These Danish Companies Plan to Decarbonize Transportation
By Johnny Wood
A group of Danish companies are joining forces to build one of the world's largest facilities producing synthetic fuels. The unique partnership aims to help decarbonize the country's transport sector by manufacturing sustainable alternatives to fossil-based fuels like gas and diesel.
Participating companies include many of Denmark's key transport and logistics players: Copenhagen Airports, A.P. Moller – Maersk, DSV Panalpina, DFDS, SAS and Ørsted. The vision includes generating hydrogen, an emissions-free alternative fuel, using electrolysis powered by renewable energy, as well as synthetic fuels for sectors which currently have limited low-carbon fuel options (producing methanol for the shipping or e-kerosene for aviation).
Fully scaled up, the finished facility in 2030 would have capacity to deliver 250,000 tonnes of synthetic fuel each year, to power buses, trucks, maritime vessels and aircraft, reducing annual carbon emissions by 850,000 tonnes.
As well as positioning Denmark at the vanguard of sustainable-fuel technology, the project could create numerous jobs and establish a mass-scale clean fuel model for others to follow.
In the project, hydrogen will be produced using electrolysis, a process that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.
What electrolysis looks like. U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
When an electrolyzer is powered by renewable energy sources like offshore wind, the hydrogen produced is emissions-free. Unlike fossil-based fuels like gas or diesel, when hydrogen combusts it doesn't produce carbon dioxide emissions.
Global demand for pure hydrogen, 1975-2018. IEA, Paris
Although still at the planning stage, the entire Danish project will be powered by renewable energy sources, like offshore wind, and comprises three phases.
The first phase involves constructing a 10MW electrolyzer producing clean hydrogen to fuel buses and trucks, which could be operational by 2023. By phase two, the electrolyzer facility will increase to 250MW, and hydrogen will be used to produce renewable methanol to power maritime vessels and renewable jet-fuel for aviation. This is done by reacting the hydrogen with carbon dioxide captured from sources in Copenhagen.
The final phase will upgrade electrolyzer capacity to 1.3GW – making the facility one of the largest of its kind in the world. Given the current plans, this could be fully operational by 2030.
This sort of industrial scale is key to bringing down the cost of sustainable fuels – and meeting climate targets, like Denmark's moves to cut carbon emissions to 70% of 1990 levels by the end of the decade.
The group behind the project believe that to be competitive the production of these fuels will need to see similar cost reductions as offshore and onshore wind and solar.
Falling cost of renewables. IRENA
But challenges remain. The COVID-19 crisis has paused some countries' efforts toward renewable energy. Resulting economic downturns could create barriers to the types of investments needed to make these shifts a reality. Additionally, as the IEA explains, a broad portfolio of clean energy technologies will be needed to truly decarbonize all parts of a country's economy.
As part of its Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials platform, the World Economic Forum has set up the Accelerating Clean Hydrogen initiative to help overcome these challenges by helping forge new collaborations to scale clean hydrogen.
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
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The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
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