By Samuele Furfari.
After adopting a hydrogen strategy to do like everyone else, the ecologist Tinne Van der Straeten, Belgian Federal Minister signed on November 3, 2021 a memorandum of understanding with Namibia to produce hydrogen named green because produced by electrolysis of water using solar photovoltaic electricity, hydrogen which will be transported to Belgium. Ecocolonialism is the modern form of colonialism.
It is understandable that the Minister, incidentally a historian, is not in a position to inquire about and learn the many technical questions underlying this project and that she is therefore content with sympathetic ideology, but her entourage should have know them a minimum so as not to ridicule his minister and beyond the whole of the Belgian government.
Belgium runs behind Germany
To begin with, everything – EVERYTHING – that is currently being said about hydrogen has been thought out, reflected on, researched by the experts of the Joint Research Center of the European Commission based in Ispra since 1959. In my book The hydrogen utopia, I retrace all this research by the best European experts with sufficient funds in order to find, if it were possible, solutions. The many-thought-out hydrogen industry is stillborn. But perhaps the minister’s young entourage does not know.
This move is nothing but the blind race behind theEnergieWende German. Mrs Tinne Van der Straeten’s German colleagues have resuscitated this old woman from hydrogen, because they know that variable and intermittent energies (wind and solar) never allow them to do without both coal and nuclear power. As a result, we have to push natural gas which produces “blue” hydrogen. Those around the minister know very well.
Talking about hydrogen is the latest find for politicians to believe that they have mastered the technique by promoting a clean product ” whose combustion produces only water According to the slogan of an automobile manufacturer; this reference is particularly misplaced insofar as the energy efficiency of a battery-powered electric car is three times that of a hydrogen car.
We would like to know the price of hydrogen produced in Namibia; in several recent publications, with my Italian colleague Alessandro Clerici, we show in a article published by Science-climat-l’énergie that the production of so-called green hydrogen is an economic aberration, because the production cost is exorbitant. Even from solar in the United Arab Emirates the production cost in 2030 would be 2 euros / kg with a very high electrolysis efficiency of 69%, a Reduced price of 8% and a CAPEX of 450 euros / kW. All of this is documented in the scientific literature. But when you do politics, it hardly matters, much less in the land of surrealism. It suffices to observe the policy followed with regard to nuclear power stations to be convinced of this.
We would like to know what is the cost of the hydrogen delivered to the port of Antwerp, the petrochemical center which really needs this noble molecule. Besides, why must he start by decarbonizing heavy industry when the main use of hydrogen is the production of ammonia and the depollution of petroleum products in Antwerp? But undoubtedly there are no chemical engineers in the entourage of the Minister.
Transporting hydrogen is not like transporting natural gas. It is much more complicated because of the chemical nature of the molecule. This question of hydrogen transport has already been studied in all its facets by European officials in the research mentioned above. For example, in order to import into the EU hydrogen that should have been produced by the abundant hydroelectricity of Quebec, a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Canadian province and the European Commission has was signed in 1988. Calculations showed that the solutions considered were impracticable: 54% energy loss due to the chemical transformation of toluene into methylcyclohexane in the Canada-European Union direction, and vice versa. In addition, transporting 92 kg of toluene empty to transport 2 kg of hydrogen is obviously an aberration. As for the hydrogen alternative, I dare not imagine that this has not been considered. But perhaps the minister’s entourage has not read the mentioned book which explains all this.
The minister explains that half of the hydrogen remains in place in Namibia. If it is to use it in the production of fertilizers to feed the population, we can rejoice, since this is an essential use of hydrogen. But they could very well also produce at a lower cost starting from natural gas, the energy of the future, because it would cost them much less. But perhaps the Namibian minister’s entourage followed the Belgian surrealist advice.
The Belgian government explains that this hydrogen is necessary for the Belgian heavy industry producing “Steel, cement, aluminum and glass”. Aluminum? While Belgium does not produce any. Science-climate-energy published an article Russia explaining that the too high price of electricity in the EU has outsourced aluminum production for the greater benefit of China (57% of global aluminum production) and of which they do not want to green their energy production (which explains the absence of their leaders at COP 26), as for the use of hydrogen to produce in hydrogen it is a shortcut, because it is only for the ‘calcination step and not for the electrolysis that research is hardly mentioned by the aluminum industry. Greening the steel industry? The minister’s advisers may not have read published article by Bernard Mairy in a newsletter of the European Society of Engineers and Industrialists on this subject … Did they only calculate it to check whether it was not more economical to produce these products on site since it was necessary to transport raw materials? heavy and dangerous hydrogen? This is also sustainable development.
When researchers at the European Commission’s Joint Research Center worked on hydrogen, it was to do so from nuclear electricity, the bête noire of the Belgian minister. My calculations with Alessandro Clerici Published by Science-climate-energy have shown that the only way to limit the costs of producing hydrogen – but still more expensive than from natural gas – is with electricity produced by existing nuclear power plants. The production of hydrogen by electrolysis from Belgian nuclear electricity – without the risks of transport and geopolitics – would cost a third! But it is taboo! The minister’s hated of nuclear energy cannot be the solution for her to the point that against all logic she insists on closing nuclear power plants.
Last point, kept for the end, because it is the most shameful. In 2019 according to the World Bank 55% of the population of Namibia is connected to the electricity grid. And like everywhere in Africa, the electricity system is very unstable which causes recurring power cuts (the main source for the production of electricity for the wealthy in Africa is the diesel which powers the domestic generators). How can we even think of going to produce hydrogen for the sake of a surrealist country, in this case Belgium, in a poor country? This is as outrageous as the crazy German idea of the Desertec project to generate electricity in the Sahara to be transported to Germany. The ethical and economic failure of this project was not enough for Germany, which plans to produce hydrogen in Morocco. Is it because Namibia is its former colony that Germany is giving way to Belgium?
The European Commission – always ready to copy Germany in his hydrogen strategy of July 7, 2020 dared to propose eco-colonialism by hydrogen in Africa, but fortunately the European Council of 11 December 2020 refused to bury this ethical fault.
If we want Africa to develop, a choice must be made first: to provide the continent with abundant and cheap energy production.
An article from November 5, 2021 which quotes me during the conference “The African paradox”, held on June 10 at the Military School in Paris, very aptly recalls:
We Europeans consume 6100 kWh / year per person, and Africans 530 kWh / year per person, or 12 times less. In addition, we know that if the African population increases significantly in the next few years, it will have more energy.
Surrealist Belgium would prefer to capture the electricity of poor Africans. Is ecocolonialism the new Belgian colonialism?
Samuele Furfari’s latest work is Ecologism. Assault on Western Society (VA editions).