With over three decades of invaluable expertise across telecom, power, and hydrogen fuel cell industries, Chris Tully brings a distinctive perspective to the realm of renewable energy. As a freelance blogger, consultant, and mentor at ANDnotOR.info, Chris empowers businesses navigating the energy transition, illuminating the potentials and challenges of hydrogen as a versatile and clean energy source.
In this insightful Q&A session Chris delves into recent technological leaps, environmental advantages, and the catalytic role of the Middle East in propelling global hydrogen economies. His vision, shared through this insightful Q&A, illuminates the potential collaborations and innovations that drive this dynamic industry forward.
#WHF: What recent advancements in hydrogen technology do you believe have the most potential to accelerate its widespread adoption as an energy source?
#Chris Tully: The advancements are seen on both the production and consumption side. On the production side there are ongoing improvements in the electrolyzer design and efficiency. This is going to reduce the cost and increase the supply of green hydrogen and make the adoption easier.
As the supply improves and cost comes down, the usage will increase. This will occur in industrial and transportation applications. The most visible new market will be in the use of hydrogen fuel cells for transportation like trucking, shipping, and rail.
#WHF: In your view, what are the primary environmental benefits that hydrogen offers compared to other renewable energy sources, and how might these advantages shape its future implementation
#Chris Tully: From an environmental standpoint, I see two distinct areas for hydrogen to stand out. One is the transition to clean hydrogen in sectors already using the molecule. Ammonia, fertilizer production, and petroleum refining will have the most immediate impact. These industries can shift from gray hydrogen to green (or blue) and immediately reduce CO2 emissions. You cannot substitute another renewable source in these applications.
The other sector which would have the most environmental benefits would be more long term and this is in transportation. High use equipment, which is primarily powered by diesel engines, are a prime market for hydrogen fuel cells. We could all breathe easier with fewer diesel trucks on the road.
#WHF: How do you envision the role of hydrogen evolving in key industries, such as transportation and manufacturing, in the next decade? What transformation or integrations might we expect to see?
#Chris Tully: In the manufacturing sector, new processes using hydrogen are evolving. One application is in the steel industry. Using hydrogen in direct reduced iron (DRI) in the steel making process is gaining interest. There are numerous projects around the globe to prove out this process and make it commercially viable.
However, in my judgment the biggest growth area will be in transportation. Specifically, the long haul, heavy duty, and last mile trucking business. There are definite advantages of hydrogen fuel cells over battery electric vehicles for these applications.
For long haul and heavy-duty trucking, the transition to batteries is not realistic. The issue is that battery electric trucks have limited range, reduced cargo space, and long recharging times. Hydrogen fuel cells trucks refuel as fast a filling with diesel, do not require any additional space for batteries, and can travel up to twice the distance as a battery electric truck. Trucks often come back to the same sites which would reduce the number of hydrogen refueling stations required.
#WHF: How could the Middle East’s shift to a hydrogen-based economy create global opportunities and drive growth, innovation, and sustainability in the broader international hydrogen industry? What specific advantages, collaborations, and advancements might result from this strategic transition in the region?
#Chris Tully: The Middle East has a geographic and industrial advantage over much of the world in a shift to hydrogen. The region is able to capitalize on the solar and wind available. Abundant renewable energy is essential for green hydrogen. And of course, there are ample fossil fuels to match with carbon capture to make blue hydrogen.
In addition, the region has expertise in the oil and gas sector that sets it apart. The knowledge base utilized in the petroleum business translates quite well into the hydrogen industry. This knowledge base is in more than just the chemistry of the molecule. The experience with engineering, building, and operating the infrastructure capable of producing and transporting hydrogen is unique to the region. The ability to process petroleum and transport it around the globe can be replicated with hydrogen, in a liquid form, or in the form of ammonia. Ammonia can act as a carrier for hydrogen, or it can be used as a fuel by itself. The transportation can be done via ship or with pipelines.
Lastly, the location in proximity to Europe allows the Middle East to stand out as an obvious supply source. Europe has a huge appetite for hydrogen in multiple sectors. Unfortunately, Europe does not have plentiful natural gas and not every part of Europe is a candidate for solar or wind power generation, making the supply of hydrogen limited on the continent. This gives the Middle East a built-in trading partner. And as Europe transitions away from petroleum, the Middle East can continue to supply energy in the form of hydrogen.
#WHF: How do events like the World Hydrogen Forum advance the global shift to hydrogen-based economies by fostering collaboration, innovation, and knowledge exchange among diverse stakeholders across regions and industries?
#Chris Tully: Events like the World Hydrogen Forum are outstanding venues to advance new technologies. This has an impact on commercial, operational, and technological segments of the industry. The commercial aspect is obvious. Getting people together offers the ability to sell products and services to new customers. This helps further the industry as a whole.
In addition, exposing different affiliates to new ideas is a catalyst for progress. Best practices in one industry may be a novelty in another.
Most importantly, bringing like minded people together offers the opportunity to develop relationships that can turn into joint ventures and other symbiotic partnerships. I see companies all across the world working on one single part of the ecosystem. Forums like the World Hydrogen Forum is where the missing pieces of the puzzle come together to create a whole.