The end will come with a whimper not a bang

charliemagpie

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There's a belief that death with be linear. That IMO is far from what will happen.

Imagine a hole in the dam. It's a trickle, and nobody cares, then it's a stream.

You can imagine what happens from there.

Cash flow is king. No cash flow, death in 90 days.

 

Crissa

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Crazy idea, but around here there are a lot of big reservoirs. I could see a logging company getting a permit to drop a giant solar array adjacent or even floating in a reservoir which processes the hydrogen on site.

I’m apparently big on random conjecture today.
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190327-the-tiny-islands-leading-the-way-in-hydrogen-power

This is why I bemoan that so much of our money went to charlatans when there were actual companies with products.

Yeah, it was hard to tell who was who, and several of the big names really dropped the ball. But could you imagine if random chance favored the working projects?

-Crissa
 

JBee

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One of the problems with diesel equipment is it often runs the motor extremely inefficiently.

If you burned the biofuel to create power then used that power to run your equipment, you could make a system that is always running at maximum efficiency
Are you talking about using methane in diesel as a hybrid type drivetrain? This is actually fairly common, the other thing that is that is super common with biogas in Germany is that nearly all of them run as CHP (Combined Heat power) in villages surrounded by the farms that produce the biomass it uses (and in particular animal manure that provides the bacterial feedstock). That means the that the methane produces electricity, but also the waste heat from the water jacket and exhaust is used for district heating as well that pushes the efficiency up over 90%.

There's a few versions that also combine a solar thermal plant together with biogas using the same heat engine for generation.

The good thing with biogas is that it is completely storable and you can use it as a peak or base load generator with no issues at all. But I don't get how hydrogen is stored long term. Has there been any breakthroughs recently at all to solve storage in a meaningful cost effective way?
 
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Ogre

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No, the problem is paying for the fuel and equipment to fuel with hydrogen. Fossil fuel hydrogen is even dirtier in the total emissions than if they just used diesel. This is due to the multiple levels of inefficiencies in the hydrogen processes. And it will cost the end users about four to eight times as much. Why would anyone pay much more just to increase emissions?

And green hydrogen would be even more expensive than fossil fuel hydrogen. So where is the advantage? The only one I can think of is the logging trucks exhaust would not be toxic but logging trucks typically operate away from population centers anyway. Eventually they will be battery electric because it will be cheaper than hydrogen or diesel.
Nobody suggested burning diesel to make hydrogen to make electricity. If they are burning diesel, they should just have a generator on site.

The whole point he is that there is a large class of vehicles which will be difficult to power because there are no chargers where they exist. All of this debate about how to service them just demonstrates how difficult this nut is going to be to crack.

Very likely we’ll see diesel excavators, tree haulers, cranes, etc for a long time.

Which is probably ok since they aren’t a huge percentage of carbon emissions.
 
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Ogre

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https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190327-the-tiny-islands-leading-the-way-in-hydrogen-power

This is why I bemoan that so much of our money went to charlatans when there were actual companies with products.

Yeah, it was hard to tell who was who, and several of the big names really dropped the ball. But could you imagine if random chance favored the working projects?

-Crissa
That’s a cool article, but brings up one of my frustrations about the web. Why are so damned many articles devoid of a publish date?

They have a comment in there suggesting huge batteries capable of powering a community do not exist. They absolutely do now. But perhaps when it was published it was correct? I don’t know because no obvious publish date. Grr

Anyhow. Good read, thanks.
 


Crissa

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That’s a cool article, but brings up one of my frustrations about the web. Why are so damned many articles devoid of a publish date?

They have a comment in there suggesting huge batteries capable of powering a community do not exist. They absolutely do now. But perhaps when it was published it was correct? I don’t know because no obvious publish date. Grr

Anyhow. Good read, thanks.
The article is from 2018.

-Crissa
 

ldjessee

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Some thoughts and opinions. I could be wrong, but also seemed on topic.

If you have power to crack water into hydrogen, why not store that electricity into a battery and use it to charge your excavator, tree cutting equipment? Why go through multiple stages to convert it, losing energy to inefficiency at every step (and more than just the charging inefficiency).

A semi trailer generator with a diesel generator set to run very efficiently to provide power to recharge electric heavy equipment? And if the price changes so that natural gas is cheaper, then a natural gas generator... But the excavator is still electric.

Why do this? because the heavy machinery will be electric, less maintenance, not having to service several large diesel engines. You just have the generator you need to worry about servicing all the time. Maybe even have a backup, one diesel,one natural gas and cost is what decides which is the primary and which is the secondary.

Also, less hydraulics, the better for maintenance as well. This I do know something about, having worked on high pressure (4,000-5,000 PSI) hydraulics, they can be a nightmare. Plus, most non-flammable hydraulic fluid is a toxic nightmare.

The only way I see hydrogen being a solution is the method of storing and transporting that has been discussed by Sandy Monroe, Plasma Kinetics (see this article
https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2021/04/plasma-kinetics-light-activated-hydrides.html). I still want to see that further a long and used for something like a semi or battery backup for a home kind of scale. Or container ship.
 
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Ogre

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If you have power to crack water into hydrogen, why not store that electricity into a battery and use it to charge your excavator, tree cutting equipment? Why go through multiple stages to convert it, losing energy to inefficiency at every step (and more than just the charging inefficiency).
Because transporting 4GWh of power as hydrogen is easier than transporting 4GWh of electricity in batteries. Much much easier. Hydrogen, diesel, or natural gas are much more energy dense than a battery.

Though it would be super interesting to see the cost of running temporary power lines versus driving a truck up the mountain daily.

A semi trailer generator with a diesel generator set to run very efficiently to provide power to recharge electric heavy equipment? And if the price changes so that natural gas is cheaper, then a natural gas generator... But the excavator is still electric.
A buddy of mine works on forklifts. Mostly propane powered ones. Sometimes his customers ask him for advice about new equipment, and (less often) sometimes they listen to him. When a forklift breaks down and becomes too unreliable they ask him what they should get to replace it and he tells them an electric forklift for exactly the reasons you suggest.

It’s really bad for his business because they are much more reliable. But often he ends up getting good deals on used forklifts he can repair himself and resell.

Equipment in the field has different problems, but I’m sure it would be a similar story. Not having a complex combustion engine pushing a complex hydraulic system would be a huge reduction in parts and increase reliability.

The only way I see hydrogen being a solution is the method of storing and transporting that has been discussed by Sandy Monroe, Plasma Kinetics (see this article
https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2021/04/plasma-kinetics-light-activated-hydrides.html). I still want to see that further a long and used for something like a semi or battery backup for a home kind of scale. Or container ship.
Like I said above, I don’t know what the solution is to this. Often what ends up coming out surprises everyone in the end.
 

Crissa

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Batteries are also heavier and more expensive than even the high compression hydrogen tanks, And they almost certainly will stay that way.

Batteries are superior than fuel cells for lots of reasons... but the bare facts is that we can make far more tanks than batteries. Always.

-Crissa
 

JBee

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Batteries are also heavier and more expensive than even the high compression hydrogen tanks, And they almost certainly will stay that way.

Batteries are superior than fuel cells for lots of reasons... but the bare facts is that we can make far more tanks than batteries. Always.

-Crissa
Thats not actually true for hydrogen storage tanks. There is no cost effective solution yet that allows you to keep your fuel for more than a week or two. Hydrogen is so small it leaks through most solids, so fabricating a battery can easily be more cost and energy effective when you consider the losses through the hydrogen production, delivery and storage systems.
 
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JBee

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You’ve gone sideways here.

We’re talking about fueling large equipment. These things get filled up with hundreds of gallons at a time, not a bucket full. I’m sure they drive up to the truck which is filled with diesel and pour it out of a nozzle.

Filling them up with hydrogen would be little difference. Instead of an open tank, you’d have a sealed pressurized tank and the delivery truck would have a compressor.



Honestly, I‘m not sure hydrogen is the solution for that either. Maybe it’ll just be a truck they drive to the bottom of the mountain with a megapack permanently mounted.

Doesn’t really matter, heavy equipment is going to be a tough nut to crack and will likely go long after everything else either way.
The big problem with heavy earth moving machinery is that unlike with cars, there's only so many ways to reduce consumption by increasing efficiency.

On a car most of the work is being done against the air in the form of aerodynamics and secondly gravity. We have solutions for aero but gravity is not easily overcome. In the case of machinery, gravity is the main energy consumer and aero is borderline irrelevant.

The point is you can design a car to do less work on the air, but how do you design a digger to do less work on the lifting the ground against gravity?

In the end you need to pay the energy for lifting work you needed to do. For example I rented a D8 dozer and drove it around clearing scrub on our 4sqmile property. With a 7m wide rake on the front that thing used some 80-100 gallons a day of fuel, pushing dirt back with its tracks proportional to the amount of force required to push vegetation and roots out of the ground with the rake at about 3mph. When it rained it was noticably harder to do.

At that speed aerodynamics, drivetrain resitance etc are trivial, but tell me how exactly do I fit 2,000kWh of batteries to a D8 to do a days work? This is where the energy density of fuels really becomes evident and why biofuels need to form a part of the sustainable solution.
 
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Ogre

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The point is you can design a car to do less work on the air, but how do you design a digger to do less work on the lifting the ground against gravity?
Fundamentally this would be more about eliminating a carbon source than making the thing more efficient. Also, eliminate large amounts of oil pollution and diesel fuel spillage in natural places. Tree felling operations end up dumping a lot of fuel, oil, and hydraulic fluid (Just personal observations dealing with a large number of these sites).

Not sure how efficient these engines are. Typically a generator can burn fuel more efficiently than a vehicle of any sort because it can run the engine at a consistent optimized speed.
 

JBee

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Typical efficiencies or large modern diesel engines are better than their car counterparts, anywhere between 30-50% for combustion and can be over 50% for fuel cell.

In the dozer scenario the engine is already running at full power, which is also max Carnot efficiency on all ICE motors. So having a hybrid won't necessarily help with that work situation. But if you're moving dirt, that normally requires a lot more reversing, and has periods of low load where a hybrid could be beneficial. In fact most dozers have faster reverse gears than forward gears because of this, to get back to the next useful push.

Dozers obviously aren't used for bulk long distance transfer of substrate though for obvious reasons, and are typically used for loosening the ground in preparation for transport or grading levels etc.

I've often considered "earthmoving" whilst doing such work and think once again, a smaller more automated approach might be much more effective and less energy intensive. If we can do it with batteries alone depends on if the work done per day is within expectations and is competitive to other methods. Mining machines are huge, and also have huge price tags when new.

The whole "traction versus work" thing applies to farming as well, and my biggest issue with customised earthmoving machinery is time of use. There is so much equity sitting around in underutilised machinery its a bit silly, so having a smaller multi-purpose automated robotrak unit with whatever tool attachment you need just makes more sense to me to get your monies worth. Just looking at huge combines that only get used once a year makes me feel giddy using that metric.

The nearest approximation I have found to a "multitool" is a Merlo Multifarmer, which is a 170HP 4t telehandler loader on the front with full Cat 3 7ton 3PT farm linkage on the rear with 150HP PTO and can tow 28 tons. We use one of these on the farm every day and I'm not giving it back, although I must admit having a electric version would probably work for most of our jobs as we typically consume under 10L per hour of fuel, seeing that it has a gearless hydrostatic drive meaning the engine RPM is not tied to wheel speed, only to overall load. (making it essentially a hydraulic hybrid just with no energy storage).

But in all of these scenarios complete supply chain and full externalities must be considered into the equation. We can produce our own biodiesel or could convert it to run off our biogas plant, which in turn comes from crop waste, and produces fertilizer and less dependency on fossil derived fertilizer, meaning our two largest input cost items are not subject to global fossil fuel pricing. That in turn means that the overall efficiency and effectiveness across the whole system chain is improved, whilst the cost sensitivity and fossil consumption is reduced to nearly zero.

Low conversion efficiency doesn't mean biofuels cannot replace fossils, and if used as a CHP they exceed anything electrical can do and are up around the 90% mark of usable energy. If you do a supply chain balance they exceed solar or wind for renewable production because they shorten the supply chain and intermediaries significantly, whilst offering secondary environmental and emissions benefits like waste disposal, processing and reuse. If done right the overall number makes it possible for biofuels/biogas to be some 2-3x better than solar PV, and with costs that can compete with brown coal. PV is a "one trick pony" in comparison.
 
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HaulingAss

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Nobody suggested burning diesel to make hydrogen to make electricity. If they are burning diesel, they should just have a generator on site.
You're right. No one suggested burning diesel to make hydrogen to make electricity. You are the first to person to bring this up. The question is why?

Maybe you are unaware that somewhere around 99% of commercially available hydrogen is cracked from fossil fuels using a very dirty process. Hydrogen from electrolysis is commercially uneconomical and can't compete.

The whole point he is that there is a large class of vehicles which will be difficult to power because there are no chargers where they exist. All of this debate about how to service them just demonstrates how difficult this nut is going to be to crack.

Very likely we’ll see diesel excavators, tree haulers, cranes, etc for a long time.

Which is probably ok since they aren’t a huge percentage of carbon emissions.
That was my point, they should continue to run on diesel until there are viable solutions in sufficient quantity. You can bet your last dollar it won't be hydrogen from electrolysis and, for the sake of the carbon emissions, you had better hope it's not hydrogen cracked from fossil fuels.

I will point out that in 1910 a lot of rural people said ICE could never replace horses because there was no place to refuel ICE cars. The 1920's fixed that in a hurry. The electrification of heavy equipment will not happen in the next 3 years on any scale but it's not the intractable problem most people seem to think and the speed it will happen at will surprise many.
 
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ldjessee

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Because transporting 4GWh of power as hydrogen is easier than transporting 4GWh of electricity in batteries. Much much easier. Hydrogen, diesel, or natural gas are much more energy dense than a battery.

Though it would be super interesting to see the cost of running temporary power lines versus driving a truck up the mountain daily.
I am glad you mentioned this, because if you had not, I was going to. I am sure in some situations, it might make sense. Temporarily putting down power. I think subsurface (couple of feet, not long term) armored/cased powerline that could be pulled back up when the 6month to 2 year logging operation is completed and the 10 or more years until it is time to come back to this area to log it again.

I am assuming a sustainable logging practice (not clear cutting, etc).

Now here is a thought... put in a clearing, run permanent powerlines to it. Setup solor covered area, tall enough to park heavy equipment under. The power lines can help provide power while the logging is operational, but when not, the powerlines help feed the solar into the grid.

Could also put up wind turbines on ridges and hill tops, if that is also viable, again having the power provided to help run the electric equipment (probably still need a battery truck or two just there to charge up overnight, etc when equipment is not being used, so the powerlines do not need to be so oversized). If you are building the infrastructure, a slight over engineered solution that provides 2 uses would be more cost effective... but would it be cost effective enough?

Once electric heavy equipment is more readily available...

It’s really bad for his business because they are much more reliable. But often he ends up getting good deals on used forklifts he can repair himself and resell.

Equipment in the field has different problems, but I’m sure it would be a similar story. Not having a complex combustion engine pushing a complex hydraulic system would be a huge reduction in parts and increase reliability.

Like I said above, I don’t know what the solution is to this. Often what ends up coming out surprises everyone in the end.
The world is a crazy place and sometimes the technology we think of as superior does not win due to other factors (ease of production, cheaper licensing fees, profitability), so I am never going to be sure what will be the winner.

But I will keep pushing for technologies that make the world better (or atleast less bad).

Also, there are many other advantages to electric equipment, such as they run quieter, usually with less vibrations, and the pollution is concentrated and can be kept some distance and better mufflers, filters, etc can be employed that would be not possible or less practical on moving equipment, but makes more sense on say a semi-trailer generator setup...

Or a locomotive... I remember several being brought into a city after a bad winter storm that knocked out a lot of power to the city. Since locomotives provide electricity for their prime movers (big electric motors), they used them as a mobile powerplant. Kept the city running.

 

 
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