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Well, whaddaya know. No sooner does New Jersey let slip that it has a new green hydrogen pilot project in the works, when here comes archrival New York right across the river with a whole truckload of green hydrogen news. And they do mean green hydrogen from renewable resources, not that other stuff the natural gas lobby is trying to pass off as “clean.”

Big Apple Goes Gaga Over Green Hydrogen

New York’s big hydrogen announcement is no coincidence. It piles onto the US Department of Energy, which dropped another $52.2 million on hydrogen R&D earlier this week. Most of the Energy Department greenbacks are aimed directly at teasing green hydrogen out of water. The rest apply to projects that extract hydrogen from natural gas, but the technology could also be applied to various forms of sustainable hydrogen, such as biogas.

New York is skipping over the natural gas part, which is no surprise given the state’s prickly relationship with gas, and going straight for the green hydrogen gold.

They have pulled some heavy hitters into the green hydrogen arena. The new announcement enlists the mighty New York Power Authority and the Electric Power Research Institute, which is based in California and has been pivoting from fossil fuels into renewable energy. The last time we checked in, EPRI was hooking into a huge EV and power grid consortium in Texas. Just yesterday they announced a new competitively selected cohort for their latest R&D incubator. The 20 winning startups will work on “demonstration technology projects intended to accelerate decarbonization, electrification, grid modernization, and other electric power industry innovation imperatives.”

NYPA and EPRI have been tapped with General Electric and the specialty gas firm Airgas in a green hydrogen pilot project to be located at a natural gas plant on Long Island, which almost sounds like it could be a natural gas-to-hydrogen project except not, because the project is aimed at measuring different blends of hydrogen in a natural gas turbine.

GE is one of several legacy engineering firms that have become active in the area of blending hydrogen and natural gas in gas turbines. One approach is to design new turbines that are specially made to handle an increasing proportion of hydrogen. The Long Island project is especially interesting because it deploys a 20-year-old GE gas turbine.

If it pans out, then gas power plants all over the country could begin transitioning to green hydrogen without having to invest in new turbines. That’s an important consideration for the US, which became splattered with new gas turbines after the cost of gas dropped in the early 2000s.

The good news is that low-cost gas provided the initial kick for driving coal out of the US power generation market. The bad news is that gas power generation stakeholders are stuck with relatively new gas turbines, but a growing number of leading electricity buyers and other ratepayers are demanding carbon-free electricity. The hydrogen blend idea could help get them off the hook until something better comes around.

Green Hydrogen For Deep Decarbonization

If you’re thinking fuel cell electric vehicles are part of the New York announcement, nope. Once they hit the road, automobiles fall into the category of decarbonization lite. Everybody knows how to decarbonize cars, at least from the tailpipe on out.

The motor vehicle supply chain is a whole ‘nother can of decarbonization worms. Whether you have a fuel cell electric vehicle, a battery electric vehicle, or a plain old gasmobile in your driveway, they all spew invisible bubbles of greenhouse gas from factories all along the supply chain, from tires and body to all the innards.

The solution is deep decarbonization, which refers to detaching heavy industries and other carbon intensive sectors from fossil energy. That’s a tough row to hoe. Hydropower fits some of the bill, including the all-important energy storage angle. Wind and solar can also lend a hand in combination with battery-type energy storage. Green hydrogen comes into the picture as a flexible, transportable energy carrier that can provide storage, generate electricity, or provide the juice for gas turbines and other thermal uses.

To tackle that end of things, The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will be building up its ongoing deep decarbonization work. Last December the agency co-hosted a “Deep Decarbonization Workshop” with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The new announcement sets up a more intensive look-and-listen session this fall. Here, let’s have NYSERDA explain:

“The session will be used to help NYSERDA understand how to expand stakeholder engagement to ensure that additional assessment of the pathways, opportunities, and challenges of generating and utilizing green hydrogen across all sectors includes consideration of all stakeholder perspectives, including environmental justice organizations and communities.”

The Hydrogen Economy Goes Green

Because hydrogen is an abundant, zero emission fuel, there has been talk of a global “hydrogen economy” or “hydrogen society” for ages. The problem is that hydrogen has to be extracted from something.

Right now, almost all of that something is natural gas, and part of it is coal, so fossil energy stakeholders have been riding high on the idea of the hydrogen economy. However, the cost of non-fossil hydrogen sources is dropping quickly, and fossil energy stakeholders  will have to think fast.

Naturally enough, natural gas stakeholders have an interest in promoting the hydrogen economy as a decarbonization thing to which they can contribute. Their idea is to add carbon capture to the process of steam reformation, which is the primary method for extracting hydrogen from natural gas. Some stakeholders are also experimenting with an emerging technology called autothermal reforming.

That still leaves a steaming pile of local and global impacts related to fugitive methane emissions throughout the natural gas extraction and distribution chain, as well as stress on water resources from drilling operations, including the disposal of drilling wastewater.

In a cold dose of reality for natural gas stakeholders, researchers are already studying how steam and autothermal reforming can be applied to extract hydrogen from biogas. So, have at it, you natural gas stakeholders. See what you can do to improve the technology, and then watch as somebody else applies it to more sustainable, non-fossil resources.

Anyways, much of the green hydrogen R&D activity taking place nowadays is aimed at driving down the cost of electrolysis, which refers to deploying an electrical current to pop hydrogen gas out of water, so it’s possible that New York can build its sparkling green hydrogen economy on water and electricity.

Natural gas stakeholders may be hoping that “electricity” means more room for gas power plants. Dream on, Klingon.

NYSERDA is hooking up with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to “compile the foundational, base-line information and data that will enable New York to have robust discussions and dialogue around the role green hydrogen could play in New York’s decarbonization plans,” and that discussion will be aimed at aligning the hydrogen strategy with “existing mandates for 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent zero-emission electricity by 2040.”

Whither Natural Gas In The Hydrogen Economy Of The Future?

That thing about “zero-emission electricity by 2040” leaves some wiggle room for carbon capture, but not much. Part of New York’s hydrogen announcement involves new funding for long duration energy storage technology, which could eliminate or at least sharply reduce the need for gas power plants altogether.

The idea is that the current state of battery-type energy storage only permits a few hours of peak use. To fill in for gas power plants, a storage facility needs to provide for at least a full day, and preferably more than that.

In any case, New York is not interested in anything on the market today.

“Project submissions should advance, develop, or field-test hydrogen, electric, chemical, mechanical, or thermal-electric storage technologies that will address cost, performance, and renewable integration challenges in New York State,” they specify, adding that “Submissions must only include innovative long duration energy storage technologies which are yet to be commercialized.”

Right back at you, New Jersey. Last week the state’s Board of Public Utilities greenlighted the proposed Atlantic Shores offshore wind farm, which includes a pilot green hydrogen facility in its winning bid, but it appears that New York has vaulted ahead.

Stay tuned for Round 2, whatever that may be.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Image: Renewable hydrogen is encroaching on natural gas territory (via National Renewable Energy Laboratory).


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The North Sea could become a ‘central storage camp’ for carbon waste. Not everyone likes the idea

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The North Sea could become a 'central storage camp' for carbon waste. Not everyone likes the idea

The receiving dock at the Northern Lights carbon capture and storage project, controlled by Equinor ASA, Shell Plc and TotalEnergies SE, at Blomoyna, Norway, on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Norway’s government wants to show the world it is possible to safely inject and store carbon waste under the seabed, saying the North Sea could soon become a “central storage camp” for polluting industries across Europe.

Offshore carbon capture and storage (CCS) refers to a range of technologies that seek to capture carbon from high-emitting activities, transport it to a storage site and lock it away indefinitely under the seabed.

The oil and gas industry has long touted CCS as an effective tool in the fight against climate change and polluting industries are increasingly looking to offshore carbon storage as a way to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Critics, however, have warned about the long-term risks associated with permanently storing carbon beneath the seabed, while campaigners argue the technology represents “a new threat to the world’s oceans and a dangerous distraction from real progress on climate change.”

Norway’s Energy Minister Terje Aasland was bullish on the prospects of his country’s so-called Longship project, which he says will create a full, large-scale CCS value chain.

“I think it will prove to the world that this technology is important and available,” Aasland said via videoconference, referring to Longship’s CCS facility in the small coastal town of Brevik.

“I think the North Sea, where we can store CO2 permanently and safely, may be a central storage camp for several industries and countries and Europe,” he added.

Storage tanks at the Northern Lights carbon capture and storage project, controlled by Equinor ASA, Shell Plc and TotalEnergies SE, at Blomoyna, Norway, on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Norway has a long history of carbon management. For nearly 30 years, it has captured and reinjected carbon from gas production into seabed formations on the Norwegian continental shelf.

It’s Sleipner and Snøhvit carbon management projects have been in operation since 1996 and 2008, respectively, and are often held up as proof of the technology’s viability. These facilities separate carbon from their respective produced gas, then compress and pipe the carbon and reinject it underground.

“We can see the increased interest in carbon capture storage as a solution and those who are skeptical to that kind of solution can come to Norway and see how we have done in at Sleipner and Snøhvit,” Norway’s Aasland said. “It’s several thousand meters under the seabed, it’s safe, it’s permanent and it’s a good way to tackle the climate emissions.”

Both Sleipner and Snøhvit projects incurred some teething problems, however, including interruptions during carbon injection.

Citing these issues in a research note last year, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a U.S.-based think tank, said that rather than serving as entirely successful models to be emulated and expanded, the problems “call into question the long-term technical and financial viability of the concept of reliable underground carbon storage.”

‘Overwhelming’ interest

Norway plans to develop the $2.6 billion Longship project in two phases. The first is designed to have an estimated storage capacity of 1.5 million metric tons of carbon annually over an operating period of 25 years — and carbon injections could start as early as next year. A possible second phase is predicted to have a capacity of 5 million tons of carbon.

Campaigners say that even with the planned second phase increasing the amount of carbon stored under the seabed by a substantial margin, “it remains a drop in the proverbial bucket.” Indeed, it is estimated that the carbon injected would amount to less than one-tenth of 1% of Europe’s carbon emissions from fossil fuels in 2021.

The government says Longship’s construction is “progressing well,” although Aasland conceded the project has been expensive.

“Every time we are bringing new technologies to the table and want to introduce it to the market, it is having high costs. So, this is the first of its kind, the next one will be cheaper and easier. We have learned a lot from the project and the development,” Aasland said.

“I think this will be quite a good project and we can show the world that it is possible to do it,” he added.

Workers at an entrance to the CO2 pipeline access tunnel at the Northern Lights carbon capture and storage project, controlled by Equinor ASA, Shell Plc and TotalEnergies SE, at Blomoyna, Norway, on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A key component of Longship is the Northern Lights joint venture, a partnership between Norway’s state-backed oil and gas giant Equinor, Britain’s Shell and France’s TotalEnergies. The Northern Lights collaboration will manage the transport and storage part of Longship.

Børre Jacobsen, managing director for the Northern Lights Joint Venture, said it had received “overwhelming” interest in the project.

“There’s a long history of trying to get CCS going in one way or another in Norway and I think this culminated a few years ago in an attempt to learn from past successes — and not-so-big successes — to try and see how we can actually get CCS going,” Jacobsen told CNBC via videoconference.

Jacobsen said the North Sea was a typical example of a “huge basin” where there is a lot of storage potential, noting that offshore CCS has an advantage because no people live there.

A pier walkway at the Northern Lights carbon capture and storage project, controlled by Equinor ASA, Shell Plc and TotalEnergies SE, at Blomoyna, Norway, on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“There is definitely a public acceptance risk to storing CO2 onshore. The technical solutions are very solid so any risk of leakage from these reservoirs is very small and can be managed but I think public perception is making it challenging to do this onshore,” Jacobsen said.

“And I think that is going to be the case to be honest which is why we are developing offshore storage,” he continued.

“Given the amount of CO2 that’s out there, I think it is very important that we recognize all potential storage. It shouldn’t actually matter, I think, where we store it. If the companies and the state that controls the area are OK with CO2 being stored on their continental shelves … it shouldn’t matter so much.”

Offshore carbon risks

A report published late last year by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a Washington-based non-profit, found that offshore CCS is currently being pursued on an unprecedented scale.

As of mid-2023, companies and governments around the world had announced plans to construct more than 50 new offshore CCS projects, according to CIEL.

If built and operated as proposed, these projects would represent a 200-fold increase in the amount of carbon injected under the seafloor each year.

Nikki Reisch, director of the climate and energy program at CIEL, struck a somewhat cynical tone on the Norway proposition.

“Norway’s interpretation of the concept of a circular economy seems to say ‘we can both produce your problem, with fossil fuels, and solve it for you, with CCS,'” Reisch said.

“If you look closely under the hood at those projects, they’ve faced serious technical problems with the CO2 behaving in unanticipated ways. While they may not have had any reported leaks yet, there’s nothing to ensure that unpredictable behavior of the CO2 in a different location might not result in a rupture of the caprock or other release of the injected CO2.”

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SpaceX-backed startup says preorders for its $300,000 futuristic flying car have reached 2,850

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SpaceX-backed startup says preorders for its 0,000 futuristic flying car have reached 2,850

Alef CEO: 2025 target for flying car 'actually pretty realistic'

BARCELONA, Spain — Alef Aeronautics, a SpaceX-backed flying car firm, says it has reached 2,850 preorders for its futuristic electrical vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle.

Alef Aeronautics, which is based in San Mateo, California, said preorder numbers recently hit a fresh record after previously reporting 2,500 preorders for its two-seater flying car, the Alef Model A.

Customers can access preorders for the Model A online, and to preorder, you have to put down a $150 deposit for the vehicle. Customers can pull the deposit at any time if they want to, so they’re not locked in.

Alef is planning to charge customers $300,000 for the Model A when it becomes commercially available — so on 2,850 preorders, that would give it a combined order value of over $850 million to date.

“As of today we have a little bit more than 2,850 preorders with deposits down, which makes it the best-selling aircraft in history, more than Boeing, Airbus, Joby Aviation, and most of the eVTOLs [electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles] combined,” Alef’s CEO Jim Dukhovny told CNBC.

At a price of $300,000, Alef is asking its prospective customers to part with a lot of cash. Dukhovny insists the higher price tag is needed as Alef is still a startup and isn’t making any serious money yet.

Alef Aeronautics’ Model A car, which it showed off at Mobile World Congress as a half-size model, resembles an actual car with a mesh shell protecting rotors on the inside that allow air to flow through the vehicle.

David Zorrakino | Europa Press | Getty Images

Alef is separately working on a four-person sedan, though, the Model Z, which is scheduled for launch by 2035 at a price of $35,000, matching that of cheaper-priced electric vehicles.

Alef is one of several startups attempting to make flying cars a reality. Others include Lilium, the Germany-based air taxi startup, as well as Chinese company Joby Aviation. Last year, South Korean telecom firm SKTelecom told CNBC it plans to launch a flying taxi service in partnership with Joby Aviation in 2025.

Alef is backed by the likes early Tesla investor Tim Draper and Elon Musk’s space exploration firm SpaceX.

How does Alef’s car work?

Most of the players on the market currently are building models that resemble a jet and come with wings attached to the sides, or big helicopter-like rotors.

What Alef is going for is a much more different style of vehicle. The company’s Model A car, which it showed off at Mobile World Congress as a half-size model, resembles an actual car with a mesh shell protecting rotors on the inside that allow air to flow through the vehicle.

Dukhovny calls Alef’s vehicle the “first flying car in history.” He says it’s the first because, rather than the massive drone-like designs we’ve seen in vehicles from the likes of Lilium and Joby Aviation, Alef’s looks like an actual car.

“I know that people have claimed the first flying car,” Dukhovny said. “But we always had the idea that it has to be a car, a physical car, a regular car, as you can see it’s an eVTOL, an electric car. a regular car, drive, park, look, everything as a car, and a vertical takeoff.”

Alef’s car is mainly designed to be driven on the road, but will be able to take to the skies, too.

To drive on the road, the car uses four small engines in each of the wheels, and will drive similar to a normal electric car. It has eight propellers in the front and back of the car, which spin independently at different speeds to allow it to fly in any direction.

The Alef Model A has a cruise speed of 110 miles per hour while in the air, while on the road it is limited to between 25 and 35 miles per hour.

Once it lifts off, the Alef Model A can then turn onto its side while the cockpit swivels so that the driver can continue facing forward and the car practically becomes a biplane with the long sides of the vehicles serving as the top and bottom “wings.”

Targeting 2025 launch

The Alef Model A, which weighs 850 pounds, also qualifies as an ultra-light vehicle, meaning it comes under the same legal classification as small electric vehicles like golf carts.

Dukhovny says that should make it easier for the car to pass key regulatory approvals to get the green light to launch flights in 2025.

“If everything goes right, we plan to, and if we have enough funding, if the law is at least not going to be worse, it’s going to be existing as it is, we plan to start production of the first one by the end of 2025.”

Last year, the Federal Aviation Authority granted Alef a special airworthiness certificate, allowing for limited purposes that include exhibition, research, and development of its flying car. Alef still needs to get further approval to pave the way for consumer flights.

However, Dukhovny concedes that, despite the company’s high preorder number, it’s not going to be able to match that demand straight away.

“It’s crazy how to produce 2,850 vehicles,” Alef’s CEO said. “We’re going to start slow. And when people think that’s a million of those that are going to fly over San Francisco or Barcelona, that’s not going to happen. It’s going to be very slow — one, and then more, and then more,” he added.

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Oil prices slip after OPEC+ extends voluntary oil output cuts until mid-year

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Oil prices slip after OPEC+ extends voluntary oil output cuts until mid-year

Marathon Petroleum’s oil refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

David Ryder | Reuters

Oil prices edged lower Monday after oil cartel OPEC+ agreed to extend voluntary output reductions until the second quarter, in an effort to support the short-term stability of crude markets.

Global benchmark Brent slipped 0.05% to $83.52 a barrel Monday, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures traded down 0.19% at $79.82 per barrel.

OPEC+ announced on Sunday that the 2.2 million barrels per day of voluntary output cuts that were planned for the first quarter of this year will continue into the next quarter.

OPEC+ kingpin and de facto leader Saudi Arabia said it will prolong its voluntary cut of 1 million barrels per day until the end of the second quarter, state-owned Saudi Press Agency said Sunday. Riyadh’s crude production will stand at approximately 9 million barrels per day until the end of June.

Such a move by OPEC+ might also be seen as a sign that demand prospects in the second quarter are less optimistic than the group thought.

Jorge Leon

Rystad Energy’s Senior Vice President

Russia, another OPEC+ heavyweight, will slash its production and export supplies by a combined 471,000 barrels per day until the end of June. Moscow had volunteered to reduce its supplies by 500,000 barrels per day in the first quarter. Other key producers Iraq and UAE will also extend their voluntary production cuts of 220,000 barrels per day and 163,000 barrels per day respectively, until the end of the second quarter.

“This new move by OPEC+ clearly shows strong unity within the group, something that was put into question after the November ministerial meeting, which saw Angola leaving OPEC,” Rystad Energy’s
Senior Vice President Jorge Leon wrote in a note following the oil cartel’s decision.

The extension signals “robust determination” to defend a price floor above $80 per barrel in the second quarter, he said, adding that if OPEC+ rapidly unwound the cuts, oil prices will drop to $77 per barrel in May.

“Such a move by OPEC+ might also be seen as a sign that demand prospects in the second quarter are less optimistic than the group thought in November last year,” he said.

Stock Chart IconStock chart icon

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Oil prices in the past six months.

Oil prices have been languishing in a narrow $75 to $85 per barrel range since the start of the year, in spite of OPEC+ supply cuts, persistent Houthi maritime attacks in the Red Sea artery and ongoing geopolitical risks from Israel’s war against Hamas.

—CNBC’s Ruxandra Iordache contributed to this report.

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