Sustainability – Is hydrogen a viable option?

August 31, 2021

You have probably heard of the Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket launch that happened in July. The launch became famous due to the unique shape of the rocket, and it started a new Star Wars between billionaires. Less social media attention got the fact that the rocket propellant was zero-carbon. Liquid hydrogen and oxygen don’t cause carbon emissions when burnt.

Potential alternative for fossil fuels

Of course, liquid hydrogen has been used as a rocket fuel for decades, but these media stunts are effective in bringing important matters up. As hydrogen-based economy is an alternative for the current fossil fuel-based economy. Or at least it has potential uses as we are struggling off from fossil fuels. 

Let’s start off by listing the pros and cons of hydrogen. 

Pros Cons 
Zero-carbon (from sustainable sources) Lack of existing infrastructure 
High energy density Difficult to transport and store 
Renewable supply Low efficiency of production 
P2X and industrial potential  

As the simplest, lightest and most common element in the universe, hydrogen has many benefits in comparison to its fossil fuel counterparts. The best part is that it doesn’t have a carbon chain meaning that burning hydrogen does not accelerate global warming. 

Renewable supply with high energy density

But unfortunately, currently hydrogen is mostly made from natural gas or petroleum products. Luckily there’s still plenty of fish in the sea, as water is 1/8 hydrogen by mass. With rapidly developing electrolysis hydrogen and oxygen can be separated from the water molecules efficiently. 

Hydrogen has also a superior energy density when compared to for example gasoline. Hydrogen has 119 MJ of energy per kg when gasoline has to settle for 43 MJ/kg. And to put that into perspective, the best lithium-ion batteries reach 0,3 MJ/kg. So, hydrogen is an excellent energy storage.

P2X and source material possibilities

The last, but not least of the pros of hydrogen is the potential for P2X and industrial source material uses. Hydrogen rarely exists as an H₂ molecule on Earth as it forms compounds easily. That quality can be utilized in P2X-applications which create carbon-neutral fuels or to replace fossil fuels in the chemical industry. Hydrogen and carbon dioxide can be used to make sustainable ammonia and methanol.

Practical issues with use

If hydrogen is all-around better than fossil fuels, why don’t we just start to use it instead? Well, it is as easy as getting rid of smoking. Seems simple, you just need to stop smoking, but in practice it has a lot more to it. We have built our societies and infrastructure for decades to support the use of fossil fuels, so it will take decades to rebuild them. Unless we step up the game as we don’t have decades if we want to have a habitable planet for humans in the future. 

Storing and transporting hydrogen is tricky as hydrogen is a small-molecular gas that eventually passes through even the best seals (that are of course made by TT Gaskets) and metal cylinders. Hydrogen also has a low volumetric energy density, meaning that storing hydrogen requires large tanks or it must be compressed or liquified. Compressing does not help much as the pressure would have to be hundreds of bars to be effective and that leads to both practical and safety issues. Liquification also has its issues, as liquid hydrogen is roughly –260 °C and thus gasifies easily which leads to lost energy.

All hope is not lost

Despite these problems with hydrogen, it still is a potential solution for a sustainable future. As mentioned, hydrogen forms compounds easily which can be used as an energy storage or source. If we create hydrogen with electrolysis where it is needed, the excess can be stored as ammonia or methanol and used as such in vehicles or turned back into electricity and heat in local power plants. All in all, we at TT Gaskets are excited about more sustainable future and are ready to provide smarter seals for a safer tomorrow for these new applications.

Sustainability – Super Electric Sound from the Underground

February 8, 2021

Hybrid and electric cars have been a hot topic in the media. States and unions are using different means to support electrification. Cars are important for achieving sustainability, but electric drives have progressed for decades underground.

Diesel is a fumy powerhouse

And I literally mean underground, as the mining industry has strong incentives to electrify its operations. At least our company van has a powerhouse diesel engine. But it has a major downside – exhaust fumes. The fumes are not healthy for you and the carbon balance of our atmosphere. But especially underground they will kill the canary and put out the candle on your helmet. 

HVAC slurps energy

To put this into perspective – HVAC in the mines use 25 % of total energy consumption. So, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Luckily mining companies are trying to tackle this challenge with two different strategies.  

Electricity and automation – my favorites

Electric drives naturally reduces the need for ventilating exhaust fumes. Automation reduces the need even more as less people are working in the mine. The benefits are so evident that some machines are now run with a cable. Battery technology still lacks behind the requirements. 

Cables are hopefully a makeshift solution as battery technology develops. And innovations such as automatic battery changer are put to use. Thanks to automation, pictures of people with pickaxes and messy faces are finally put into the history books once and for all. 

Even though diesel engines are a strong competence for us at TT Gaskets, we are more than happy to provide novel solutions for more sustainable mining industry. Or as we put it, Smarter Seals for a Safer Future.

Sustainability – Has the pandemic taught us anything?

September 4, 2020

Among all this hassle with the pandemic, we have had time to think about what’s important and what could be done differently. Reduced need for commuting and working remotely has given us more free time ¹. Facilities and businesses around the world have been closed due to health reasons ². Radical decline in air traffic has caused the popular tourist attractions to be abandoned ³. And the list goes on.

Fragile economy and reduced emissions

Of course, this has not been a good thing for individuals who have lost their jobs (or lives/health for that matter) or for companies who have gone bankrupt. But in a larger scale, this has shown the fragility of our economy and that our actions can make a difference in a global scale. During the peak lockdown a couple of months ago, the daily global CO₂ emissions were reduced by 17 % . Although this change was not permanent, and the emissions are likely to grow back, it showed us how large an impact we have on our planet. 

Magical resources

And to go even further, this lockdown leads us to think how we can ensure resources for our local economy in the future, if our global suppliers are out of the equation. Before the lockdown we were nearly blind to the fact that stuff doesn’t just magically appear in our warehouses. Someone actually manufactures it, and it requires resources such as energy, raw materials and elbow grease. If these aren’t available, stuff can’t be done, no matter how many emails we send to them.

Closing the loop

One essential way to ensure resources for the future is to take care of materials we have available, not to consider them as junk after a while. Recycling is important of course, but things should be stepped up to create a circular economy model, where materials cycle in a closed loop as long as possible. Instead of our current linear model, where products are mostly landfilled after use, the products are either renewed or recycled to create new products.

Giving example

Doing a major change like this isn’t easy but taking small steps towards the goal of a more sustainable and stable future is beneficial. We at TT Gaskets are also concerned of the environment and are planning to start a sustainable development program that can be taken into action in other companies as well. The actions include for example investing in solar energy, enhancing material use and recycling as well as finding biobased alternatives for fossil materials. First steps towards a greener, smarter and safer future has already been taken, and we hope that you join us in this journey.

solar, energy, sustainability, green, economy
Solar energy is key in our sustainability program.