Technology Watch / Development

Tech watch and development projects

Understanding technology trends, predicting their commercial potential is essential for corporate planning. Netlab offers “Tech Watch” studies on subjects of interest to our clients, the budget for such studies is between 10,000 to 20,000 €.

Hydrogen, the new energy vector

In popular terms hydrogen is replacing natural gas. This simplistic view neglects the cost of producing hydrogen by environmentally acceptable methods, such as electrolysis or steam reforming of natural gas with the resulting CO2 being stored underground in abandoned gas deposits preferably off-shore. Pyrolysis of methane is another route which is pursued by countries with large natural gas reserves such as Russia, Canada, USA and other countries. In this case the resulting carbon is deposited in abandoned mines and awaits graphitization within the next millions of years or used industrially.

The graphic by Prognos and modified by Netlab illustrates the hydrogen production cost evolution, in red a cost level which is politically envisages but economically not practical; the blue line shows hydrogen production costs from nuclear power (in future fusion).

It is a general consensus among techncology experts that nuclear fusion (when industrially available) would further reduce cost of electricity so that electrolysis could become the dominant production technology for green hydrogen.

Renewable energies such as wind, solar, hydro are dependent on weather conditions, with the on-going climate change these sources become unpredictable.

Netlab carried out a technology survey interviewing 7 TSO (gas transport operators) and 7 DSO (gas distribution operators) on replacing natural gas by hydrogen. The 14 companies are testing refurbishing existing gas transport and distribution pipelines for hydrogen delivery at length between 1 to 50 km. Subsequently network lengths up to 1000 km will be put in operation by 2030 delivering hydrogen to industrial clients and blends (methan-hydrogen) for home heating. New pipe materials are being considerd in sections where refurbishing is not recommended. The main bottleneck remains however the procurement of green or blue hydrogen at acceptable costs in stable and large quantities.

Review and forecast of hydrogen production according to technology; sources: Statista, Grand View Research, Bloomberg and interviews conducted by Netlab; the present time frame 2015 to 2025 can be considered as start of hydrogen as energy vector

The 14 companies interviewed by Netlab are refurbishing existing gas trasnsport and distribution networks for hydrogen delivery at pipeline lengths between 1 to 50 km. Subequently length up to 1000 km will be put in operation by 2030 for industrial clients delivering pure hydrogen and blends for home heating via distribution grids. The main bottleneck remains the availability of green or blue hydrogen.