Could hydrogen be the clean fuel of the future?

Earth day is Friday, 4/22/2022! On the PBS NewsHour this evening they had a segment on the latest in hydrogen-powered engines. (It’s about 8 minutes long.)

Could hydrogen be the clean fuel of the future?

As leaders around the world search for cleaner energy solutions to fight climate change, a question has emerged: Could hydrogen be the clean fuel of the future? Planes, trains, cars and buses need lighter and longer-lasting power than batteries can provide, some scientists say. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien explores the possibilities of hydrogen-powered engines and whether they can deliver.

Hydrogen is a clean fuel all right. The problem is where do you get the hydrogen from. Currently most is produced consuming fossil fuels and producing carbon dioxide emissions. In that case it would be like plastic recycling programs which ends up dumping all the plastic into the ocean.

So the real solution is essentially biofuels which takes carbon out of the atmosphere rather than from fossil fuels then whether your final fuel is hydrogen fuel cells or biofuel the only carbon dioxide you put into the atmosphere is what you took out of the atmosphere.

However the advantage of hydrogen fuel cells is where you are dumping the carbon dioxide into the air and hopefully how clean it is. It would certainly reduce how much pollution is coming from our automotive vehicles, which is a great benefit for places like Salt Lake City stuck between mountain ranges and only so much fresh air to go around.

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We need ten times more electricity capacity from core nuclear and massively redundant wind and solar with hydrogen from water electrolysis as the energy storage and fuel for backup power and large, non-rail vehicles (including aircraft). A hundred years. It’s all massively inefficient, but sustainable. After that century. Only competent autocracies like China, the Gulf states will be able to roll this out. Other nations will follow. As autocracies. India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey.

It could as it is extremely viable and easy to produce given a green supply of energy to split water. The main concern was about safety as it is very explosive. But there are bicycles that run on water and a battery or generator showing its potential.

Er, no. There is no safety issue, technology pre-empts that. As with nuclear. And there are no perpetual motion bicycles. Why introduce another layer of inefficiency in a machine?

As I said; “was about safety”
Is it getting late there? grin.

I believe perpetual describes self-contained and self-sustaining that relies on not losing any energy. Not useful for drawing power.

One of my simple thoughts is a transformer (coiled wire) to catch the magnetic field of a lightning strike, a rectifier to direct the coils resulting current in one direction and a bank of capacitors to quickly capture and store the charge. I expect we will see a number of alternatives as welcomed in light of the results of the oil monopoly. Or a hydrogen one.

Thorium cars look promising. No refills.

Not at all. I saw the ‘was’, referring to the Hindenburg. Thorium cars eh? Will they fly too?

Sure, want to race?

Sure, you say where, when, I’ll be there.

Other than for space travel travel where hydrogen has major performance advantages compared to other fuels but for the reste I don’t really think so.

Hydrogen is a pain to store with its boiling point slightly above that of helium. And pressure vessel are heavy. You’d be much better of using the hydrogen to convert CO2 into a hydrocarbon like methane, methanol or even dimethyl ether which will be easier to store and then use the hydrocarbon.

Economies of scale will apply. Use massive amounts of electricity to make massive amounts of hydrogen on massively PV coated desert sea coasts (one might not even need to desalinate water for irrigation due to massive convection rainfall) for massive pressure vessels to run massive backup power stations.

Obviously, you didn’t bother to watch the short video.

Ballard Power Systems, for one, has been delivering hydrogen fuel cells for about the last three decades, before Rio and when the concern was peak oil. Nothing new there.

Any large scale industrial gaseous fuel can be converted to hydrogen, so nothing new there either.

Industrial electrolysis of water is 70 to 80% efficient at the electrode, not including rectification and pre-treatment [ typical potable water specs in the cell would be the end of it ]. If the hydrogen is stored and burned on site as a closed loop, compression efficiency is not a great deal, so maybe an additional typical 10% all handling and thermal loss to produce electricity. There are existing technologies which store energy far more efficiently. Sure they cost, but hydrogen plants are full of even more costly alloys to deal with hydrogen embrittlement. Most metals soak up hydrogen where it disrupts the integrity of the metallurgy and can result in catastrophic loss of containment.

Liquify the hydrogen for transport? Now we are talking serious inefficiencies. Getting down to the lower kelvins means 40% efficient is doing great. Add it all up, and grid to EV looks infinitely better.

I always feel like such a curmudgeon when hydrogen comes up, but it comes out of actually having worked with the stuff in industry. The idea of water coming out of the tailpipe is appealing; but the very stability of water is the challenge, why electrolysis is so energy expensive, and why hydrogen is so volatile.

Hydrogen will likely find more applications, which is fine. My biggest objection is that the notion that hydrogen can square energy requirements with a carbon free future will be a green phantasm which deflects from the most effective base line solution, which is an expansive build out of nuclear power.

Key takeaway from the video.

I think to go big, to really get toward a national hydrogen network, the government incentives and government support and partnership are critical.

Same old pitch from a vested interest. Could hydrogen be the clean fuel of the future? Perhaps, but is it more likely that past is prologue.

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Hasn’t hydrogen been the clean fuel of the future for almost as long as fusion has been the clean power source of the future?

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