THE HYDROGEN ECONOMY

 

  THE HYDROGEN ECONOMY IS A UTOPIAN DREAM THAT MAY NOT BE SUSTAINABLE

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CHALLENGES - At present, the biggest challenge for the implementation of this technology in automotive and shipping applications is the complexity of hydrogen storage. Gas hydrogen at normal pressure and temperature conditions has a lot of energy per Kg but this is not the case of its volumetric base. To reduce its volume, it has to be compressed and stored at around 700 bar. To contain the gas at this pressure, the tank needs to have walls so thick that its weight is heavier than the gas inside. In these conditions, the contained energy per tank Kg to hydrogen ratio is drastically lower. Other alternatives for hydrogen storage are the liquid hydrogen tanks (−252,87 °C) and the storage in solid oxides. The first alternative requires high gas liquefaction costs and highly thermal isolating tanks. Also, some metal hydrides can store hydrogen in their crystal lattice and then release it at high temperatures. This technology is very promising although its current efficiency is very low.

 

 

The hydrogen economy is the use of hydrogen as a low carbon fuel, particularly for heating, hydrogen vehicles, seasonal energy storage and long distance transport of energy.

The hydrogen economy is proposed as part of the future low-carbon economy. In order to phase out fossil fuels and limit global warming, hydrogen is being considered as its combustion only releases clean water, and no CO2 to the atmosphere. As of 2019, however, hydrogen is mainly used as an industrial feedstock, primarily for the production of ammonia, methanol and petroleum refining. 

In the last decade, the hype around hydrogen was mostly concerned with its role in greenhouse gas emissions reduction from transport. This is still a factor, but related to this and rising in importance is the increasing deployment of renewable energy generation, its unpredictable and intermittent nature, and limited capacity of power distribution grids.

In a way hydrogen is more relevant than ever, because in the past hydrogen was very linked with transportation. But now with the huge uptake of renewables and the need for grid-scale energy storage to stabilise the energy system, hydrogen can have a role to play, and what’s interesting about that, in contrast to a pure battery scenario, is that there’s a number of things you can do with it. You can turn it back into electricity, you can put it into vehicles or you can do a power-to-gas arrangement where you pump it into the gas grid.

With that in mind we should also consider keeping things simple where complication equates to conversion losses. Electricity from solar panels and wind turbines can be used directly, with minimal losses for energy in homes and transportation.

The grid needs to be beefed up in any event even with all the players contributing.

 

 

 

CSIRO - Hydrogen-powered cars also have more distance range – about 800 km compared to between 160-500 km for electric cars. And if the hydrogen is derived from renewable energy sources, hydrogen-powered cars are emissions free.

 

However costs can be prohibitive to wider uptake, as most retail for about $80,000. Dolan said fuel for these hydrogen-powered cars would cost about $15/kg, with a tank holding about 5 kg of hydrogen. 

 

Two cars powered by ultra-high purity hydrogen derived from ammonia were successfully tested in Brisbane, Australia. This development is the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of work on membrane technology by CSIRO researchers. The membrane is a modular unit that can be installed at a refuelling station. It derives ultra-high purity hydrogen from ammonia, while blocking all other gases.

 

Why bother? Why not use battery cars with solar panels attached as an integral part of the bodywork. Australia was home to the Darwin to Adelaide solar car races that were so fast they had to raise the speed limit. With so much sunshine to tap into, it makes little sense complicating electric vehicles, other than constantly seeking more sustainable solutions.

 

 

SAFETY

 

Hydrogen has one of the widest explosive/ignition mix range with air of all the gases with few exceptions such as acetylene, silane, and ethylene oxide. That means that whatever the mix proportion between air and hydrogen, a hydrogen leak will most likely lead to an explosion, not a mere flame, when a flame or spark ignites the mixture.

 

This makes the use of hydrogen particularly dangerous in enclosed areas such as tunnels or underground parking. Pure hydrogen-oxygen flames burn in the ultraviolet color range and are nearly invisible to the naked eye, so a flame detector is needed to detect if a hydrogen leak is burning. Hydrogen is odorless and leaks cannot be detected by smell.

Hydrogen codes and standards are codes and standards for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, stationary fuel cell applications and portable fuel cell applications. There are codes and standards for the safe handling and storage of hydrogen, for example the standard for the installation of stationary fuel cell power systems from the National Fire Protection Association.

Codes and standards have repeatedly been identified as a major institutional barrier to deploying hydrogen technologies and developing a hydrogen economy. To enable the commercialization of hydrogen in consumer products, new model building codes and equipment and other technical standards are developed and recognized by federal, state, and local governments.

One of the measures on the roadmap is to implement higher safety standards like early leak detection with hydrogen sensors. The Canadian Hydrogen Safety Program concluded that hydrogen fueling is as safe as compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling. But compared to battery electrics, how safe it that? if a battery shorts out, it does not explode like a bomb as most gas leaks tend to. Worst case scenario for lithium shorts is a fire; not an explosion.

 

The European Commission has funded the first higher educational program in the world in hydrogen safety engineering at the University of Ulster. It could be that the general public will be able to use hydrogen technologies in everyday life with at least the same level of safety and comfort as with today's fossil fuels, but they said that about zeppelins and along came the Hindenburg. We should also remember the number of space craft that have exploded on take off.

 

 

TRANSPORT FUEL EFFICIENCY

An accounting of the energy utilized during a thermodynamic process, known as an energy balance, can be applied to automotive fuels. With today's technology, the manufacture of hydrogen via steam reforming can be accomplished with a thermal efficiency of 75 to 80 percent. Additional energy will be required to liquefy or compress the hydrogen, and to transport it to the filling station via truck or pipeline.

 

The energy that must be utilized per kilogram to produce, transport and deliver hydrogen (i.e., its well-to-tank energy use) is approximately 50 MJ using technology available in 2004. Subtracting this energy from the enthalpy of one kilogram of hydrogen, which is 141 MJ, and dividing by the enthalpy, yields a thermal energy efficiency of roughly 60%.

 

Gasoline, by comparison, requires less energy input, per gallon, at the refinery, and comparatively little energy is required to transport it and store it owing to its high energy density per gallon at ambient temperatures. Well-to-tank, the supply chain for gasoline is roughly 80% efficient (Wang, 2002). Another grid-based method of supplying hydrogen would be to use electrical to run electrolysers. Roughly 6% of electricity is lost during transmission along power lines, and the process of converting the fossil fuel to electricity in the first place is roughly 33 percent efficient.

 

Thus if efficiency is the key determinant it would be unlikely hydrogen vehicles would be fueled by such a method, and indeed viewed this way, electric vehicles would appear to be a better choice. However, as noted above, hydrogen can be produced from a number of feedstocks, in centralized or distributed fashion, and these afford more efficient pathways to produce and distribute the fuel.

A study of the well-to-wheels efficiency of hydrogen vehicles compared to other vehicles in the Norwegian energy system indicates that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCV) tend to be about a third as efficient as EVs when electrolysis is used, with hydrogen Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) being barely a sixth as efficient. Even in the case where hydrogen fuel cells get their hydrogen from natural gas reformation rather than electrolysis, and EVs get their power from a natural gas power plant, the EVs still come out ahead 35% to 25% (and only 13% for a H2 ICE). This compares to 14% for a gasoline ICE, 27% for a gasoline ICE hybrid, and 17% for a diesel ICE, also on a well-to-wheels basis.

Hydrogen has been called one of the least efficient and most expensive possible replacements for gasoline (petrol) in terms of reducing greenhouse gases; other technologies may be less expensive and more quickly implemented. A comprehensive study of hydrogen in transportation applications has found that "there are major hurdles on the path to achieving the vision of the hydrogen economy; the path will not be simple or straightforward".

 

Although Ford Motor Company and French Renault-Nissan cancelled their hydrogen car R&D efforts in 2008 and 2009, respectively, they signed a 2009 letter of intent with the other manufacturers and Now GMBH in September 2009 supporting the commercial introduction of FCVs by 2015.

 

A study by The Carbon Trust for the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change suggests that hydrogen technologies have the potential to deliver UK transport with near-zero emissions whilst reducing dependence on imported oil and curtailment of renewable generation. However, the technologies face very difficult challenges, in terms of cost, performance and policy. 

 

 

 

DAIMLER-CHRYSLER - A Mercedes bus converted to run on hydrogen from a fuel cell. Hydrogen is simply a method to store and transmit energy. Energy development of various alternative energy transmission and storage scenarios which begin with hydrogen production, but do not use it for all parts of the store and transmission infrastructure, may be more economic, in both near and far term.

 

An alternative to gaseous hydrogen as an energy carrier is to bond it with nitrogen from the air to produce ammonia, which can be easily liquefied, transported, and used (directly or indirectly) as a clean and renewable fuel. For example, researchers at CSIRO in Australia in 2018 fuelled a Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo with hydrogen separated from ammonia using a membrane technology.

 

 

COSTS

 

The barrier to lowering the price of high purity hydrogen is a cost of more than 35 kWh of electricity used to generate each kilogram of hydrogen gas. Hydrogen produced by steam reformation costs approximately three times the cost of natural gas per unit of energy produced.

 

This means that if natural gas costs $6/million BTU, then hydrogen will be $18/million BTU. Also, producing hydrogen from electrolysis with electricity at 5 cents/kWh will cost $28/million BTU — about 1.5 times the cost of hydrogen from natural gas. Note that the cost of hydrogen production from electricity is a linear function of electricity costs, so electricity at 10 cents/kWh means that hydrogen will cost $56/million BTU. However costs are rapidly decreasing.

Hydrogen pipelines are more expensive than even long-distance electric lines. Hydrogen is about three times bulkier in volume than natural gas for the same enthalpy.

 

Hydrogen accelerates the cracking of steel (hydrogen embrittlement), which increases maintenance costs, leakage rates, and material costs. The difference in cost is likely to expand with newer technology: wires suspended in air can use higher voltage with only marginally increased material costs, but higher pressure pipes require proportionally more material.

Setting up a hydrogen economy would require huge investments in infrastructure. Power plant capacity that now goes unused at night could be used to produce hydrogen. That same excess could be used to charge battery cartridges for vehicles in dedicated refueling stations, far more safely.

 

 

 

 

PILOT PROGRAMS

Several domestic U.S. automobile manufactures have committed to develop vehicles using hydrogen. The distribution of hydrogen for the purpose of transportation is currently being tested around the world, particularly in Portugal, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, California, Japan, MBTA - Boston Massachusetts and Canada, but the cost is very high.

Some hospitals have installed combined electrolyser-storage-fuel cell units for local emergency power. These are advantageous for emergency use because of their low maintenance requirement and ease of location compared to internal combustion driven generators.

Iceland has committed to becoming the world's first hydrogen economy by the year 2050. Iceland is in a unique position. Presently, it imports all the petroleum products necessary to power its automobiles and fishing fleet. Iceland has large geothermal resources, so much that the local price of electricity actually is lower than the price of the hydrocarbons that could be used to produce that electricity.

Iceland already converts its surplus electricity into exportable goods and hydrocarbon replacements. In 2002, it produced 2,000 tons of hydrogen gas by electrolysis, primarily for the production of ammonia (NH3) for fertilizer. Ammonia is produced, transported, and used throughout the world, and 90% of the cost of ammonia is the cost of the energy to produce it.

Neither industry directly replaces hydrocarbons. Reykjavík, Iceland, had a small pilot fleet of city buses running on compressed hydrogen, and research on powering the nation's fishing fleet with hydrogen is under way. For more practical purposes, Iceland might process imported oil with hydrogen to extend it, rather than to replace it altogether.

The Reykjavík buses are part of a larger program, HyFLEET:CUTE, operating hydrogen fueled buses in eight European cities. HyFLEET:CUTE buses were also operated in Beijing, China and Perth, Australia. A pilot project demonstrating a hydrogen economy is operational on the Norwegian island of Utsira. The installation combines wind power and hydrogen power. In periods when there is surplus wind energy, the excess power is used for generating hydrogen by electrolysis. The hydrogen is stored, and is available for power generation in periods when there is little wind.

 

 

 

 

United States has a hydrogen policy with several examples. A joint venture between NREL and Xcel Energy is combining wind power and hydrogen power in the same way in Colorado. Hydro in Newfoundland and Labrador are converting the current wind-diesel Power System on the remote island of Ramea into a Wind-Hydrogen Hybrid Power Systems facility. A similar pilot project on Stuart Island uses solar power, instead of wind power, to generate electricity. When excess electricity is available after the batteries are fully charged, hydrogen is generated by electrolysis and stored for later production of electricity by fuel cell.

The UK started a fuel cell pilot program in January 2004, the program ran two Fuel cell buses on route 25 in London until December 2005, and switched to route RV1 until January 2007. The Hydrogen Expedition worked to create a hydrogen fuel cell-powered ship and use it to circumnavigate the globe, as a way to demonstrate the capability of hydrogen fuel cells.

 

Western Australia's Department of Planning and Infrastructure operated three Daimler Chrysler Citaro fuel cell buses as part of its Sustainable Transport Energy for Perth Fuel Cells Bus Trial in Perth. The buses were operated by Path Transit on regular Transperth public bus routes. The trial began in September 2004 and concluded in September 2007. The buses' fuel cells used a proton exchange membrane system and were supplied with raw hydrogen from a BP refinery in Kwinana, south of Perth. The hydrogen was a byproduct of the refinery's industrial process. The buses were refueled at a station in the northern Perth suburb of Malaga.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources have signed in 2003 a $40 million trust fund agreement for the creation of the International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technologies (UNIDO-ICHET) in Istanbul, which started operation in 2004. A hydrogen forklift, a hydrogen cart and a mobile house powered by renewable energies are being demonstrated in UNIDO-ICHET's premises. An uninterruptible power supply system has been working since April 2009 in the headquarters of Istanbul Sea Buses company.

 

 

 

UTOPIAN

 

The allure of the hydrogen economy is plain, splitting plain ordinary water using electrolysis to obtain oxygen and hydrogen gas is like a dream come true, especially if we can generate free electricity using solar cells and wind turbines to split the water.

 

Then the hydrogen is free right. But is the electricity free?

 

No, not really.

 

There is a cost, including the cost of manufacturing the solar panels or wind turbines and the transmission line installation and maintenance.

 

Where there is a cost, then we have to consider payback time and working life. If we can use most of the solar and wind energy directly to power vehicles, we make the best of the working life of our energy harvesting apparatus. And that means reduced greenhouse gases, so a reduced carbon footprint for the human race in an anthropogenic fight against climate change.

 

 

 

 

BACK TO BASICS - ELECTROLYSIS

 

A water molecule is formed by two elements: two positive Hydrogen ions and one negative Oxygen ion.

 

The water molecule is held together by the electromagnetic attraction between these ions. When electricity is introduced to water through two electrodes, a cathode (negative) and an anode (positive), these ions are attracted to the opposite charged electrode. Therefore the positively charged hydrogen ions will collect on the cathode and the negatively charged oxygen will collect on the anode.

When these ions come into contact with their respective electrodes they either gain or lose electrons depending on there ionic charge. (In this case the hydrogen gains electrons and the oxygen loses them) In doing so these ions balance their charges, and become real, electrically balanced, bona fide atoms (or in the case of the hydrogen, a molecule).

The reason this system isn't very efficient is because some of the electrical energy is converted into heat during the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EUREKA - Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. With the "green-energy" craze and talk of powering our future oil-free economy on hydrogen, it has received much attention in the last few decades. Learning about this potential fuel of the future is important and interesting, but not without snags, and these are for anyone to seek to overcome.

 

 

Fuel Cell animation

 

ANIMATION - A fuel cell converts the chemicals hydrogen and oxygen into water, and in the process it produces electricity.

The other electrochemical device that you may be familiar with is the battery. A battery has all of its chemicals stored inside, and it converts those chemicals into electricity too. This means that a battery eventually "goes flat" and you have to recharge it.

With a fuel cell, chemicals constantly flow into the cell so it never goes flat - as long as there is a flow of chemicals into the cell, the electricity flows out of the cell. Most fuel cells in use today use hydrogen and oxygen as the chemicals.

The problem with fuel cells is the storage technology. Batteries are the storage medium and supply all in one. Fuels cells need an external container to hold liquid hydrogen or hydrogen combined as a metal hydride to feed the unit that combines the gases to make electricity.


 

 

 

   

 

 

A-Z INDEX OF H2 POWERED FUEL CELL SHIPS

BOREAL SJO

FCS ALTERWASSER

HYSEAS III

NORLED

SAN FRANCISCO BAY

SANDIA & DNV-GL

SCANDLINES

VIKING LINE

 

 

LINKS & REFERENCES

 

https://www.theengineer.co.uk/hydrogen-economy/

https://edu.rsc.org/feature/fuelling-the-future-solid-phase-hydrogen-storage/2020153.article

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/21/musk-calls-hydrogen-fuel-cells-stupid-but-tech-may-threaten-tesla.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/26/how-toyota-is-helping-japan-create-a-hydrogen-fueled-society.html

https://www.ft.com/content/98080634-a1d6-11e7-8d56-98a09be71849

https://www.explainthatstuff.com/fuelcells.html

 

 

 

 

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USA - In 2003, President Bush announced a program called the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative (HFI) during his State of the Union Address. This initiative, supported by legislation in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005) and the Advanced Energy Initiative of 2006, aims to develop hydrogen, fuel cell and infrastructure technologies to make fuel-cell vehicles practical and cost-effective by 2020. Obviously, the legislation did not work, or we'd seen hydrogen cars selling like hot cakes. Whereas, there are significant sales of battery electric cars.

 

The United States has dedicated more than two billion dollars to fuel cell research and development so far. Yet the basics principles of climate change is to find the best way to use less energy to achieve the same goal. Of course we have to explore all avenues before deciding on what works best. Thomas Edison found 1,000 ways not to make a light bulb before inventing his carbon filament version that succeeded. Joseph Swan in the UK filed a similar patent before the more famous US inventor. Keep at it chaps.

 

 

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