Aliaksei Patonia

Research Fellow

Aliaksei (Alex) Patonia is a Research Fellow in commercial hydrogen development at the Energy Transition Research Initiative (ETRI). He joined the hydrogen module at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies after being a Visiting Research Fellow and working primarily with the Institute’s Electricity Programme. As a key part of the ETRI, the hydrogen module aims to develop objective, realistic and unique insights into the challenges and opportunities of the evolving hydrogen economy.

Alex started his research at OIES as an OIES-Aramco Fellow in 2019 when he investigated the use of ammonia as a storage solution for future decarbonized energy systems. In his later research, he focused on power-to hydrogen technologies and the possibilities to reduce the cost of electrolysers – the key technology involved in the generation of ‘green’ hydrogen.

Apart from his work at OIES, Alex has cooperated with a number of research institutions and think tanks such as the IASS of Potsdam, the GMFUS of Washington, DC, and the EPG of Bucharest. His commentaries and op-eds appeared, among others, in the Diplomat, EU Observer, Geopolitical Monitor, Natural Gas World, Apolitical, and Petroleum Review of the Energy Institute. He holds Master’s degrees in energy management, sustainable development, and public policy from the Universities of Liverpool, St Andrews, and Oxford.

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As a manufactured fuel, hydrogen can be produced in a decentralized way in most countries around the world. This means, even in a net zero economy, the global trade of hydrogen could look quite different to the current international trade in fossil fuels, including natural gas. With further declines in the costs of renewable electricity and electrolyzers, regions which have lower cost renewable electricity may develop an economic advantage in the production of low-cost hydrogen, but for hydrogen to become a globally traded commodity, the cost of imports needs to be lower than the cost of domestic production. Unlike oil or natural gas, transporting hydrogen over long distances is not an easy task. Hydrogen liquefaction is an extremely energy-intensive process, while maintaining the low temperature required for long-distance transportation and storage purposes results in additional energy losses and accompanying costs. The upside is that hydrogen can be converted into multiple carriers that have a higher energy density and higher transport capacity and can potentially be cheaper to transport over long distances. Among the substances currently identified as potential hydrogen carriers suitable for marine shipping, liquid ammonia, the so-called ‘liquid organic hydrogen carriers’ in general (toluene-methylcyclohexane (MCH) in particular), and methanol have received the most attention in recent years. This paper compares the key techno-economic characteristics of these potential carriers with that of liquified hydrogen in order to develop a better understanding of the ways in which hydrogen could be transported overseas in an efficient manner. The paper also discusses other factors, beyond techno-economic features, that may affect the choice of optimum hydrogen carrier for long distance transport, as well as the global trade, of hydrogen.

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The higher cost of green hydrogen in comparison to its competitors is the most important barrier to its increased use. Although the cost of renewable electricity is considered to be the key obstacle, challenges associated with electrolysers are another major issue that have important implications for the cost reduction of green hydrogen. This paper analyses the electrolysis process from technological, economic, and policy perspectives. It first provides a comparative analysis of the main existing electrolyser technologies and identifies key trade-offs in terms of cost, scarcity of materials used, technology readiness, and the ability to operate in a flexible mode (which enables them to be coupled with variable renewables generation). The paper then identifies the main cost drivers for each of the most promising technologies and analyses the opportunities for cost reduction. It also draws upon the experience of solar and wind power generation technologies with respect to gradual cost reduction and evaluates development paths that each of the main electrolyser technology types could take in the future. Finally, the paper elaborates on the policy mechanisms that could additionally foster cost reduction and the overall business development of electrolyser technologies.

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This paper analyses whether ammonia can be viewed as an economically efficient and technologically suitable solution that can address the challenge of large-scale, long-duration, transportable energy storage in the decarbonized energy systems of the future. It compares all types of currently available energy storage techniques and shows that ammonia and hydrogen are the two most promising solutions that, apart from serving the objective of long-term storage in a low-carbon economy, could also be generated through a carbon-free process. The paper argues that ammonia, as an energy vector of hydrogen, is preferable to pure hydrogen from economic, environmental, and technological perspectives. It then analyses the available ammonia generation techniques, identifying conditions under which zero-carbon ammonia makes sense economically, and briefly highlights policy prerequisites for such production to be attractive for investors. Given the current state of the industry, large-scale deployment of green ammonia is unlikely to happen without policy supports such as adequate carbon taxes and/or alternative incentives. In the absence of such policies, green ammonia is only likely to make small-scale advances in the energy system, in areas with extremely low-cost renewable energy production or a significant surplus of generated energy.

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As a manufactured fuel, hydrogen can be produced in a decentralized way in most countries around the world. This means, even in a net zero economy, the global trade of hydrogen could look quite different to the current international trade in fossil fuels, including natural gas. With further declines in the costs of renewable electricity and electrolyzers, regions which have lower cost renewable electricity may develop an economic advantage in the production of low-cost hydrogen, but for hydrogen to become a globally traded commodity, the cost of imports needs to be lower than the cost of domestic production. Unlike oil or natural gas, transporting hydrogen over long distances is not an easy task. Hydrogen liquefaction is an extremely energy-intensive process, while maintaining the low temperature required for long-distance transportation and storage purposes results in additional energy losses and accompanying costs. The upside is that hydrogen can be converted into multiple carriers that have a higher energy density and higher transport capacity and can potentially be cheaper to transport over long distances. Among the substances currently identified as potential hydrogen carriers suitable for marine shipping, liquid ammonia, the so-called ‘liquid organic hydrogen carriers’ in general (toluene-methylcyclohexane (MCH) in particular), and methanol have received the most attention in recent years. This paper compares the key techno-economic characteristics of these potential carriers with that of liquified hydrogen in order to develop a better understanding of the ways in which hydrogen could be transported overseas in an efficient manner. The paper also discusses other factors, beyond techno-economic features, that may affect the choice of optimum hydrogen carrier for long distance transport, as well as the global trade, of hydrogen.

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Latest Publications by Aliaksei Patonia

Ongoing research by Aliaksei Patonia