Tag Archives: Sustainability

Airship’s return can boost hydrogen economy

For a sustainable world, aim high and try some abandoned technology: the airship. It could be the latest, coolest way to deliver the hydrogen economy.

LONDON, 7 August, 2019 − The airship could be on the way back. Tomorrow’s fuel could be delivered at all-but zero carbon cost by the ultimate in high-technology supertankers: vast dirigibles, sailing round the world at stratospheric heights on the jet stream.

Enormous balloons or airships more than two kilometres in length, laden with hydrogen and an additional burden of cargo could, according to new calculations, circumnavigate the northern hemisphere in 16 days. They could, on route, deliver their heavy goods, and at the same time transfer 60% or even 80% of their hydrogen in gas form.

And then, the holds empty, the same airship could float back home in the same direction on the jet stream with the remaining hydrogen to provide the necessary lift, for another trip.

Transport accounts for almost a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions generated by humankind: marine cargo delivery accounts for at least 3% and is projected to grow.

“Cheap and clean transportation of hydrogen would be convenient for the implementation of a global hydrogen economy. This would ultimately promote sustainable development on a global scale”

But as city authorities and inventive motor engineers and laboratory ingenuity around the world have already demonstrated, hydrogen can serve as a combustion fuel. And as solar and windpower investors have already found, surplus renewable energy can be stored as hydrogen, if the unwanted power is used to apply electrolysis to water. And that could be a cue for the return of the airship.

Dirigible development more or less ceased in 1937, when the Hindenburg caught fire and crashed in New Jersey: hydrogen is highly flammable. But a new study of the possibilities of lighter-than-air machines in the journal Energy Conversion and Management: X suggests that safety is now less of a problem.

With advances in computing and communications in the last eight decades, and vastly more accurate weather observation systems, such ships could be fuelled, flown, guided, landed and emptied entirely by robotic control. In effect, the hydrogen would provide the lift, the permanent stratospheric winds would provide the propulsion; in emergency the cargo would also provide the additional fuel.

Julian Hunt of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and colleagues did the sums.

Big is beautiful

The Hindenburg class airship was 245 metres in length. Tomorrow’s hydrogen bulk carriers could be ten times that. Big here is beautiful: a tenfold increase in length would yield a thousandfold increase in volume at the cost of only a hundredfold of the fabric in which the hydrogen is enclosed.

One of those 2.4km giants could be loaded with 3,280 tonnes of hydrogen, lift it to 15km, and glide with the jet stream on a one-way route around the hemisphere. Assuming such a behemoth could make 25 deliveries a year, a fleet of 1,125 lighter-than-air supertankers could deliver enough energy stored in the form of hydrogen to account for a tenth of the global electricity consumption.

The combination of vast bulk carrier (the same cargo could also be transported in a monster balloon, the scientists argue) and a free ride at high altitude carries additional possibilities, they say. Hydrogen to be liquefied must reach a temperature of minus 253°C. Temperatures in the stratosphere can get as low as minus 70°C: altitude makes the process more economical because the fuel would already be at minus 60°C when it landed.

Hydrogen can also be used as fuel for landing and lift-off and course changes, but a big enough airship could also carry solar arrays to exploit the available sunlight. Hydrogen when burned to produce power also delivers nine times its weight as water: sprays of water at high altitude could be used to trigger the complex process that ends in rainfall over drought-stricken farmlands.

Slow but sure

But the researchers see the real bonus simply as a delivery system for hydrogen without the need to liquefy it (a process that consumes about 30% of the available energy of the hydrogen). Delivery might be slow compared to air freight, and always be in the direction west-to-east, but it would outpace most marine shipping – and a dirigible could load at, and deliver directly to, regions far from the coast: from Denver in the US to Islamabad in Pakistan, the researchers instance.

There are problems to overcome: wind and storm stresses could create real problems for structures of such size. Descent and landing could be problematic. But lighter-than-air travel comes with its own economies. Dirigibles are already being revived for a number of commercial uses.

And that’s not all a really vast airship could offer: a dirigible could deliver supplies to space, to be fired into the emptiness by pressure gun. Or a doughnut-shaped airship in the stratosphere could support a spaceship at its centre of gravity, to become the launch pad for its final lift-off.

Above all, the authors say, “cheap and clean transportation of hydrogen would be convenient for the implementation of a global hydrogen economy. This would ultimately support the widespread adoption of intermittent renewable energy technologies, such as solar and wind, and promote sustainable development on a global scale.” − Climate News Network

For a sustainable world, aim high and try some abandoned technology: the airship. It could be the latest, coolest way to deliver the hydrogen economy.

LONDON, 7 August, 2019 − The airship could be on the way back. Tomorrow’s fuel could be delivered at all-but zero carbon cost by the ultimate in high-technology supertankers: vast dirigibles, sailing round the world at stratospheric heights on the jet stream.

Enormous balloons or airships more than two kilometres in length, laden with hydrogen and an additional burden of cargo could, according to new calculations, circumnavigate the northern hemisphere in 16 days. They could, on route, deliver their heavy goods, and at the same time transfer 60% or even 80% of their hydrogen in gas form.

And then, the holds empty, the same airship could float back home in the same direction on the jet stream with the remaining hydrogen to provide the necessary lift, for another trip.

Transport accounts for almost a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions generated by humankind: marine cargo delivery accounts for at least 3% and is projected to grow.

“Cheap and clean transportation of hydrogen would be convenient for the implementation of a global hydrogen economy. This would ultimately promote sustainable development on a global scale”

But as city authorities and inventive motor engineers and laboratory ingenuity around the world have already demonstrated, hydrogen can serve as a combustion fuel. And as solar and windpower investors have already found, surplus renewable energy can be stored as hydrogen, if the unwanted power is used to apply electrolysis to water. And that could be a cue for the return of the airship.

Dirigible development more or less ceased in 1937, when the Hindenburg caught fire and crashed in New Jersey: hydrogen is highly flammable. But a new study of the possibilities of lighter-than-air machines in the journal Energy Conversion and Management: X suggests that safety is now less of a problem.

With advances in computing and communications in the last eight decades, and vastly more accurate weather observation systems, such ships could be fuelled, flown, guided, landed and emptied entirely by robotic control. In effect, the hydrogen would provide the lift, the permanent stratospheric winds would provide the propulsion; in emergency the cargo would also provide the additional fuel.

Julian Hunt of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and colleagues did the sums.

Big is beautiful

The Hindenburg class airship was 245 metres in length. Tomorrow’s hydrogen bulk carriers could be ten times that. Big here is beautiful: a tenfold increase in length would yield a thousandfold increase in volume at the cost of only a hundredfold of the fabric in which the hydrogen is enclosed.

One of those 2.4km giants could be loaded with 3,280 tonnes of hydrogen, lift it to 15km, and glide with the jet stream on a one-way route around the hemisphere. Assuming such a behemoth could make 25 deliveries a year, a fleet of 1,125 lighter-than-air supertankers could deliver enough energy stored in the form of hydrogen to account for a tenth of the global electricity consumption.

The combination of vast bulk carrier (the same cargo could also be transported in a monster balloon, the scientists argue) and a free ride at high altitude carries additional possibilities, they say. Hydrogen to be liquefied must reach a temperature of minus 253°C. Temperatures in the stratosphere can get as low as minus 70°C: altitude makes the process more economical because the fuel would already be at minus 60°C when it landed.

Hydrogen can also be used as fuel for landing and lift-off and course changes, but a big enough airship could also carry solar arrays to exploit the available sunlight. Hydrogen when burned to produce power also delivers nine times its weight as water: sprays of water at high altitude could be used to trigger the complex process that ends in rainfall over drought-stricken farmlands.

Slow but sure

But the researchers see the real bonus simply as a delivery system for hydrogen without the need to liquefy it (a process that consumes about 30% of the available energy of the hydrogen). Delivery might be slow compared to air freight, and always be in the direction west-to-east, but it would outpace most marine shipping – and a dirigible could load at, and deliver directly to, regions far from the coast: from Denver in the US to Islamabad in Pakistan, the researchers instance.

There are problems to overcome: wind and storm stresses could create real problems for structures of such size. Descent and landing could be problematic. But lighter-than-air travel comes with its own economies. Dirigibles are already being revived for a number of commercial uses.

And that’s not all a really vast airship could offer: a dirigible could deliver supplies to space, to be fired into the emptiness by pressure gun. Or a doughnut-shaped airship in the stratosphere could support a spaceship at its centre of gravity, to become the launch pad for its final lift-off.

Above all, the authors say, “cheap and clean transportation of hydrogen would be convenient for the implementation of a global hydrogen economy. This would ultimately support the widespread adoption of intermittent renewable energy technologies, such as solar and wind, and promote sustainable development on a global scale.” − Climate News Network

Banks put a price on Earth’s life support

EMBARGOED until 0900 GMT on Friday 30 August Clean water, forests and other natural resources are being used unsustainably, so some of the world’s largest banks plan to cut credit for companies which rely on them but fail to value them. LONDON, 30 August – It is not easy to put a value on a forest, a clean river, or unpolluted air, but that is what a group of the world’s biggest banks is attempting to do. They have agreed that the way the present economic system uses and often destroys the environment without paying to do so is not sustainable. The banks are also concerned that some companies are using up natural resources so fast, with no thought for their own future, let alone that of the planet, that they will collapse. They want a way of warning them and ultimately withdrawing their credit unless the companies mend their ways. The 43 financial institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank, are setting up a working party as a consequence of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, also known as the Rio+20 summit, when the initial 39 large banks signed a Natural Capital Declaration. The declaration defined natural capital as “the Earth’s natural assets (soil, air, water, flora and fauna), and the ecosystem services resulting from them, which make human life possible.” The document went on to say that the food, fibre, water, health, energy, climate security and other essential services provided by natural capital were worth trillions of dollars a year, but that they were not adequately valued.

Carrot and stick

“Despite being fundamental to our wellbeing, their daily use remains almost undetected within our economic system. Using natural capital in this way is not sustainable”, the declaration says. The bankers went on to acknowledge this was partly their fault because they had no way of valuing this natural capital, nor did they currently recognize the danger to the stability of some companies because of its destruction. They want governments to force companies to disclose their dependence on natural capital and the impact they have on it by disclosures in annual financial reports. They also want penalties for companies not doing so and tax incentives for those who protect natural capital as part of their business.

Mining and fracking
However, the bankers know that in order to value natural capital someone has to work out what it is worth in monetary terms. What value can you place on a hectare of forest for the clean air, rain collecting, carbon sequestration and foodstuffs it provides? Just as important, what is the economic loss if it is destroyed? Industries like mining and fracking are in the front line because their operations are already perceived to damage and use up clean water resources and to cause pollution. The banks involved in the project are not attempting to directly put a value on nature but rather are looking to assess how much they are set to lose by being exposed to clients that are too dependent or having too great an impact on nature, and if necessary withdrawing credit as a result. But all businesses, even the banks that control investments, have an impact on the natural environment, which generally they do not pay for and which does not appear in the accounts. So to turn their heady declaration of a year ago into something more tangible, the bankers have set up a high-powered working party to put a value on the natural world. Liesel Van Ast, project manager for the Natural Capital Declaration, is based at the Global Canopy Programme in Oxford, England. She is working with the UNEP Finance Initiative in Geneva to help the bankers set up a series of committees to implement the declaration.
No illusions

She said: “The bankers need to address how they will account for natural capital, explain to everyone why they need to do it and then tell them how to do it.” At the moment overuse of natural capital is not seen as a business risk, because everyone believes they can get out before the resources run out and the crash occurs. We are hoping to change that attitude and get companies to pay a price for overuse of natural capital.” No one has any illusions that the commitment by bankers to get natural capital accounted for on balance sheets, and then taken into account in the share price, interest on loans and cost of insurance is going to happen quickly. They have set themselves a target of 2020 to get an international system up and running and recognized by all governments signed up to the UN Framework Climate Change Convention. It may be slow and difficult work, but they believe this is vital to prevent the current economic system destroying the planet. – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 0900 GMT on Friday 30 August Clean water, forests and other natural resources are being used unsustainably, so some of the world’s largest banks plan to cut credit for companies which rely on them but fail to value them. LONDON, 30 August – It is not easy to put a value on a forest, a clean river, or unpolluted air, but that is what a group of the world’s biggest banks is attempting to do. They have agreed that the way the present economic system uses and often destroys the environment without paying to do so is not sustainable. The banks are also concerned that some companies are using up natural resources so fast, with no thought for their own future, let alone that of the planet, that they will collapse. They want a way of warning them and ultimately withdrawing their credit unless the companies mend their ways. The 43 financial institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank, are setting up a working party as a consequence of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, also known as the Rio+20 summit, when the initial 39 large banks signed a Natural Capital Declaration. The declaration defined natural capital as “the Earth’s natural assets (soil, air, water, flora and fauna), and the ecosystem services resulting from them, which make human life possible.” The document went on to say that the food, fibre, water, health, energy, climate security and other essential services provided by natural capital were worth trillions of dollars a year, but that they were not adequately valued.

Carrot and stick

“Despite being fundamental to our wellbeing, their daily use remains almost undetected within our economic system. Using natural capital in this way is not sustainable”, the declaration says. The bankers went on to acknowledge this was partly their fault because they had no way of valuing this natural capital, nor did they currently recognize the danger to the stability of some companies because of its destruction. They want governments to force companies to disclose their dependence on natural capital and the impact they have on it by disclosures in annual financial reports. They also want penalties for companies not doing so and tax incentives for those who protect natural capital as part of their business.

Mining and fracking
However, the bankers know that in order to value natural capital someone has to work out what it is worth in monetary terms. What value can you place on a hectare of forest for the clean air, rain collecting, carbon sequestration and foodstuffs it provides? Just as important, what is the economic loss if it is destroyed? Industries like mining and fracking are in the front line because their operations are already perceived to damage and use up clean water resources and to cause pollution. The banks involved in the project are not attempting to directly put a value on nature but rather are looking to assess how much they are set to lose by being exposed to clients that are too dependent or having too great an impact on nature, and if necessary withdrawing credit as a result. But all businesses, even the banks that control investments, have an impact on the natural environment, which generally they do not pay for and which does not appear in the accounts. So to turn their heady declaration of a year ago into something more tangible, the bankers have set up a high-powered working party to put a value on the natural world. Liesel Van Ast, project manager for the Natural Capital Declaration, is based at the Global Canopy Programme in Oxford, England. She is working with the UNEP Finance Initiative in Geneva to help the bankers set up a series of committees to implement the declaration.
No illusions

She said: “The bankers need to address how they will account for natural capital, explain to everyone why they need to do it and then tell them how to do it.” At the moment overuse of natural capital is not seen as a business risk, because everyone believes they can get out before the resources run out and the crash occurs. We are hoping to change that attitude and get companies to pay a price for overuse of natural capital.” No one has any illusions that the commitment by bankers to get natural capital accounted for on balance sheets, and then taken into account in the share price, interest on loans and cost of insurance is going to happen quickly. They have set themselves a target of 2020 to get an international system up and running and recognized by all governments signed up to the UN Framework Climate Change Convention. It may be slow and difficult work, but they believe this is vital to prevent the current economic system destroying the planet. – Climate News Network