Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace PDF Print E-mail

WASHINGTON — Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.

Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”

At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in. When combined with the other ways humans are damaging the environment, climate change is now pushing a growing number of species, such as the Bengal tiger, closer to extinction.

As a result, biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics, unless countries drastically step up their conservation efforts.

The report is not the first to paint a grim portrait of Earth’s ecosystems. But it goes further by detailing how closely human well-being is intertwined with the fate of other species.

“For a long time, people just thought of biodiversity as saving nature for its own sake,” said Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services,which conducted the assessment at the request of national governments. “But this report makes clear the links between biodiversity and nature and things like food security and clean water in both rich and poor countries.”

previous report by the group had estimated that, in the Americas, nature provides some $24 trillion of non-monetized benefits to humans each year. The Amazon rain forest absorbs immense quantities of carbon dioxide and helps slow the pace of global warming. Wetlands purify drinking water. Coral reefs sustain tourism and fisheries in the Caribbean. Exotic tropical plants form the basis of a variety of medicines.

But as these natural landscapes wither and become less biologically rich, the services they can provide to humans have been dwindling.

Humans are producing more food than ever, but land degradation is already harming agricultural productivity on 23 percent of the planet’s land area, the new report said. The decline of wild bees and other insects that help pollinate fruits and vegetables is putting up to $577 billion in annual crop production at risk. The loss of mangrove forests and coral reefs along coasts could expose up to 300 million people to increased risk of flooding.

The authors note that the devastation of nature has become so severe that piecemeal efforts to protect individual species or to set up wildlife refuges will no longer be sufficient. Instead, they call for “transformative changes” that include curbing wasteful consumption, slimming down agriculture’s environmental footprint and cracking down on illegal logging and fishing.

“It’s no longer enough to focus just on environmental policy,” said Sandra M. Díaz, a lead author of the study and an ecologist at the National University of Córdoba in Argentina. “We need to build biodiversity considerations into trade and infrastructure decisions, the way that health or human rights are built into every aspect of social and economic decision-making.”

Scientists have cataloged only a fraction of living creatures, some 1.3 million; the report estimates there may be as many as 8 million plant and animal species on the planet, most of them insects. Since 1500, at least 680 species have blinked out of existence, including the Pinta giant tortoise of the Galápagos Islands and the Guam flying fox.

Though outside experts cautioned it could be difficult to make precise forecasts, the report warns of a looming extinction crisis, with extinction rates currently tens to hundreds of times higher than they have been in the past 10 million years.

 “Human actions threaten more species with global extinction now than ever before,” the report concludes, estimating that “around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken.”

Unless nations step up their efforts to protect what natural habitats are left, they could witness the disappearance of 40 percent of amphibian species, one-third of marine mammals and one-third of reef-forming corals. More than 500,000 land species, the report said, do not have enough natural habitat left to ensure their long-term survival.

Over the past 50 years, global biodiversity loss has primarily been driven by activities like the clearing of forests for farmland, the expansion of roads and cities, logging, hunting, overfishing, water pollution and the transport of invasive species around the globe.

In Indonesia, the replacement of rain forest with palm oil plantations has ravaged the habitat of critically endangered orangutans and Sumatran tigers. In Mozambique, ivory poachers helped kill off nearly 7,000 elephants between 2009 and 2011 alone. In Argentina and Chile, the introduction of the North American beaver in the 1940s has devastated native trees (though it has also helped other species thrive, including the Magellanic woodpecker).

All told, three-quarters of the world’s land area has been significantly altered by people, the report found, and 85 percent of the world’s wetlands have vanished since the 18th century.

And with humans continuing to burn fossil fuels for energy, global warming is expected to compound the damage. Roughly 5 percent of species worldwide are threatened with climate-related extinction if global average temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, the report concluded. (The world has already warmed 1 degree.)

“If climate change were the only problem we were facing, a lot of species could probably move and adapt,” Richard Pearson, an ecologist at the University College of London, said. “But when populations are already small and losing genetic diversity, when natural landscapes are already fragmented, when plants and animals can’t move to find newly suitable habitats, then we have a real threat on our hands.”


The dwindling number of species will not just make the world a less colorful or wondrous place, the report noted. It also poses risks to people.

 Today, humans are relying on significantly fewer varieties of plants and animals to produce food. Of the 6,190 domesticated mammal breeds used in agriculture, more than 559 have gone extinct and 1,000 more are threatened. That means the food system is becoming less resilient against pests and diseases. And it could become harder in the future to breed new, hardier crops and livestock to cope with the extreme heat and drought that climate change will bring.

“Most of nature’s contributions are not fully replaceable,” the report said. Biodiversity loss “can permanently reduce future options, such as wild species that might be domesticated as new crops and be used for genetic improvement.”

The report does contain glimmers of hope. When governments have acted forcefully to protect threatened species, such as the Arabian oryx or the Seychelles magpie robin, they have managed to fend off extinction in many cases. And nations have protected more than 15 percent of the world’s land and 7 percent of its oceans by setting up nature reserves and wilderness areas.

Still, only a fraction of the most important areas for biodiversity have been protected, and many nature reserves poorly enforce prohibitions against poaching, logging or illegal fishing. Climate change could also undermine existing wildlife refuges by shifting the geographic ranges of species that currently live within them.

So, in addition to advocating the expansion of protected areas, the authors outline a vast array of changes aimed at limiting the drivers of biodiversity loss.


How hydrogen can change the energy landscape PDF Print E-mail

Produced from natural gas, it is the lightest and most abundant element in the universe

  Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, with Joe Kaeser, CEO Siemens, at the foundation-stone laying in Dubai of the new hydrogen facility. WAM

 In 1964, the Methane Princess tanker made the first ever delivery of liquefied natural gas (LNG), from Algeria to the UK, sparking what is now a $100 billion (Dh367.31bn) industry. This February, Dubai began constructing a “green hydrogen” pilot plant to fuel vehicles at the Expo. Can the “hydrogen economy” learn from the experience of LNG?

The lightest and most abundant element in the universe, elemental hydrogen does not occur in significant quantities on Earth. It is chemically combined in water, biological materials and other substances.

Hydrogen could be an answer to the two conundrums major oil and gas producers are facing today

Robin Mills

World fuel has gradually moved from wood which has 10 times as much carbon as hydrogen, through coal, with about one hydrogen atom for each carbon, to oil with twice as many hydrogen atoms, and natural gas with four hydrogens per carbon.

Of course, a major part of the energy future revolves around energy sources with neither carbon nor hydrogen: solar, wind, hydropower and perhaps nuclear, charging the batteries of electric vehicles.

But hydrogen could become an indispensable store and carrier for energy. It can be produced from natural gas. This process also yields carbon dioxide, contributed to climate change unless it is captured and stored. Or, it can be made by splitting water through electrolysis, with no emissions except those from generating the electricity – which can be a low-carbon method such as renewable or nuclear energy.

Interest in hydrogen has waned and waxed. George W. Bush’s administration promoted it as a diversion to avoid tackling climate change seriously, and late US senator John McCain dismissed it as a “nice little PR ploy”. It was hoped hydrogen fuel cells could power vehicles, but they have been overtaken by electric cars. Hydrogen is relatively expensive and requires bulky tanks, refuelling infrastructure is not developed, it is less efficient than batteries once allowing for generating the hydrogen, and fuel cells are costly.

But hydrogen has now returned as a key focus, as former Masdar and International Renewable Energy Agency executive Frank Wouters notes. The element has four key advantages. Firstly, it is much more energy-dense than batteries, which still carry too little charge for long-distance transport – lorries, ships and planes.

Thirdly, hydrogen can generate high-temperature heat and is a feedstock for other industrial processes, such as steelmaking. Amid a plethora of plans to make European and American economies zero-carbon by 2050, there are no current commercial processes that can decarbonise most heavy industry.Secondly, home heating in Europe, North America and increasingly north-east Asia depends on natural gas. Replacing this with electricity would tax the generation and distribution capacity in a cold winter. But hydrogen can be delivered through the existing gas network, firstly as an additive to natural gas in small quantities, later perhaps as the sole fuel.

Fourthly, electrolysing water to make hydrogen can be used to save renewable energy at times of abundance – such as solar power on a sunny but cool spring day in the Middle East – to be used in high-demand periods. Batteries are probably cheaper for storing electricity for short periods, but hydrogen could win for seasonal storage.

Hydrogen could be an answer to the two conundrums major oil and gas producers are facing today. How do they diversify their economies and exports? And how do they make the most of their massive hydrocarbon resources while tackling climate change, and not being stranded in a decarbonising world?

The MENA region has four key advantages in leading the hydrogen economy: abundant low-cost solar power; large, reasonably-priced gas resources; underground storage space for carbon dioxide captured from hydrogen production; and a geographic location ideal for reaching both European and Asian markets.

The process of making hydrogen, whether from natural gas or electricity, is well-understood. Hydrogen can be transported in modified gas pipelines, such as those existing from North Africa to southern Europe, or as a liquid in ships similar to LNG tankers. It can be used in industries and homes with some modifications, though transport is a bigger step. Japan, short of domestic energy, has targets to bring down the cost of hydrogen to about $7 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), about the current price of LNG.

To become a major part of the energy economy, hydrogen needs cost reductions, a business model, and infrastructure. This is where it resembles the early days of LNG. Abu Dhabi, in 1973, was the first Middle Eastern LNG exporter; Japan was the earliest big buyer and is still the world’s largest customer for the fuel.

Hydrogen producers, shippers and consumers have to be linked by viable commercial contracts and markets. Governments have to make a clear commitment and invest directly in early deployment and perhaps pieces of infrastructure. Along with European governments, Japan could kick-start hydrogen as it did LNG. They could mandate a certain share of hydrogen mixed into marketed natural gas, and limit carbon dioxide emissions from gas-fired power plants.

To have confidence in this approach, consumers would have to be sure the green fuel will be available at reasonable prices. Japan has already begun to engage Brunei, Australia, Norway and Saudi Arabia. Brunei was one of its earliest LNG suppliers; Australia is now by far its biggest provider. The UAE, a pioneer of LNG, carbon capture and solar power, should also be a natural partner, along with a hydrogen-curious big gas company such as Shell or Total.

The “hydrogen economy” will not just happen – it faces plenty of challenges, competitors and inertia. There is only a limited window of opportunity. Middle East countries can be inspired by history and build a new energy industry as they did before.

Robin Mills is chief executive of Qamar Energy, and author of The Myth of the Oil Crisis

Updated: May 12, 2019 02:20 PM


$2.5 trillion 'Holy Grail' found? Breakthrough discovery could lead to 100 percent recyclable plasti PDF Print E-mail

Plastic pollution in the world's oceans may have a $2.5 trillion impact, negatively affecting "almost all marine ecosystem services," including areas such as fisheries, recreation and heritage. But a breakthrough from scientists at Berkeley Lab could be the solution the planet needs for this eye-opening problem – recyclable plastics.

The study, published in Nature Chemistry, details how the researchers were able to discover a new way to assemble the plastics and reuse them "into new materials of any color, shape, or form."

“Most plastics were never made to be recycled,” said lead author Peter Christensen, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, in the statement. “But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.”


Known as poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, the new type of plastic material could help stem the tide of plastics piling up at recycling plants, as the bonds PDK forms are able to be reversed via a simple acid bath, the researchers believe.

"Poly(diketoenamine)s ‘click’ together from a wide variety of triketones and aromatic or aliphatic amines, yielding only water as a by-product," the study's abstract reads. "Recovered monomers can be re-manufactured into the same polymer formulation, without loss of performance, as well as other polymer formulations with differentiated properties. The ease with which poly(diketoenamine)s can be manufactured, used, recycled and re-used—without losing value—points to new directions in designing sustainable polymers with minimal environmental impact."

Unlike conventional plastics, the monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. (Credit: Peter Christensen et al./Berkeley Lab)

Unlike conventional plastics, the monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. (Credit: Peter Christensen et al./Berkeley Lab)

A byproduct of petroleum, plastic is inherently made up of molecules known as polymers that are composed of carbon-containing compounds known as monomers. Once chemicals are added to the plastic for use and consumption, the monomers bind with the chemicals and make it difficult to be processed at recycling plants, the researchers said.

When the plastics are chopped up in an effort to make new products, it's difficult to predict "which properties it will inherit from the original plastics," the researchers added.

Prior to the discovery, the unpredictableness of the properties had made it nearly impossible to perform what has been coined "the Holy Grail of recycling:" a "circular" material that can be used over and over again for any number of products, including adhesives, phone cases, computer cables and more.

“Circular plastics and plastics upcycling are grand challenges,” said Brett Helms, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, in the statement. “We’ve already seen the impact of plastic waste leaking into our aquatic ecosystems, and this trend is likely to be exacerbated by the increasing amounts of plastics being manufactured and the downstream pressure it places on our municipal recycling infrastructure.”

This time-lapse video shows a piece of PDK plastic in acid as it degrades to its molecular building blocks – monomers. The acid helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separate them from the chemical additives that give plastic its look and feel. (Credit: Peter Christensen/ Berkeley Lab)

This time-lapse video shows a piece of PDK plastic in acid as it degrades to its molecular building blocks – monomers. The acid helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separate them from the chemical additives that give plastic its look and feel. (Credit: Peter Christensen/ Berkeley Lab)

Though PDK only exists in the lab currently (meaning products won't be available for purchase for some time), the researchers are nonetheless excited by what they've discovered and the potential positive impact it could have.

“With PDKs, the immutable bonds of conventional plastics are replaced with reversible bonds that allow the plastic to be recycled more effectively,” Helms added. "We’re interested in the chemistry that redirects plastic lifecycles from linear to circular. We see an opportunity to make a difference for where there are no recycling options.”


Plastic reuse 

Plastic recycling figures are trending down, making breakthroughs in recyclable plastic all the more important. According to the latest publicly available data, only 9.1 percent of the plastic created in the U.S. in 2015 was recycled, down from 9.5 percent in 2014, according to the EPA.

Last month, a separate study estimated that the pollution caused by plastics in the world's oceans amounted to a $2.5 trillion problem that every country in the world has to deal with. The estimate did not take into account the impact on sectors of the global economy such as tourism, transport, fisheries and human health, the researchers wrote.

"An ecosystem impact analysis demonstrates that there is global evidence of impact with medium to high frequency on all subjects, with a medium to high degree of irreversibility," the study's abstract reads, with the researchers adding that they looked at nearly 1,200 data points to come up with their conclusions.


Despite several efforts of countries around the world to reduce or stop the use of plastic altogether, the amount of plastic in the world's oceans is increasing, and spreading across the planet.

A separate study, published in Nature on April 16, is the first study "to confirm a significant increase in open ocean plastics in recent decades," going back nearly 60 years. Researchers found a plastic bag that had been snared on Ireland's coast since 1965 and is possibly the first piece of plastic pollution ever found, according to the BBC.

That study was based off a 2015 investigation that estimated there were between 4.8 trillion and 12.7 trillion pieces of plastic entering the ocean every year.

High-Volume Hydrogen Gas Turbines Take Shape PDF Print E-mail

05/01/2019 | Sonal Patel

 In preparation for a large-scale power sector shift toward decarbonization, several major power equipment manufacturers are developing gas turbines that can operate on a high-hydrogen-volume fuel.

According to several experts, efforts by companies like Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS), GE Power, Siemens Energy, and Ansaldo Energia to develop 100% hydrogen-fueled gas turbines have recently shifted into high gear, owing in part to new carbon reduction policies worldwide that have accelerated renewables capacity. The companies—which all manufacture large gas turbines but are jostling to sell them in a diminished market—are also actively competing for a concrete footing in future markets, including those that could thrive in a hydrogen economy.

Experts note hydrogen—the most abundant and lightest of elements—is odorless and nontoxic, and it has the highest energy content of common fuels by weight, which means it can be used as an energy carrier in a full range of applications, from power generation to transportation and industry. Though it is not found freely in nature and must be extracted (produced, or “reformed”) via a separate energy source (such as power, heat, or light), the hydrogen industry is today well-established in sectors that use it as a feedstock. Increasingly, however, hydrogen is being considered the missing link in the energy transition as key technologies to produce it using renewable electricity, such as proton exchange membrane electrolyzers and fuel cells, reach technical maturity and economies of scale.

MHPS, a joint venture between Japanese giants Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Hitachi, has been especially vocal about efforts to align with Japan’s ambitions to become a “hydrogen society,” which were announced in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdown. The government-industry collaboration comprises three phases: First it will extend its current fuel cell program to help reduce prices for hydrogen and fuel cells; then it envisions the large-scale introduction of hydrogen power generation and hydrogen supply infrastructure; and finally, it would establish a zero-carbon emission supply system throughout the manufacturing process.

At CERAWeek in Houston this March, MHPS rolled out a market case for increased hydrogen use in the power sector, saying it wants to make hydrogen-fired gas turbines a key facet of a “global CO2 -free hydrogen society using renewable energy by 2050.” As MHPS President and CEO Paul Browning told POWER, while natural gas will continue its significant role to address variability from renewables, the next phase of development “will involve storage of electricity using hydrogen.” Hydrogen’s production from renewables through electrolysis—which uses excess renewable power to split a water molecule—allows for the “renewable hydrogen” to be stored and used later in a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT), he explained.

Since 1970, MHPS has fired 29 gas turbine units with hydrogen content ranging between 30% and 90%, tests that have spanned over 3.5 million operating hours. A key challenge the company grappled with was to reduce high NOx emissions associated with hydrogen combustion without compromising efficiency. Because hydrogen has a higher flame speed compared to natural gas, MHPS also sought to reduce the risk of combustion oscillation and “flashback” (backfire) in higher hydrogen mixes. One solution was to develop a “diffusion combustor” based on the company’s dry low-NOx (DLN) technology that injects fuel to air. The combustor reduces NOx using steam or water injection, but it retains a relatively wide range of stable combustion, even if fuel properties fluctuate up to 90%. Fired at 30% hydrogen, the technology can handle an output equivalent of 700 MW (in combined cycle mode with a turbine inlet temperature of 1,600C) as well as reduce carbon emissions by about 10% compared to a conventional CCGT, it said.

1. Vattenfall’s Magnum power plant in the Netherlands is shown here. Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) has verified that conversion to hydrogen-fired power generation is possible on these units. Courtesy: MHPS

MHPS is currently piloting a project to convert one of three units at Vattenfall’s 1.3-GW Magnum combined cycle plant in the Netherlands (Figure 1) to renewable hydrogen by 2023. The project in Groningen, which entails modifying a 440-MW M701F gas turbine, will refine the combustion technology “to stay within the same NO x envelope as a natural gas power plant but do it burning 100% hydrogen,” without steam or water injection, Browning said. He said 100% will likely be achieved “in the next decade.”

Still, the project is key to MHPS’s vision to provide customers with gas turbines that could be upgraded to 100% hydrogen capability, he said. A hydrogen-fired gas turbine would likely need on-site electrolysis and storage for renewable hydrogen supply, and that would require a “very low cost of electricity,” he acknowledged. “What we’re waiting for is enough renewables penetration on electrical grids to justify [installation of on-site electrolysis] to make economic sense,” he said. “California’s getting there right now, though other places have a little ways to go.” Asked how the technology will compete against advancements in battery storage, Browning said, “We think lithium-ion batteries will probably be the right choice if you want to store electricity for shorter periods of time.” The economics of hydrogen “are going to work no matter how long you store it,” he noted.

MHPS will have to contend with competition from Siemens, which estimates it could unveil a 25-MW to 50-MW hydrogen-burning gas technology within two years. As Michael Welch, industry marketing manager at Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery told POWER at the Energy, Utility, Environment Conference in San Diego this February, hydrogen could certainly compete in a renewables-heavy future because relying on batteries alone would mean taking stock of degradation owing to cycling.

 But despite millions of operating hours spent to improve hydrogen combustion by the petrochemical industry, hydrogen power currently suffers major drawbacks. Welch noted that at least 60% of hydrogen gas turbines under development by an assortment of manufacturers use DLN combustor technology, which is “a challenge because of the way gas turbines have evolved over the years.” Power conversion also needs additional equipment and water. As significantly, today, running electrolysis to produce 50 MW for one hour at a CCGT running at 50% efficiency could require 175 MW of renewable power and 3,400 kilograms (more than 14,000 gallons) of hydrogen, he said. “So, the affordability part of the equation could be an issue,” which is why hydrogen power could prove more economical as short-term (three or four hours a day) renewable support in places such as Europe, he added.

However, Siemens, which is tackling similar technical challenges concerning NOx emissions and flashback risk control, appears to have made some gains in determining the components and materials needed for high-temperature hydrogen combustion. It has also incorporated additive manufacturing for burners.

“Now, one single part can be integrated into the structure with no welds. We’ve reduced the weight and the manufacturing time by more than three-quarters, and it has enabled us to get the profiles that we want,” Welch said. “This has enabled us to basically do testing that we couldn’t before and change the science as we go along.” All these improvements allowed the team to run a water-injected turbine prototype in Germany on 100% hydrogen in mid-February, he said.

While the breakthrough is notable, Siemens’ test families of hydrogen turbines from 4 MW to 560 MW “don’t have very good dry, low-emissions technology capabilities yet, but the conventional capabilities are quite high,” said Welch.

Asked about an industrywide outlook for commercialization of hydrogen power, Welch said the initial focus will likely be on units smaller than 70 MW. Decarbonization policy pushes with a hydrogen focus could also boost technology development. Along with Japan, members of EUTurbines—an association of the entire gas and steam turbine sector in the European Union (EU)—in January committed to provide gas turbines that can handle 20% hydrogen by 2020, and 100% hydrogen by 2030.

Italian engineering firm Ansaldo Energia, which is part of that commitment, also appears to be making gains on its hydrogen gas technology. The company said combustor tests have proven 100% hydrogen is possible. It told POWER that “being able to burn hydrogen alone or in combination with natural gases, and to do it safely and efficiently, could … make all the difference” to a future where existing gas-fired plants are bound to play a role as “guarantors of grid reliability.”

The company already offers fuel-flexible advanced gas turbine combustion systems. “For example, the latest GT26 F-Class and GT36 H-Class gas turbine equipment leverages the Sequential Environmental (SEV) combustion system platform and has been designed with an unrivaled ability to burn the largest range of [natural gas and hydrogen] blended fuel mixture for new power plants being offered today,” it said. It also offers a hydrogen fuel flexibility retrofit solution for the currently installed base of F-class gas turbines.

2. A steel mill operated by the Luojing Baosteel Group Co. Ltd. in Shanghai, China, is using electricity from this power plant burning hydrogen-rich steel mill gas as a fuel. Courtesy: GE Power.

General Electric (GE), meanwhile, already offers combustion systems for both aero-derivative and heavy-duty gas turbines (Figure 2) that are capable of operating with increased levels of hydrogen. Aero-derivative gas turbines can be configured with a single annular combustor (SAC), which can operate on a variety of fuels, including process fuels and fuel blends with hydrogen, and GE says there are more than 2,500 gas turbines configured with this combustion system.

It has also developed two combustor configurations for heavy-duty turbines for higher hydrogen content: the single-nozzle, which is available on B- and E-class turbines, and the multi-nozzle quiet combustor for E- and F-class turbines. These have been installed on 1,700 turbines.

Notably, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, GE has also developed a low-NOxhydrogen combustion system based on the “operating principle of small-scale jet-in-crossflow mixing of the fuel and air streams,” it said. The advanced premixing capability is now an element in GE’s DLN 2.6e combustion system, which is available on the 9HA gas turbine.

GE also boasts several projects that use high hydrogen content. One is at the Daesan refinery in South Korea, which has operated on a 70% hydrogen fuel for 20 years using a 6B.03 gas turbine. ENEL’s 2010-inaugurated Fusina plant in Italy used an 11.4-MW GE-10 gas turbine to operate on fuel that was more than 97.5% hydrogen by volume.

Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor.

FedEx Using Fuel Cell Electric Tuggers at Albany Aiport PDF Print E-mail


Plug Power Inc., a provider of hydrogen engines and fueling solutions enabling e-mobility, and Charlatte America, a member of the Fayat Group, a manufacturer of battery-powered electric airport ground support equipment, have delivered fuel cell-powered electric cargo tuggers for use by FedEx at Albany International Airport in New York State.

The ground support vehicles, built by Charlatte America, operate using Plug Power’s zero-emission ProGen hydrogen engines. The ProGen-powered tuggers are transporting FedEx packages from the airport’s sorting facility to delivery airplanes.

The vehicles require less maintenance than internal combustion-powered equipment, the partners note. The addition of Plug Power’s ProGen hydrogen fuel cell technology enables the cargo tuggers to tow up to 40,000 pounds without stopping for up to four hours. Moreover, they require only three to four minutes for refueling.

“FedEx is committed to minimizing its environmental impact,” says Mitch Jackson, chief sustainability officer at FedEx Corp. “The inclusion of these clean, hydrogen-powered electric vehicles to our airport delivery fleet is one way we’re able to integrate responsible environmental practices in order to increase efficiency and reduce airport waste and emissions in our local communities.”

“The Plug Power fuel cell model has proven itself to be another green alternative solution to add to our product offerings for our cargo tractors,” said Rob Lamb, Vice President Sales & Service, Charlatte America.

Plug Power has a hydrogen fueling station at its headquarters in Latham, N.Y. The FedExvehicles are refueled and serviced at the Plug Power station.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office has collaborated with Plug Power, FedEx and Charlatte on the initiative.

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