21st July 2024

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What number of methods to withstand electrification are there? What number of cognitive biases get in the best way? I’ve discovered loads of them, however not too long ago I found one other. Ports are within the enterprise of dealing with large honking plenty of gases, liquids and solids, and so are predisposed to suppose that there are going to be a number of vitality carrying molecules of their ports for use by port autos.

How do I do know this? In current months I’ve had a few nice conversations with Sahar Rashidbeigi. She is the worldwide head of decarbonization for A.P. Moller Maersk’s APM Terminals division. APM has the concessions for about 70 of the roughly 800 ports globally that deal with over US$eight trillion of containers yearly. Maersk is a globally built-in logistics firm that has a core in container delivery, however divisions like APM that deal with container logistics off of the deep blue sea as effectively.

TCO comparison of hydrogen to battery electric container ground handling vehicles from report by APM Terminals
TCO comparability of hydrogen to battery electrical container floor dealing with autos from report by APM Terminals

Rashidbeigi and her group not too long ago dropped a report, Reaching a tipping level in Battery-Electrical Container Dealing with Tools, the place but once more a complete value of possession comparability had been compelled upon them, and which but once more discovered the bleedingly apparent, that the overall value of possession (TCO) for hydrogen powered autos was quite a bit greater than for battery electrical autos.

Rashidbeigi engaged Auke Hoekstra, Program Director NEON analysis at Eindhoven College of Expertise, and his group to construct the TCO mannequin. Hoekstra based the 35 PhD analysis group to gentle the best way to zero emission vitality and mobility. I’m certain that there’s one thing he and I disagree about after operating the numbers, however I haven’t discovered it but. He and his group do rock stable work.

When Rashidbeigi joined APM after stints with McKinsey, Schlumberger, an funding fund and with a civil engineering diploma from Iran and an MBA from Harvard, she thought she was taking an implementation job. From the surface, the area is clearly one the place direct and battery electrification is the clearly apparent answer, simply as it’s in each different type of floor transportation.

The cranes and overhead gantries had been already closely electrified, plugged into the grids and the gantries that had been nonetheless operating on diesel could be tied to the grid too. The varied floor autos — flatbed vans with containers dropped onto them, straddle carriers that rolled over containers to choose them up from above and attain stackers which might be like the wrong way up fork lifts grabbing carriers from the highest as an alternative of sliding prongs underneath them from the underside — had been all within the candy spot for electrification. As a civil engineer, Rashibeigi checked out prime speeds of 50 kilometers per hour, brief distances, flat and totally paved surfaces and the requirement for high-torque and like everybody else leapt to the conclusion that battery electrical autos could be the one actual answer price contemplating.

And but, two years into her function, she’s launched a report the place the primary six pages are spent outlining the bleedingly apparent once more, with extra money and time wasted redoing TCO research which were performed to demise. She had her group needed to write a hydrogen FAQ and a set of hydrogen questions for the executives and groups who ran APM ports globally, enabling them to fend off the droves of individuals pushing for hydrogen or by-product fuels with easy questions on long-term scaled prices with out subsidies.

What induced this? One of many causes Rashidbeigi and I do know one another is as a result of she reached out to me early this 12 months to ask what was driving this clearly odd habits round hydrogen for vitality and transportation. She’s STEM and enterprise instances literate from schooling and profession, so it’s apparent with out a lot problem in any respect to see that hydrogen simply isn’t efficient, environment friendly or cheaper than extra instantly electrifying, and she or he was baffled on the insistence of so many who it needed to be thought-about.

As I mentioned to her, there have been a number of overlapping teams that shared frequent motivations that deeply biased their considering. The fossil gasoline business is the geological hydrocarbon business, and that hydro is hydrogen. They clearly know that hydrogen for vitality is an financial nightmare, with inexperienced hydrogen requiring way more renewable electrical energy than we’ve on the earth at this time. Additional, they knew that blue hydrogen would get a number of governmental cash to seize the CO2 and put it again underground, furthering fossil gasoline subsidies. They knew that blue hydrogen would possible all the time be cheaper, even when a lot much less environmentally pleasant, than inexperienced hydrogen, and so the one supply of hydrogen for vitality could be blue hydrogen. Additionally they know that with hydrocarbons, splitting off the carbon won’t solely value cash, however remove loads of the vitality within the fossil gasoline. Within the case of methane, 45% of the vitality comes from the carbon in it. Blue hydrogen is a lose lose proposition for vitality for everyone besides the fossil gasoline business. for them it’s a win-win.

As Michael Liebreich says, they’ll’t lose by pushing hydrogen for vitality. Both they delay actual decarbonization by one other decade, and they’re succeeding effectively in that. Or they get governments to offer them some huge cash to construct and function carbon sequestration applied sciences on prime of hydrogen manufacturing services. With out blue hydrogen being a serious supply of vitality, the worth of fossil gasoline agency’s reserves plummets. That cliff is coming.

Enter the bankers. The companies closely into offering loans and fairness for the fossil gasoline business are usually populated by STEM-illiterate finance varieties. Nothing fallacious with that, however they rely on the fossil gasoline companies for STEM literacy and what is going to work. They usually actually don’t wish to consider that the fossil gasoline companies’ funds are on quicksand as a result of if they’re, the banks go down with them, or no less than the particular bankers they work with. They’re extremely motivated to consider the story the fossil gasoline business is pitching.

Equally, governments with excessive fossil gasoline royalties like Norway, Canada, Australia and the USA are simple pickings for the fossil gasoline business’s story. They don’t need the direct and oblique GDP contributions to go away. They don’t need the entire fossil gasoline employees to be out of labor. They don’t need the individuals who feed, dress and entertain the fossil gasoline employees to run wanting clients. And politicians are regularly many nice issues, however STEM literacy is nowhere within the requirement set. Leaders like Angela Merkel along with her PhD in quantum chemistry are radical outliers, not the norm.

Then there are the industries which rely on utilizing fossil fuels, most notably those that construct and promote inside combustion engines of varied descriptions. If hydrogen or artificial fuels derived from hydrogen aren’t dominant winners within the decarbonization sweepstakes, their mental capital is nugatory. I’ve handled folks from Daimler, MAN, Bosch and Wärtsilä now who’re all struggling to push the hydrogen rope uphill as a result of in any other case their careers, their firms and doubtless their retirement are in danger.

However after talking along with her once more not too long ago, I’ve so as to add one other group to my record of motivated thinkers: port organizations and the folks in them. As she shared with me, the idea she handled time and again was that there could be big tonnages of decarbonized energy-carrying liquids and gases — inexperienced or blue hydrogen, ammonia, methanol or one thing else — flowing by way of and saved in ports, so why not use a fraction of them to energy port gear?

I’ve handled a few main delivery issues with massive bulk delivery divisions. They aren’t anticipating large volumes of replacements for coal, oil and pure fuel to magically seem, though they’re undoubtedly hopeful. As an alternative, they’re making an attempt to determine what they’re going to do within the coming years. One engaged me to help them with strategic choices for 2030. As I famous earlier this 12 months, just one new very massive crude service is on order in 2023. The delivery business has discovered that large volumes of bulk molecules are going away.

However port folks apparently aren’t as conscious of this. Given the sheer quantity of hype associated to hydrogen and the reactive sheer quantity of hydrogen TCOs that make it clear it isn’t economically viable, it’s fairly simple to have affirmation bias overwhelm the cognitive dissonance of stories like APM’s.


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