrogen comes from electrolysis, powered by renewable/non-carbon source.

There's this Bloomberg outlook from March 2020 about the hydrogen economy.

there's a discussion on hydrogen economy.

the IEA in 2019 has a very comprehensive report.

Here's an article on how Europe might be trying to integrate hydrogen into their energy systems.

Again, massive technical shift required. Hydrogen can be handled in a similar way to methane, but has a much lower boiling point (20K vs 112K of methane).

The next major component would be to decarbonise the major industries - steelmaking and cement - both of which burn fossil fuels for heat, or is necessary.

This Forbes link has an overview.

In these industries, hydrogen could replace carbon fuels for heat generation.

And from MIT, a way to make cement without carbon dioxide emissions.

There are even approaches to use carbon dioxide to create cement. This would be carbon-negative! Other developments here on developments in cement incorporating hydrogen.

There are ways to make steel with hydrogen. And this as well. FCHEA is the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.

Japan as a country has gone the furthest in thinking about hydrogen as a fuel in their country.

And with fuel cells being the way they migh tpower their vehicles.

This is a June 2020 report on the hydrogen economy. The hydrogen economy is important as a way to get to decarbonise - rather than burn methane, burn hydrogen instead - more energy dense, and useful for applications such as heavy trucks and even aircraft. But adoption is tough, because green hydrogen (hydrogen derived from purely renewable energy sources) is difficult. Blue hydrogen (hydrogen derived from methane and used in tandem with carbon capture and sequestration is still too expensive).

Decarbonisation of the industrial sector

McKinsey's got good articles and research about decarbonization.

This is a specific report about decarbonization of industrial sectors. The steel and cement industries among them.

And this, about decarbonization of Europe (as in, the European Union).

How decarbonisation will involve the switch to electric vehicles.

McKinsey's even got a roadmap for zero-carbon car - for manufacturing.

And Biden admin now going in big on electric vehicles.

All these goes to show how the hydrogen economy is part of the decarbonisation process.

and the rest of the car industry
is following?

Plastics and the Circular Economy

Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a good resource for the broader circular economy discussions.
We will still need plastics, and likely to require some kind of circular economy.

Another resource for implementing circular economy for plastics.

Decarbonisation and Geopolitics

If decarbonisation is the next global project, then of course there would be a geopolitical competition, right? Hardly surprising.

Bruegel has a report on how geopolitics and decarbonisation are inter-related. Bruegel is an important think-tank that is strongly connected to the European Union system of governance.

Earlier in January 2021, Verge went to look at Microsoft's progress in being carbon-negative by 2030. There isn't anything concrete yet except in how they fund forestation efforts, and find new ways to cool data centres (sinking them into the ocean).

I was curious about how megacities (cities of more than 10 million) could get to net-zero emissions. I chanced upon this BBC Future article on London. A bit of promo, of course, but gets to some of the issues - heating, retrofits, transportation.

China - back in October 2020 - how they planned to have peak emissions soon and then decarbonise by 2060.
And related coverage here. China will be a major player,no matter what they do.

This is about satellite monitoring of HFCs - the old bad guys that could destroy the ozone layer.
If we could do this for carbon emissions, that would be fantastic, as a way to name/shame countries or companies.

Some reality check - green spending in the stimulus programmes of the COVID-9 budgetary responses. What these things show is that it is no longer about technical possibility - the issue now is with scaling and making all of these things common-place, which is now more about politics and regulation, the market, and social acceptance. A high cost of carbon might accelerate these transitions.

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