🔋 Scaling electric hydrogen, with Raffi Garabedian
Hydrogen is already used as a fuel source across different sectors, especially in heavy industry. Its production is responsible for around 2% of global CO2 emissions, as 98% of hydrogen is made using fossil fuels.
We cannot simply stop using hydrogen: certain processes don’t have a credible alternative. Hydrogen is necessary in processes such as hydrogenation, desulphurisation; methanol, fertiliser and steel production. Michael Liebrich’s Clean Hydrogen Ladder below portrays well the use cases where the use of hydrogen will make most sense (and impact) as we decarbonise.
The question is: can we produce hydrogen at scale such that it combats climate change rather than accelerates it? This is what Raffi Garabedian’s company, Electric Hydrogen, is focused on. I spoke with Raffi on the latest podcast, which you can listen to here.
In order to decarbonise important segments of heavy industry, we need to make green hydrogen economically competitive.
[R]enewable electricity is now the cheapest electric resource on the planet. And that opens the possibility of producing renewable hydrogen, fossil-free hydrogen by electrolysis at a price point that is competitive with fossil-produced hydrogen. That’s a game changer, because in infrastructure industries, in commodities, price parity is what is absolutely required to incentivize a massive switch at a global scale.
Most commercially produced hydrogen is made by electrolysis. Electrolysis uses an electric current in a water-based solution to split the hydrogen and oxygen of water apart. When the source of energy for water-splitting is renewable or low-carbon, the hydrogen produced is referred to as ‘green hydrogen’. The efficiency of electrolysis is expected to reach 82–86% before 2030.
The center of Electric Hydrogen’s solution is a completely redesigned plant that pushes electrochemistry beyond its current limits. “Our innovation starts at the cell-level and extends through the full system design” [source]. As the electrolysis production plant underwent cycles of designs, builds, and tests, Raffi’s team developed a set of performance and cost models to inform design decisions. The result is a comprehensive techno-economic model for renewable-based electrolysis – the metrics which inform success are high efficiency, small footprint and ultra-low cost.
We spend a great deal of our conversation going into the technical and economic aspects of Raffi’s mission, so make sure you listen to the conversation here.
As one of the members of the Exponential View team put it, Electric Hydrogen and other startups working in this arena are “the Batman of the fight against climate change”: their work is extremely important, but mainly out of the public eye. To this point, Raffi agreed that one of the challenges
is in capturing the imagination of people who aren’t in the renewable industry. Most people don’t know where their electricity comes from and don’t really care to know. Similarly, most people don’t know or care to know where the nitrogen is fixed to produce the food that we eat. These kinds of projects are deep within the industrial base of society. It’s our job to try to elevate these discussions and make them more accessible, make them more interesting to people.