Saturday, 30 January 2021

It's All On-Line In Manchester (3)

 Hydrogen's Hidden Horrors

We are all called upon to rejoice in the zero emissions double deck buses in Aberdeen, powered by hydrogen, the most prolific material in the universe. So before returning to Manchester, just a bit about the carbon footprint of hydrogen.

Although there is, indeed, many an oodle of hydrogen in the universe, getting it into a tank to fill the buses is a complex process. The current method is "Steam Methane Reforming" or SMR.

The extracts below come from a technical article on the process and fbb has tried to choose bits that can be understood by the average elderly bus blogger.

The carbon footprint of hydrogen production via SMR can be broken down into two parts.

Firstly, 100% of the carbon in the incoming methane is ultimately converted to CO2 (Carbon Dioxide - i.e. the nasty stuff). In the process of producing one molecule of CO2, four molecules of hydrogen (H2) are produced, with the steam contributing the additional hydrogen.

Thus, per 1 million standard cubic feet (SCF) of hydrogen produced from methane, 250,000 SCF of CO2 will be produced. There are 19,253 SCF of carbon dioxide in one metric ton, so 1 million SCF of hydrogen will produce 13 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The second part is the carbon footprint associated with the individual process units. Steam must be generated, the reactor must be heated, etc. But steam is also created when the SMR exit gas is cooled, so that helps offset the carbon burden.

Additional steps in the process create a further 6.3 metric tons of carbon.

Adding this to the carbon dioxide produced from the natural gas reactions, the total becomes 19.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide produced per million SCF of hydrogen. However, researchers noted that this is the theoretical minimum. Due to heat losses and inefficiencies, the actual number in practice in a large hydrogen plant is 21.9 metric tons.

This converts to 9.3 kilograms (kg) of CO2 produced per kg of hydrogen production. One kilogram of hydrogen is the energy equivalent of one gallon of fossil fuel, which produces 9.1 kg of CO2 when combusted.

In fbb's pea-brain terms this all means that a hydrogen powered bus is LESS "GREEN" than a diesel powered bus.

Its key advantage, however, is that its pollutants are not doing their stuff on the streets of Aberdeen but somewhere else. But somewhere else is being polluted!

Of course, it is not quite as simple as the above. There are other, less horrid, methods of hydrogen production but they are, currently, uneconomic.

Back to TfGM's Well Hidden Stuff
That inviting word "More" needs to be explored. And there, amongst a load of useless stuff, we have ...
... and a journey planner, perhaps.
"Maps" links us to the collection of Manchester area network maps. You need some knowledge of the city to find which one you want )there is no index) but fbb guessed (correctly!) that he wanted ...
... and there was our route 41.
Even the mysterious Bank House gets a mention, as does Chapel Lane.

Then there is the Manchester journey planner.
Only there isn't. We are redirected to Traveline which should, in theory, give the same answers.

Armed with our hard-won knowledge that there is a through bus from Bank House Chapel Lane, we can now use the journey planner to work out the plan for the best journey to get to MRI (Manchester Royal Infirmary) in time for our theoretical appointment.

Of course it is much easier using a proper timetable, but that, too, is so well hidden in the site which is  ...
... that we might have missed it.
For a 1400 appointment we will have to arrive at 1334, which means getting on the 41 on Chapel Lane ...
... at 1229. We can confirm this with the Traveliner journey planner.
Only there is no Bank House Chapel Lane! Of course we all know that we are looking for a departure from ...
... "Castlemere Road (nr) on Chapel Lane, Ba ..."

Remember, the timetable tells that us our 41 bus is at 1229.
But Traveline doesn't. There is no mention of the 1229 whatsoever.

Mostly, the journeys involve a fairly lengthy walk to neighbouring roads. Some journeys even invite you to travel into Manchester and CHANGE to a service 41!
The through journeys, the ones a normal passenger would choose to take, simply do not appear.

Yet again, Traveline is useless.

No doubt comment writers will opine that fbb is just choosing a "difficult" journey; or that the old man has been deliberately dense for journalistic effect (perish the thought!!!), or even that the old man is just dense.

What the TfGM site SHOULD provide is quick one click access to the information most people will want, namely

1 The timetable

2 A map of the network

3. A map of the route

4. A journey planner that plans journeys

These four should be accessible loud and clear from the "home page".  All the other stuff can be relegated to the "inside pages" and much of it could be removed completely.

Then TfGM might be making a real start on ...
The bus operator, Go North West, is a little batter. On the home page there is loads of irrelevant stuff ...
... but there is a link to a network map. Hooray!

Along the top of the home page we can click for timetables and a journey planner. Hooray!
The "timetable" is a real timetable and not a departure list. Hooray!
And, tada, the journey planned finds the through buses. Hooray!

Why it gives a different result from Traveline is a mystery which fbb cannot solve.

Of course, this improvement is only of any use if you know in advance that Go North west runs the 41.
But, be bold, be brave and battle through - because ...


 Next Weekend Variety bog : Sunday 31st January 


  1. Don't forget that Diesel engines produce particulates (nasty), whereas the Hydrogen fuel cell produces only steam as its exhaust (not harmful to human health).

    1. This is the point though... those who support hydrogen can only claim what is produced AT THE EXHAUST is better for the planet/human health, because what was produced at THE HYDROGEN PLANT is NOT so clever (carbon monoxide AND carbon dioxide), but if you don’t mention that bit it SOUNDS like it’s better, even though actually, its a close run thing whether overall it’s worth bothering with at all!!

  2. It seems a shame that FBB has once again taken a press release/news story – this time the launch of the WORLD’S FIRST hydrogen double deckers - and rather than celebrating this achievement, one which secures jobs in Northern Ireland and Scotland and demonstrates innovation, he instead instantly looks for the negative.

    It's worth remembering that this is competitively new technology and modern hydrogen powered buses are in their infancy. I don’t think Petras409 has missed the point at all. The very fact that the vehicles can be targeted for use in areas of high street-level air pollution is a significant environmental benefit in term of human health (see the case of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah). I’m also not sure if FBB’s calculations take account of the fact that hydrogen vehicles are upto 3x more fuel efficient than their diesel equivalents?

    Additionally the FBB’s argument assumes Steam Methane Reforming (or other fossil fuel methods of hydrogen production) are the end goal of this project. That is not the case. Jo Bamford and others promoting hydrogen have made it clear that the end goal is hydrogen generated through offshore wind farms (via the electrolysis of seawater), of which there is a very clear environmental benefit in terms of release of carbon dioxide. The hydrogen buses now being introduced are part of a wider programme of “proof of concept” projects (see also Neptune Energy for example) supported by Scottish and other European governments. We need projects like these if we are to move from wishful thinking to practical realisation – it’s a process not a sudden fully fledged solution.

    Additionally, FBB hasn’t considered that even if Steam Methane Reforming generates carbon dioxide, this doesn’t necessarily translate into the release of pollutants into the atmosphere. Stop-gap solutions like carbon capture & storage are available – something that cannot be applied to at vehicle exhaust pollution.

    Am I to assume – in line with the blogs masthead – that as this blog is intended to feature posts which expose failings (and, occasionally, successes!) in our public transport system, that tomorrow’s blog will look at the positives from this launch..?

    1. Ben as usual criticising fbb with little basis. If you dont like the blog dont read Ben. It's really not rocket science. Hydrogen buses are not and will not be the solution and the sooner the money is stopped being wasted on it and invested on alternatives the better. The biggest issue with hydrogen buses is the misinformation that they are clean when they are not, as fbb correctly demonstrated.

  3. Similarly, if you don't like my comments don't read K. It's really not rocket science. FBB allows comments on HIS blog, so I see no reason not to comment. Sometimes I agree with our host sometimes I don't. I think there is basis for my criticism on this subject and I've explained why above.

    I note you mention better alternatives... I'd be genuinely interested what you consider them to be?

  4. The detail of the hydrogen production for the Aberdeen project can be found in the case study linked on this page

    1. Thanks for the link anonymous. This shows the hydrogen used to power Aberdeen's buses is produced onsite by means electrolysis powered by renewable energy, so a better news story than FFB's commentary suggested.

  5. Anyone used to FBBs blog will know he does not use press releases for his own comments.
    It is clear from his comments on the hydrogen issue that he has done several searches for his blog about the issue, which is the way more people should get their facts and people in the hydrogen stable should be doing this to get their facts right.

    1. FBB's research doesn't seem to have picked up that the hydrogen used in Aberdeen is produced onsite by means electrolysis powered by renewable energy. He's talking about Steam Methane Reforming, but this is NOT how the hydrogen here is being produced. He's talking about Carbon emissions when the Aberdeen plant is a ZERO CARBON facility. If he wanted to criticise the Aberdeen project, then COST and SCALABILITY would certainly be a valid angle, but not carbon output.

  6. The point is Ben that almost every comment you post is negative and usually based on little fact but ho hum.

  7. That is your point, not "the point". I've raised a point about that FACT that hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis and there are options like CCS to mitigate the carbon emissions from SMR. I'm not sure in what world this is ho hom? FBB has copied calculations on carbon emissions based on a technology that is not relevant to the Aberdeen implementation and used this to make a negative point - one that you might say is based on little fact but ho hum.

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