Monday, 11 December 2017

Climate change: breakthroughs in hydrogen fuel cells >>> for the "world energy transition"

The holy grail of energy is the hydrogen fuel cell - and it's all about 'steam reforming' - involving methane (CH4 = one atom of carbon and four atoms of hydrogen) or methanol (CH3OH):
Steam reforming - Wikipedia

But so far, as a byproduct is carbon, it would involve a lot of Carbon Capture and Storage:
Futures Forum: Climate change: Bio-energy + carbon capture and storage
Futures Forum: Climate change >>> Engineering the climate >>> 'As a technology of last resort, carbon removal is paradoxical. It may be impossible to manage and it may also be impossible to manage without.'

And anyway, we've got electric cars instead, as this video from 2015 shows:


Hydrogen cars vs. Electric cars - YouTube
Futures Forum: The future of electric vehicles: the issues

But things are moving rapidly, as the Irish Times shows us this week in a video on-line:

Could hydrogen be our fuel for an uncertain future? 

A decarbonised world is a must if climate change is to be stopped and rolled back 

Thu, Dec 7, 2017, 05:00

Kevin O'Sullivan

Toyota was one of 18 multinationals that came together at the latest UN climate talks in Bonn to launch a strategy for adopting hydrogen as a fuel for the “world energy transition”. Video: Toyota

The possibility of hydrogen as a fuel of the future has lurked in the background for years. Its merits as a clean, efficient fuel were indisputable but it was quickly dismissed on safety and cost grounds.

The safety issue was addressed. Infrastructure costs, however, remained stubbornly high. And the cost of generating the gas, its storage and distribution to fuelling stations were prohibitive.

Intriguingly, some in the motor and fossil fuel sectors continued to talk about “what ifs”. At the very least, it was as if they were staying in the game as a small side bet – to ensure they had the know-how if blockages to viability were somehow obliterated.

In less than two years that scenario has changed. Market conditions are in upheaval mode as growth of renewable energy sources is accelerating and their cost of production has declined at quicker rates than anticipated. The move to a decarbonised world is happening. In that scenario hydrogen as a fuel for use beyond motoring has forced its way on to the agenda.

At the latest UN climate talks in Bonn those business interests gathered under the auspices of the Hydrogen Council (set up in Davos earlier this year) and unveiled their plan for a scaling up of hydrogen in the world’s transition to sustainable energy use. The side-bet club had become an alliance of leading companies already investing in hydrogen value chain – 18 multinationals including Toyota, Alstom, BMW, Royal Dutch Shell, and Mitsubishi Corporation, representing annual revenues of more than €1.5 trillion and employing two million people worldwide.

Its approach, they believe, would deliver decarbonisation of transport, industry, and buildings, and enable a global renewable energy production and distribution system around hydrogen. To realise this vision, it stressed that investors, industry and government needed to ramp up and co-ordinate their efforts. It predicted hydrogen could account for a fifth of all energy consumed by 2050 and meet 20 per cent of 2050 CO2 emissions reduction targets.

The council set out some likely striking milestones for 2030:

* One in 12 cars in Germany, Japan, South Korea, and California will be powered by hydrogen;

* Globally, 10 to 15 million cars and 500,000 trucks will be powered by hydrogen;

* Deployment of hydrogen-powered trains and passenger ships will have begun.

Their prediction of what it could mean by 2050 is dramatic: 400 million cars, 15 to 20 million trucks, and about five million buses, which constitute on average 20 to 25 per cent of their respective transportation segments. It claims hydrogen is much better suited to store energy for long periods of time than electricity. Renewable electricity can be stored in the form of hydrogen to enable it to last much longer and be suited for use throughout the year, especially as energy use peaks in the winter.


Could hydrogen be our fuel for an uncertain future? - The Irish Times
How do hydrogen fuel cell vehicles work? - The Irish Times?

There are now new technologies for fuel cells being rapidly developed:
Cheap and safe electro-catalysts for fuel cells -- ScienceDaily

With this press release out today:

Cleaner, cheaper hydrogen from methane

December 11, 2017

Researchers from the Institute of Chemical Technology (ITQ), Valencia's Polytechnic University (UPV) and the Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (CSIC) have developed ceramic membranes that make it possible to produce compressed hydrogen from methane in a cleaner, cheaper way. Results of the investigation have applications in the field of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as well as the chemical industry, as this new method is capable of generating hydrogen from methane gas and electricity in just one step and with near-zero energy loss.

Hydrogen is an excellent fuel which, due to its high energetic density and zero greenhouse gas emission, is essential in a great number of industrial processes. Its combination with oxygen in the atmosphere produces energy and water as its sole by-product, making it one of the main candidates to substitute fossil fuels as a source of energy for the transport sector.

CSIC research professor and head of the investigation José Manuel Serra says, "The development and introduction in the market of hybrid and electric cars will allow us to reduce the impact of transport in CO2 emissions in coming years, and as a result, the greenhouse effect on the planet. The next natural step, as proven by the investment made by large automotive industry brands, is the implementation of hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, which have greater autonomy and charge faster than electric ones."

Researchers at the ITQ have developed a gas separation membrane reactor which is operated electronically and allows for the endothermic production of hydrogen with a near-zero energy loss.

"Our investigations show that it is possible to generate compressed hydrogen in just one step with high efficiency from electricity and methane gas or biogas and, simultaneously, isolate the CO2 and not release it into the atmosphere. Our method allows for the hydrogen to be produced at high pressure in a distributed manner, which means it could be produced in petrol stations, residential areas, garages or farms. By using electricity from renewable sources, our system allows us to generate hydrogen with a very low carbon footprint. We can also store the leftover renewable energy in the form of compressed hydrogen for a later use when the electrical demand is higher, or as fuel for vehicles," Serra adds.

The work of investigators at the ITQ, developed together with the University of Oslo and American multinational company CoorsTek, will make it so that vehicles with a hydrogen fuel cell can be recharged with an energetic efficiency and simplicity similar to that of a battery electric vehicle. Due to methane gas, as a primary energy source, having a noticeably lower cost than electricity, hydrogen could be a cheaper fuel for vehicles than electricity.

Cleaner, cheaper hydrogen from methane - phys.org

And meanwhile, Toyota seemed to have cracked large-scale production:

Toyota and FuelCell Energy Plan Massive Hydrogen Fuel Project

December 8, 2017 by Alyssa Danigelis

Port of Long Beach. Credit: Kevin Dooley, Flickr Creative Commons

Toyota and FuelCell Energy announced plans for a megawatt-scale carbonate fuel cell power generation plant at the Port of Long Beach. As part of the deal, FuelCell Energy will build the plant, which will supply hydrogen for Toyota’s fuel cell electric vehicles and heavy-duty fuel cell Class 8 proof of concept truck, the companies say.

The new Tri-Gen facility at the Port of Long Beach will use bio-waste sourced from the state’s agricultural operations to generate water, electricity, and hydrogen, according to Toyota.

“Tri-Gen will generate approximately 2.35 megawatts of electricity and 1.2 tons of hydrogen per day, enough to power the equivalent of about 2,350 average-sized homes and meet the daily driving needs of nearly 1,500 vehicles,” Toyota’s press release says. “The power generation facility will be 100% renewable, supplying Toyota Logistics Services’ operations at the Port and making them the first Toyota facility in North America to use 100% renewable power.”


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