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Home » Energy » Hydrogen Power
Hydrogen Power
About Hydrogen

Hydrogen is the simplest element. Each atom of hydrogen has only one proton. It is also the most plentiful gas in the universe. Stars like the sun are made primarily of hydrogen. The sun is basically a giant ball of hydrogen and helium gases. In the sun's core, hydrogen atoms combine to form helium atoms. This process — called fusion — gives off radiant energy.
Hydrogen gas is so much lighter than air that it rises fast and is quickly ejected from the atmosphere. This is why hydrogen as a gas (H2) is not found by itself on Earth. It is found only in compound form with other elements. Hydrogen combined with oxygen, is water (H2O). Hydrogen combined with carbon forms different compounds, including methane (CH4), coal, and petroleum. Hydrogen is also found in all growing things — for example, biomass. It is also an abundant element in the Earth's crust.  Hydrogen is also found in many organic compounds, notably the hydrocarbons that make up many of our fuels, such as gasoline, natural gas, methanol, and propane.
On the basis of mass, hydrogen has the highest calorific value of any gaseous fuel. This property has made it the fuel of choice for spacecraft such as the Space Shuttle.

Hydrogen Energy
Hydrogen is high in energy, yet an engine that burns pure hydrogen produces almost no pollution. NASA has used liquid hydrogen since the 1970s to propel the space shuttle and other rockets into orbit. Hydrogen fuel cells power the shuttle's electrical systems, Combined with oxygen, hydrogen produces energy and water - the ultimate clean energy process producing a clean byproduct - pure water, which the crew drinks.
A fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat, and water. Fuel cells are often compared to batteries. Both convert the energy produced by a chemical reaction into usable electric power. However, the fuel cell will produce electricity as long as fuel (hydrogen) is supplied, never losing its charge.
Fuel cells are a promising technology for use as a source of heat and electricity for buildings, and as an electrical power source for electric motors propelling vehicles. Fuel cells operate best on pure hydrogen. But fuels like natural gas, methanol, or even gasoline can be reformed to produce the hydrogen required for fuel cells. Some fuel cells even can be fueled directly with methanol, without using a reformer.
Hydrogen has the highest energy content of any common fuel by weight (about three times more than gasoline), but the lowest energy content by volume (about four times less than gasoline).

Hydrogen Is an Energy Carrier
Energy carriers move and delivers energy in a usable form to consumers. Electricity is the most well-known energy carrier. Like electricity, hydrogen is also an energy carrier and must be produced from another substance. Hydrogen is not currently widely used, but it has high potential as an energy carrier in the future.
Renewable energy sources, like the sun and wind, can't produce energy all the time. But they could, for example, produce electric energy and hydrogen, which can be stored until it's needed. Hydrogen can also be transported (like electricity) to locations where it is needed.

How Is Hydrogen Made?
Because hydrogen doesn't exist on Earth as a gas, it must be separated from other elements. Hydrogen atoms can be separated from water, biomass, or natural gas molecules. The two most common methods for producing hydrogen are steam reforming and electrolysis (water splitting). Scientists have discovered that even some algae and bacteria, using sunlight as their energy source, even give off hydrogen under certain conditions.
Hydrogen can be produced at large central facilities or at small plants for local use.

Steam Reforming Is a Widely-Used Method of Hydrogen Production
Hydrogen can be separated from hydrocarbons through the application of heat - a process known as reforming. Steam reforming is currently the least expensive method of producing hydrogen and

 

             

accounts for about 95% of the hydrogen produced in the United States. This method is used in industries to separate hydrogen atoms from carbon atoms in methane (CH4). But the steam reforming process results in greenhouse gas emissions that are linked with global warming.

Electrolysis Creates No Emissions but Is Costly
Electrolysis is a process that splits hydrogen from water. It results in no emissions, but it is currently an expensive process. New technologies are currently being developed.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Hydrogen fuel cells (batteries) make electricity. They are very efficient, but expensive to build. Small fuel cells can power electric cars. Large fuel cells can provide electricity in remote places with no power lines.
Fuel cells are an important enabling technology for the hydrogen economy and have the potential to revolutionize the way we power our nation, offering cleaner, more-efficient alternatives to the combustion of gasoline and other fossil fuels. Fuel cells have the potential to replace the internal-combustion engine in vehicles and provide power in stationary and portable power applications because they are energy-efficient, clean, and fuel-flexible. Hydrogen or any hydrogen-rich fuel can be used by this emerging technology. 
Because of the high cost to build fuel cells, large hydrogen power plants won't be built for a while. However, fuel cells are being used in some places as a source of emergency power, from hospitals to wilderness locations.
Portable fuel cells are being sold to provide longer power for laptop computers, cell phones, and military applications.

Hydrogen Futures
The need for sustainable energy production and growing concerns about the cost and security of energy supply, both for power and transport, has led to a world-wide move to develop the hydrogen economy. We are working with governments and industry to examine the technical, economic, environmental and transition issues for the development of a hydrogen economy and develop world-class capabilities in the technologies relevant to this sustainable energy solution.
Hydrogen is expected to become an important energy carrier. In combination with fuel cells it offers the opportunity of an intrinsically clean energy supply. Many factors are important for the introduction of hydrogen in the energy supply including e.g. production, safety, legislation, social acceptance, storage, transport, conversion technologies for power generation, transportation applications, etc. Several companies, institutes and governments are stimulating the realization of a hydrogen economy and already collaborate in networks and national/international associations. However, these activities are predominantly focused on “conventional’ hydrogen (i.e. hydrogen from fossil fuels), and renewable hydrogen plays only a minor role at best. It should be realized that there will be many mutual problems in establishing the hydrogen economy with “conventional’ and “renewable hydrogen, and basically the only difference is the way hydrogen is produced.
About 9 million metric tons of hydrogen are produced in the United States annually, enough to power 20-30 million cars or 5-8 million homes. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the primary user of hydrogen as an energy fuel; it has used hydrogen for years in the space program. Liquid hydrogen fuel lifts NASA's space shuttles into orbit. Hydrogen batteries, called fuel cells, power the shuttle’s electrical systems. The only by-product is pure water, which the crew uses as drinking water.

Hydrogen Energy- Transport 
Globally, as transportation accounts for over two-thirds of the oil consumed daily, current hydrogen cell development centres are primarily focused on developing hydrogen technology for the this sector.   The best near-term technology solution to reducing oil consumption and emissions is by making energy-efficient choices such as purchasing gasoline hybrid electric vehicles.
Today, there are an estimated 200 to 300 hydrogen-fueled vehicles in the United States. Most of these vehicles are buses and automobiles powered by electric motors. They store hydrogen gas or liquid on board and convert the hydrogen into electricity for the motor using a fuel cell. Only a few of these vehicles burn the hydrogen directly (producing almost no pollution).
The present cost of fuel cell vehicles greatly exceeds that of conventional vehicles in large part due to the expense of producing fuel cells.
Hydrogen vehicles are starting to move from the laboratory to the road. The U.S. Postal Service, a package delivery company, a few park rangers, and a few private utility companies are also using hydrogen vehicles.

Challenges
The greatest challenge for the energy industry is how to source this fuel in an environmentally sustainable manner.  Technology validation addresses the following key challenges to pave the way for commercialization of fuel cell and hydrogen infrastructure technologies:

• Fuel Cell Cost and Durability. Statistical data for fuel cell vehicles that are operated under controlled, real-world conditions are very limited and often proprietary. Vehicle drivability, operation, and survivability in extreme climates and emissions (hydrogen ICE) have not been proven yet. Development and testing of complete integrated fuel cell power systems is required to benchmark and validate for optimal component development.

 • Hydrogen Storage. Statistical cost, durability, fast-fill, discharge performance, and structural integrity data of hydrogen storage systems will be needed to proceed with technology commercialization. Current technology does not provide reasonable cost and volume for transportation or stationary applications. An understanding of composite tank operating cycle life and failure due to accident or neglect is lacking. Cycle life of hydride storage systems need to be evaluated in real-world circumstances.

• Hydrogen Production and Delivery. The high cost of hydrogen production, low availability of the hydrogen production systems, and the challenge of providing safe production and delivery systems are all early penetration barriers. There are few data on the cost, efficiencies, and availabilities of integrated coal-to-hydrogen/power plants with sequestration options. Data on the high-temperature production of hydrogen from nuclear power are limited. Likewise, there is little operational, durability, and efficiency information for renewable hydrogen production systems. Hydrogen delivery options need to be determined and assessed as part of system demonstrations for every potential production technology. Validation of integrated systems is required to optimize component development.

• The Refueling. Currently, there are 58 hydrogen refueling stations in the United States, about half of which are located in California. There are so-called “chicken and egg” questions that hydrogen developers are working hard to solve, including: who will buy hydrogen cars if there are no refueling stations? And who will pay to build a refueling station if there are no cars and customers?

• Public Acceptance. The hydrogen economy will be a revolutionary change from the world we know today. Education of the general public, training personnel in the handling and maintenance of hydrogen system components, adoption of codes and standards, and development of certified procedures and training manuals for fuel cells and safety will foster hydrogen's acceptance as a fuel.

Green Renewable Energy Hydrogen
Hydrogen is touted as the energy carrier of the future; billions of dollars / Euros / yen have been allocated for R&D into hydrogen and fuel cells but still yet most of the world's current supply of hydrogen is derived from fossil fuels and therefore it not considered fully renewable. Energy sources are used for the hydrogen production from fossil fuels by steam reforming or cracking. GHG are produced during hydrogen manufacturing.
Most hydrogen does not eliminate the emission of GHG pollutants that are connected with climate change but only when an eligible renewable energy technology is used for electrolysis or non-hydrocarbon derivation process, can the resulting hydrogen be considered as renewable or the fuel cell considered as clean.  Hydrogen from fossil fuels will reduce total carbon emissions by 40%, and more if electrolysis is done with renewables.  Efforts are being made on renewable technologies like solar, lightening, wind for the production of hydrogen. Solar generation of hydrogen “would eliminate the environmental, sociological and economic problems associated with conventional hydrocarbon fuels. Fuel cell cars can reduce GHG emissions to zero only “when hydrogen is produced from renewable sources.
Hydrogen fuel offers the potential for abundant, affordable, clean and safe energy, but its promise is thwarted if tied to hazardous nuclear power. American Honda uses solar panels to extract hydrogen from water  in its plant near Los Angeles, producing hydrogen to drive a single fuel cell vehicle for one year. Fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen fuel have tremendous potential to contribute to the goals of sustainable transportation systems and the use of renewable energy. It is the first hydrogen station established by an auto maker to use solar energy to extract hydrogen from water. The result is a clean, renewably produced fuel that can be used to supply public and private transportation vehicles that emit only water.  Currently, 48% of global hydrogen is derived from natural gas, 30% from oil, 18% from coal and 4% via electrolysis of water. Until the 1950s, electrolysis was used widely to produce hydrogen or oxygen.
Hydrogen can also be produced by splitting the water molecule (H2O) through electrolysis. Water to water - no waste, no emissions, continuous energy which will be really green if produced from sources as solar, wind, geothermal or lightening. Unfortunately, electrolysis requires substantial amounts of electricity, which would be expensive to supply from a renewable source.
There are many other real green routes to hydrogen from renewable sources, such as photocatalysis, and these are under development.