The Hydrogen Answer

Energy Independence.

 

I would refer readers to the previous article under this title by Robert Nardelli, (LinkedIn Pulse) where his position is for a country to have its Energy Independence in terms of using its own resources. Whilst what I am about to propose, would without doubt have the same overall result, I wish to take Energy Independence to the consumer level on the basis that it will lead to the Hydrogen economy.

I would also refer readers to Arno A. Evers  and his Global Hydrogen Ambassadors Group LinkedIn, along with the most comprehensive website on energy generation and hydrogen production. It is important that information collated by Arno in this website, is considered by everyone who wishes to appraise themselves of how the world has arrived at our present dire position and I am confident that many people who take a look at this mine of information, will refer back on many occasions.

Without Arno and his information, I would not be writing this. There is no doubt in my mind that after 30 plus years of trying to get people to see and work together to begin the Hydrogen Era it may be happening and Arno deserves to be recognised as a Global Leader in fact I would propose that he should be invited as a member of the Elders, a fitting accolade.

Why does the World need to change energy provision.

The World has a major problem, of rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and whilst the cause has been known for decades, over the past 20 years there has been no serious positive action, to make the drastic cut in emissions which has been recognised as absolutely necessary. Irrespective of the dire need to mitigate Global Warming, ever increasing amounts of fossil fuels are being burnt, to generate electricity and combusted in internal combustion engines to power transport.

In addition to CO2 there has been a sharp increase in methane in the atmosphere, which is more than 20 times more effective as a GHG than CO2 and a recent report shows that a significant amount, is down to fracking,  with leaks as the most common cause.

By far the worst case and seen as having the potential to be the most damaging, is the methane which is being released, due to the warming of the Oceans and Perma frost, where gigantic amounts of Methane are trapped and which is already starting to be released.

Drastic problems require drastic a response.

After 20 plus years of energy saving methods, fitted to new build houses and retro fitted to existing houses, there has been little change in the only sensible means of measurement, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere and unfortunately this has continued to increase.

I despair at the discussions and speeches by the powers to be, who after 20 years of a policy of Energy Saving,  with no positive result, still see Energy Saving as the way to cut CO2 emissions and ultimately reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere.

I fear that, without a change of those people or something which happens or is brought about to change their stance, they will be having the same action plan in 2034.

It has to be accepted by the majority, that the Planet faces its worst ever threat to human beings and most other forms of life and we humans are the cause. In which case, it is clear that if we are the cause, then we have no option but to stop doing whatever is causing our future demise.

The Problem,  The cause,  and  The Answer.

The Problem” is clear, levels of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere are clearly increasing the Green House Effect, where solar energy entering the atmosphere and most of which would be reflected back into space, is now not going out to space but is being reflected back into the atmosphere by these gasses. This additional heat is at present being absorbed into the Oceans, resulting in the expansion of this vast quantity of water which amounts to an increase in sea level. With Ice caps and Glaciers melting more rapidly than normal, also adding to the sea level rise. This is the first clearly recognisable effect of Climate Change and it is already submerging the coast line of many low-lying countries and especially Pacific Island Nations.

The Cause,” vast quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere, most of which is attributed to industrialisation and in particular the burning of Fossil Fuels to generate electricity, buildings heating systems and combusted in internal combustion engines to power transport.

The Answer,” is so simple, that a 12 year old child could give the perfect answer.

“If you are getting into trouble by being naughty, stop being naughty.”

Same Answer for adults,

“Burning fossil fuels is causing the CO2 problem, stop burning Fossil Fuels.”

Is it feasible to stop burning Fossil Fuels, of course it is. Had similar amounts of billions of dollars, which have been spent on Oil, been spent on developing alternative energy sources, I would not be writing this.

Renewable Energy.

Before people begin to say that electricity generated by wind and solar are intermittent and not reliable. Let me point out, that it is obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense, that wind and solar power are intermittent. The people who decided to use wind and solar generation, as if it were a power station connected to the grid, were either overpaid for their level of intelligence or this was a deliberate intention to undermine the credibility of Renewable Energy.

It is very simple really, using the wind and solar energy, to generate electricity, there is a clear need to have a method of storage, able to level out supply and demand. However, it is also clear that storage for grid sized generation is very difficult, being a major infrastructure project and extremely costly to put in place.

That raises the question, “If central generation by Coal, Oil and Gas Fired power stations has to be stopped, is it feasible to continue with a high voltage grid to distribute the electricity generated by renewables or is there a better, more cost effective way, of using renewable energy to generate electricity for consumers.?”

Distributed Generation.

In part, The Answer, is something which is already happening and has been termed Distributed Generation, a term that loosely covers generation by various means and is either part of a localised small or mini grid, which can be connected to the grid or it has no connection to the main grid and centralised generation.

What is not made clear publicly, is that individual houses being Off-grid with Onsite generation is by far a better option for the vast majority of consumers. It is then a small step to integrate a system which also produces hydrogen, to be stored for use in the house and vehicle fuel. There is no doubt that this by far the most superior option for stopping the burning of fossil fuels by power stations and in Internal Combustion engines.

There is a growing number who view developing and providing Onsite Generation and hydrogen production systems, in order to take housing Off-Grid, as the most positive method, to begin the necessary change to bring an end to “the cause of CO2 emissions”.

Some businesses in the UK and I would think it to be the case in other countries, have already started down this road. Although this is being done mainly as a cost saving measure, it is absolutely clear that it stops CO2 emissions.

It is clear that, residential housing would have the same result, being financially beneficial to the consumer, whilst stopping the CO2 emissions for that house. Being in much greater numbers, moving residential housing Off grid and providing Onsite generation, will mean the closure of power stations.

The closure of power stations will mean loss of employment, but this must in all sense and reason be balanced with the fact that to carry on burning fossil fuels will almost certainly cause decades of destructive Climate Change, with deprivation of drought and floods, countries lost to the Sea with fighting and wars over a place to live and loss of life on a grand scale.

 

 

Why Onsite Generation.

The basis for this being, that it is much easier to make use of one or a number of sources of renewable energy, which are available onsite or in close proximity, as a first stage in overcoming intermittence. Also by moving to low-voltage household circuits and systems, the costs are lower, with less need to waste energy stepping down. With household low-voltage systems and hydrogen, it is also much easier to have a storage system in place, which is self financing and not a massive cost burden for future generations.

The most straight forward storage method would be batteries, either lead-acid or other such types in this category. There is also the fairly recent developments of Li-ion and such like and more innovation in the pipeline. Including Aluminium – Air batteries to name one, graphene also has potential.

When we look at the change of motor vehicles, to low or zero carbon in use.  Plug in electric vehicles are seen by some as the best option, but the EVs were short on range, batteries have been improved and it is imperative to improve battery capacity further, if the range is to become normal and accepted. Unfortunately that raises the costs considerable, when the EV is already considerably more expensive than petrol variants. However, in the majority of cases when the car is being charged it is simply passing the emissions to a FF power station which has worse pollution implications than petrol.

In the case of plug-in EVs the electricity will have to be sourced from RE or these vehicles are little different to those which they are replacing and at a far higher cost.

Hydrogen.

Hydrogen, which has been known about for well over a hundred years, is an energy carrier, but is not available naturally and is normally bonded with other elements to form an organic compound ie hydro-carbons, water.  Hydrogen has to be produced by using a form of energy to break down the atomic bond and release the hydrogen atom, to be collected and stored. Hydrogen is a means of storage of electricity, as it can then be used in a reverse process to generate electricity either in a static situation or onboard an electric car with only water as the result.

Yes there is a waste element in converting electricity to hydrogen and then back to electricity. However, if the electricity is generated on site, the cost of that used energy, is only related to the cost of the installation. The use of electricity and the hydrogen, has no related cost to the amount used and in financial terms there are savings for the consumer.

The most common H compound being water H2O where H2 is normally produced by hydrolysis. Whereas, natural gas/methane which is CH4 is widely used to produce industrial quantities of hydrogen by steam reformation. However, this process still creates vast quantities of CO2 emissions and will have to change or face charges to pay for the damage that it causes to the atmosphere. It is not an option to provide H2 as fuel for electric vehicles where the objective is to have zero emissions in use.

Obviously, using this as a low-carbon fuel, is little better than using the natural gas directly in an internal combustion engine and there is the question of extra cost to produce the hydrogen.

Hydrogen can be combusted in an IC engine or used in a fuel cell designed so that it rejoins with oxygen to form water and in so doing creates an electrical charge, as a whole process generating electrical current to power electric motors.  The exhaust is H2O Water,  Zero Carbon emissions.

It is clear that hydrogen produced using electricity generated from RE  Solar Water  and Wind turbines, used to power hydrogen generators or hydrolyser’s would make far better use of electricity from RE. This would be especially so of wind  power even at present, to store the excess instead of not generating when the wind was blowing but the grid is up to capacity.

Off Grid Buildings with Onsite generation.

The Low-voltage Hydrogen House.

Bringing together the same changes to systems, as those being devised to change the motor vehicles to low-carbon, to engineer a low-carbon house, is relatively straight forward.

Taking the well developed and super efficient electrical systems of a modern car, by enlarging the capacity by merging a number of such systems and lengthening the circuits. By using the latest LED lighting, including some from the cars, the low-voltage house would have advantages over the present mains voltage houses.

The Hydrogen-Electric house is simply an enlarged Hydrogen electric car in reverse. The house using RE to produce electricity to produce hydrogen from water to store H2 in the car as fuel to produce elctricity to power the car and turn it into water will.

Hydrogen is also much easier to produce and much safer than people have been led to believe, especially so in small quantities. Most people today, do not know or did not realize at the time, that the town gas, the then domestic gas supply in houses, (before natural gas CH4 being 80% hydrogen) was in the region of 70% hydrogen. Clearly, hydrogen is in daily use in houses already.

Is the Hydrogen house feasible.

Honda Motors, have already built a solar powered house, which has hydrogen production for use as fuel for their latest FCEV.  This is in conjuction with California University and on trial in Davies Ca. Unfortunately, the Honda system converts natural gas from the domestic supply. Whilst it demonstrates that the systems work, it cannot be seen or accepted as truly Zero emissions in use, because the carbon is emitted by the unit installed in the house.

There are a number of Innovative  methods of generating  electricity onsite both On as well as Off-grid and combination solar and wind generating systems can even be bought off the shelf in various voltages and amperage/wattage.

There are at present three Innovative systems, described in discussions on various groups here on Linked In These three systems not only provide electricity for the home in low-voltage format, but also produce a supply of hydrogen. The hydrogen will be stored for use as fuel for use in a personal H2 electric vehicle or for use in the house for cooking and heating.

These systems intend to make use of one or a number of sources of renewable energy, which will depend on where the system is to be installed and what the best available sources are. Two are still at the concept stage, whilst one has three systems installed and has received funding to expand further.

Are Hydrogen houses feasible, the Honda House already in use answers that question, whilst there are three systems in use, which answers the full question that Hydrogen houses which are Zero emissions in use are feasible.

From recent information it appears that the Japanese government is supporting the Generating companies in fitting hydrogen fuel cells to generate onsite electricity even in high rise. This demonstrates the benefits, as a $400 to $500 saving each year and shows the way that things will go.

The Downside being that it uses natural gas from the domestic gas supply. Methane is over 20 times worse as a Greenhouse gas but used this way it causes CO2 emissions.

 

What is the benefit which Off-grid  Onsite generation and H2 will provide.

Off-grid installations will have a cost and for the purpose of this paper, I will say £20,000 . The system will provide, Free to use electricity, that is to say irrespective of how much is used, the cost is only relative to the cost of the installation. The system also provides a supply of Free to use hydrogen, again irrespective of the amount used the cost is relative to the cost of the installation.

This also calls into question the mains gas supply, since natural gas is methane, burning this also results in a massive amount of CO2 emissions when the housing stock is taken as whole, so yes the use of natural gas for household heating and cooking has to be replaced. Energy efficient boilers have cut down on these emissions but never the less it is still a substantial amount, which is easily replaced by hydrogen.

To assess the financial benefit, take the existing costs for electricity and heating and for vehicle fuel on a monthly basis and set this off against the cost of the installation.

Accepted that it would be essential to have a H2 EV to make use of the hydrogen fuel.  FCEVs  are just being marketed and their cost is at present £50,000 approx. There is no doubt that in a matter of years that figure will be nearer to £40,000 .

It is the view of myself and others that, the savings made by onsite generation and H2 fuel production will not only cover the cost of the installation, but in conjunction with the normal costs of a new car, it will offset the extra cost of a new H2 EV.

In this way, the change to Hydrogen motoring will made. Without taking this route, of providing added value for the consumer, hydrogen vehicles outside of fleet operators, will take decades to reach the level of sales/ownership necessary to constitute a start.

Home Based H2 Fueling.

It goes without saying really, but safety of such systems will be paramount, whether home based or filling stations and every H2 car sold should have by law a training certificate off safety for filling and use by the consumer.

 

The major issue for the change to hydrogen motoring and zero emissions, has existed for many years and remains today.  The complete lack of a H2 Filling station network.  Clearly the cost of such a new infrastructure has been prohibitive, with the cost of keeping H2 Fuel Stations open whilst customers are sufficient to cover those costs, are years away. Without government funding the present H2 Station openings, would not be happening and the question needs to be addressed, as to how long and at what cost that funding is going to continue, in order that these private businesses reach break even or if they ever will.

The Future;

Along with others in these groups, I see that continuing with a system which was devised over decades to network petrol and then diesel fuels, with their origin in an Oil well, is to put it simply, not a viable option.

There is one glaringly simple fact, individuals could not drill an Oil Well in their garden or have a refinery, but it is quite a simply matter to generate personal electricity and a personal supply of hydrogen.

By the same token, businesses such as a Motel, could also generate their own electricity and produce a supply of hydrogen, which would provide the needs of motorists who have a home based personal fuel supply.

 

Energy Independence.

As I said at the start of this epitaph, with the consumer gaining Energy Independence, by producing their own energy, it will have varied and much wider implications.

I am convinced that it is in the interest of each and every person alive on the Planet and those yet to be born, that we should accept responsibility for this problem. This approach of joined up, intelligent thinking and planning, will usher in, the long talked about Hydrogen Era.

The low-carbon era, call it what you will, but Energy Independence will mean a sustainable way of life for all countries not just today’s rich ones, but those which Oil and Grid based electricity and gas left behind in the last century.

Best Regards

Al Scott

 

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