Hydrogen heating and cooking would cost homeowners more than $ 100,000 more over 15 years
As part of the hydrogen hype, natural gas utilities are trying to convince themselves, cities, policymakers and homeowners that they are simply going to replace natural gas with hydrogen, turning off some devices and everything will be perfect. The Scottish SGN promises to convert as many homes in Fife that switch to hydrogen.
But there is a problem. Converting a home to hydrogen would likely cost the homeowner well over US $ 100,000 in additional costs over the 15-year life of the devices if they paid for themselves, and inevitably they will.
Hydrogen is much more expensive than natural gas per gigajoule (GJ). Right now, a GJ of natural gas costs about US $ 4 to deliver to the homes where I live. In the United States, the measurement they use is “one thousand cubic feet,” and one gigajoule is 947.8171 cubic feet, so it’s roughly comparable in terms of energy. Residential gas delivered to California is apparently a little more expensive than that from Canada, around US $ 14. We will average it at $ 10 per gigajoule delivered for this purpose.
The average retail cost of hydrogen to refuel in California is $ 15.61 per kilogram, not GJ. Paul “#hopium” Martin coined a phrase, the first sin of thermodynamics, which is: “While you should not compare two types of energy just because heat, the same units have a meaning, so we are going to compare them. put in the same units and compare.
That’s for gray hydrogen, by the way, made from natural gas and dumping 8-10 times more CO2 into the atmosphere. Hydrogen does not exist in the free state. It must be manufactured. If made from natural gas, each ton of hydrogen produced also produces 8-10 tons of CO2. If made from coal, 20-35 ×. If it’s made from water using renewable electricity, it throws away 50% of the renewable energy to make and distribute it.
The wholesale price for gray hydrogen in California is currently $ 2 per kilogram, which means the hydrogen goes to the pump, the cost of the pump, and the cost of running the storage and pumps, which means in fact 8 times the cost. Lazards’ LCOE for hydrogen clearly indicates that the wholesale cost of “blue” or green hydrogen will be double or triple that of gray hydrogen. Assuming that the piping is cheaper for hydrogen in the future, we can expect the retail cost to drop to $ 10 per kg delivered, even when the wholesale cost of hydrogen doubles by due to CCS (failure mode) or electrolysis of green hydrogen, taking into account all the deviations in, most of which are detailed below.
The energy of one kilogram of hydrogen is about 0.12 GJ, so the cost of a GJ of heat delivered to homes at retail will be in the order of US $ 83. It’s about 8 times more expensive for a heat unit. With a lot of effort it might only cost 6 times as much for a heat unit, but the wholesale price of hydrogen goes up no matter how we decarbonize it, and everyone in the chain supply will have to make a profit, so I’m comfortable with 8 ×.
At the average price of $ 10 a gigajoule of natural gas, heating a home for a year would cost around $ 880. Instead, heating with hydrogen would cost just over $ 7,400 per year, or about $ 6,500 more. This is enough to pay for the heat pump in the first year, as well as the air conditioning of the heat pump and to pay all electricity costs for heating and air conditioning.
Then there are the urban gas distribution networks of public services. Hydrogen is much smaller and slicker than natural gas. Natural gas distribution networks are leaking all the time. The first major problem is that the hydrogen will leak a lot more. Substantial retrofit costs to plug many more leaks than they bother to plug today, where venting high GWP methane into the atmosphere is considered an acceptable loss. Venting the 21 times more expensive hydrogen into the atmosphere will change the economics of that very quickly.
The next problem is that the pumps in natural gas systems are made of hard steel and the hydrogen weakens the hard steel. All pumps should be replaced, although plastic piping in modern urban utility distribution systems can be accommodated. The capital costs will come from taxpayers, perhaps in the form of a special levy for a decade or two. It will probably be in excess of 8 × costs.
The next problem is that hydrogen is harder on electronics than natural gas, so most of the sensors in the system need to be replaced, as well as the technicians kit.
The next problem is that since hydrogen is much less dense, it takes 3 times more energy to push it through pipes than natural gas. It’s in the rough approximation of 8 times the cost delivered by GJ, so I’ll just say that utilities will get this taxpayer money if this nonsense ensues.
The next problem is that people who live with natural gas already live with a lot of risks that they consider normal. These include gas explosions that kill them and their families, gas leaks that simply cause fires that burn their homes, carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from incomplete combustion of natural gas that can kill them. or kill their families or just cause them serious brain damage, and finally nitrous oxides which cause indoor air pollution leading to cardiovascular problems.
Hydrogen only eliminates the risk of carbon monoxide. All other risks persist. Much careful engineering and building code work has been done to make natural gas safe for use in homes and buildings, and needs to be redone with inevitable hydrogen mistakes. Lots of bureaucracy and increased incidence of failures over a few years until this is fixed. Anyone who accepts hydrogen devices in the first two decades accepts higher total risks and possibly higher insurance costs. Actuaries will start with a higher risk assumption until proven otherwise, so probably higher premiums, but I won’t estimate them.
The next problem is that hydrogen ovens and stoves do not exist outside of prototypes. None are manufactured and sold today. None of your current gas appliances will run on hydrogen. Again, hydrogen is harder on hard steels and electronics, and the combustion characteristics are different. Running a gas stove on hydrogen would require replacing almost the entire interior of the gas stove. Running a gas furnace with hydrogen would require replacing almost the entire interior of the furnace. And while they’re at it, they might need to replace all of the natural gas lines inside your home. No one is going to renovate existing units at great expense. They will be replaced with new manufactured units because that is the only way to cut costs out of the stratosphere.
But now we are talking about brand new home appliances that don’t exist, that are not yet sold by the hundreds of thousands and that do not have supply chains. Can you imagine how much these suction cups are going to cost? My gut tells me they would be twice the cost of average current devices for a decade or two if this silly idea came to fruition. Gas furnaces cost an average of US $ 4,500, so call it US $ 9,000 for your new hydrogen furnace. Gas stoves cost an average of $ 1,000, so call it $ 2,000.
In addition to the annual increase in fuel costs of $ 6,500, you will have a capital expenditure of around $ 11,000.
Here is your choice: Pay around $ 4000 for a new heat pump, including installation. Get rid of your gas furnace and air conditioner (if you have one). If you have a gas stove, pay an extra $ 1,000 for an induction stove and an extra $ 500 for induction-compatible cookware (you probably need new pots and pans anyway). The total capital cost is $ 5,500, which is half the cost of hydrogen devices. But you get the heating, cooking, and air conditioning for that capital expense, instead of just heating and cooking.
Your heating bills might go up by $ 300 a year with the heat pump because, although they are very efficient, natural gas is absurdly cheap because we use the atmosphere as an open sewer for the heat. carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides, both of which are greenhouse gases. Your risks related to natural gas – explosions, fires, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide – disappear. Your maintenance costs are drastically reduced because you have only one air conditioning technology instead of two, and electrical appliances require less maintenance than gas appliances.
Or pay $ 11,000 for new hydrogen devices, roughly double the heat pump and induction range, and $ 6,500 more in heating costs per year for the remainder of the life of those devices. That’s over $ 100,000 more for your hydrogen over the 15-year lifespan of heaters and air conditioners than if you just went electric – 11 times the total cost of ownership.
There is no future for residential natural gas heating, and the economics of it are crystal clear, so you really have to be wondering who is trying to sell this absurd idea. And why. When gas utilities like the Scottish SGN say they are going to convert the small town of Fife to hydrogen ovens and stoves, they are trying to pretend that the brutal economic reality of the situation does not exist.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio of Pexels
Do you appreciate the originality of CleanTechnica? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician or Ambassador – or Patreon Patron.