Designing the terawatt transition

Kirsty Gogan and Eric Ingersoll, Managing Directors at LucidCatalyst, examine the role the global shipbuilding industry could play in producing low-cost hydrogen as the world looks towards zero-carbon fuels.

Lloyd's Register

February 16, 2022

In November 2021, political leaders, investors and industry stakeholders gathered at COP26 in Glasgow with the same mission: to try and accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. In other words, continue the search for zero-carbon alternatives to today’s fossil fuels. At TerraPraxis, we gathered key industry stakeholders, representing several trillion dollars in potential market demand, who revealed new near-term climate-scale strategies to compete on price and performance with fossils fuels. This then saw customers, investors and political leaders announce strategies to accelerate the affordable repowering of two Terawatts of coal and delivery of 100 million barrels per day of carbon neutral liquid fuels. These large-scale solutions repurpose trillions of dollars of existing infrastructure, known to supply reliable energy but without the emissions, and thus advance groundbreaking progress towards becoming net-zero by 2050.

However, despite the progress already made in driving down emissions in the power sector, projections show that fossil fuels will continue to supply the bulk of global energy by mid-century, and coincides with the high-risk 4°C trajectory, in which substantial areas of the planet will become uninhabitable. Meanwhile, 840 million people have no access to electricity today, and nearly 3 billion people depend on inefficient and highly polluting cooking systems, resulting in nearly 4 million premature deaths each year, according to Sustainable Energy For All (2021). To address these multiple crises, the supply chain will require the extensive deployment of electrification, efficiency, renewables, and other clean technologies, and in turn need a significant growth in energy access in global mitigation strategies.

Nuclear energy has been identified as being a necessary component of climate mitigation roadmaps by international institutions, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, International Energy Agency and European Commission, but has also been dismissed as being too expensive and slow.

While, nuclear power has its benefits and drawbacks, there is much we can learn from the renewables industry and its success as a template for broader and deeper emissions reductions. And there is the potential to transform today’s costly and cumbersome projects to modernised, manufactured products using nuclear technology which can be achieved by looking to other large-scale, high-productivity industries, such as shipping and aviation where innovative delivery models for “designed-for-purpose” facilities built by shipyards can quickly achieve significantly lower costs and large-scale deployment of clean technologies.

In this article, we look at the Terawatt-scale opportunity for advanced reactors, also referred to as ‘advanced heat sources’, which can contribute towards very low cost hydrogen and synthetic fuels production to address hard-to-abate sectors, including aviation and shipping, as well as the cement production industry.


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