Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Northern Territory to trial off-grid system making hydrogen from 'water from air'

Aqua Aerem water capture (Source: Aqua Aerem)

In many arid areas, such as in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia, there can be lots of sunshine but a scarcity of water. So at Tennant Creek, NT, there is to be a trial to test the making of hydrogen from water coming from the atmosphere. 

The patented Aqua Aerem system will extract water (H2O) from the atmosphere. Then 'green hydrogen' is made by using solar-powered electrolysis to split this water into hydrogen and oxygen. 

Green hydrogen can be made onsite anywhere in the world using small or larger-scale electrolysers but needs a good supply of water. Green hydrogen made with solar energy can be stored and used when needed including at night and on cloudy days.

After the 12-week trial, it is intended that the hydrogen be used to power the Tennant Creek Power Station which is currently powered by gas with diesel back up (both of which have to be trucked in for 200 kilometres). All going well, this town, in a low rainfall area, will have its own source of power. This off-grid system of local power could be very useful in many isolated desert communities and industries, such as mining, and could also provide power for hydrogen vehicles.

Further reading: 

- Northern Territory to trial hydrogen made with 'water from air'. RenewEconomy, February 24, 2021. 

- Aqua Aerem: water from air technology

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

U.S., UK and EU to end public finance for fossil fuels

Coal-fired power plant (Source: change.org)

In late January, President Biden put out an executive order which directs federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, including coal, and to spur "innovation, commercialisation, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure" (CleanTechnica). Biden has signalled that part of his administration's focus will be cutting off international public finance for new fossil fuel projects (Coal Wire).

This announcement from the United States (U.S.) comes on the heels of similar commitments from the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). For example, it is estimated that the U.S. directs fossil fuel subsidies of around $20 billion per year of which 20% goes to coal and 80% to natural gas and crude oil. The EU fossil fuel subsidies are estimated to be around 55 billion euros annually (CleanTechnica).

If the US, UK and EU join forces to end the tens of billions of dollars per year in public finance for fossil fuels internationally they can work together to make this a reality by the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow this November (Oil Change International). This is huge!

References: 

- CleanTechnica: Biden orders end to fossil fuel subsidies, promotes equity for underserved communities, January 28, 2021 

- Coal Wire Editorial, 354, January 29, 2021 

- Oil Change International: http://priceofoil.org/2021/01/27/biden-order-international-finance/

- Biden's climate agenda: is this the beginning of the end for fossil fuels? BBC News, January 31, 2021.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Plants accumulating valuable metals, like nickel, can be farmed

This shrub oozes a green sap rich in nickel (Source: New Scientist)

Mining for metals is very destructive and expensive. For example, New Caledonia in the Pacific has rich deposits of nickel and its land has been ravaged by strip mining of the metal. However, some plants accumulate high concentrations of metals, such as nickel, possibly as a defence against pests. These plants are called hyperaccumulators and can be used to produce metals, perhaps reducing the need for mining. 

Nickel is an important metal for the making of steel and is used in many lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles, phones and other consumer items. Demand for nickel and other metallic elements is expected to surge as they are needed for electric vehicles, wind turbines, magnets, lasers and other crucial technologies.

Hyperaccumlators have been found in areas where volcanic eruptions have brought the softened Earth's mantle, rich in metals, to the surface as ultramafic rock. The resulting soils have produced plants that accumulate metals such as cobalt, arsenic, manganese, zinc, nickel and other rare earth elements. 

As a result of finding these plants, farming has commenced and it is called agromining. Metal farms are now springing up in China, Europe and Malaysia. The ultramafic soils are poor for other crops, so are now given a more profitable use. In Europe, the nickel hyperaccumulator plant is related to kale. It is harvested, baled and burnt to release a nickel rich ash. The heat from burning is used to heat surrounding homes. The return per hectare is much greater than that for wheat.

Hyperaccumulator plants can also be used to rehabilitate old mining sites, such as in New Caledonia, as it is difficult to grow other plants there. Also field trials have been set up to test agromining production on old mining sites in China.

For more information see: How to grow metal. New Scientist, January 9, 2021, No3316, pp42-5.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

How can we avoid buying products with palm oil ingredients?

 

Palm Oil Free face cream (Photo Julie May)

The repeated removal of tropical jungle to plant oil palms (Elaeis guineensis) for palm oil has reduced the habitat of many threatened species, in particular the Orangutan in South East Asia. Unfortunately (or fortunately for some) the large palm fruit is rich in oil which makes it a cheap oil to harvest.

Over the last few years I have been trying to buy products that do not contain palm oil but it is very hard to know which ingredients come from palm oil. I look for products that say they are 'palm oil free' but there are not many of those and it is often said that palm oil is in almost everything! See WWF webpage below for a general list of products containing palm oil.

Well thanks to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), there is a list of ingredients that come from palm oil. Some are common ingredients that can come from other plants such as vegetable oil, vegetable fat, sodium lauryl sulphate and others, so further research is needed or the producing company contacted. Other ingredients are obviously from palm oil. The WWF also suggests looking for the sustainably produced palm oil symbol on products (see webpage).

Here is the WWF's list of ingredients coming from palm oil:

INGREDIENTS: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol. CONTAINS: Palm oil (World Wildlife Fund).

For years I have been unknowingly using face creams that contain one or two palm oil ingredients, so I decided to try to find one without. From Coles in Australia, I found the Australian made Sukin pictured above. It has a long list of ingredients but does not contain any of the above. There are other plant oils included such as from: sesame, cacao, rosehip, macadamia, jojoba, argan, candelilla, baobab, acai, hibiscus, goji, tangerine, mandarin, lavender and carrot oils. Vegetable protein is listed but possibly not from palm oil as oils/fats do not contain protein.

For more information see the WWF webpage at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Japan releases plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050

 

Source: RenewEconomy

Recently Japan released its plan for reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The government is to give tax incentives and other support for investment in green technologies and predicts that this will boost its economy. The plan is to include at least these developments:

 - To have all new cars to be electric, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell driven by 2035 with a ban on the sale of fossil fuel driven cars. 

- To research into reducing the cost of batteries.

- To increase offshore wind power to 45 gigawatts by 2040.

- To bring renewable power to 60% by 2050.

- To be less reliant on nuclear power and have it more stable.

- To have thermal power plants with carbon capture technology related to carbon cycling and not storage underground. That is by using captured CO2 to produce synthetic fibres or to fortify concrete.

- To have nuclear and thermal power at a reduced 30-40% of the nation's electricity demand.

- To have all new buildings and houses built with zero emissions technology by 2030.

- To use green hydrogen and ammonia as fuels for gas turbine power generators and for fuel cells to power heavy vehicles and all sea-going vessels by 2050. (Japan has already launched its first hydrogen-carrying ship which is importing hydrogen from Australia.)

References: 

- Japan sees electric cars, offshore wind as keys to net zero economy. CleanTechnica, December 26, 2020. 

- Japan's plan to go carbon-neutral by 2050. The Globe and Mail, December ~28, 2020. 

- Japan unveils green growth plan for 2050 carbon neutral goal. YahooNews!, December 25, 2020.  

- Mitsubishi Group project on CO2 injection into concrete approved for grant by NEDO. GlobalCement, August 5, 2020. 

- Japan adopts green growth plan to go carbon free by 2050. SeattlePI, December 25, 2020.