• Aug 8, 2009
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A consortium of 13 Japanese oil and gas companies are collaborating in an effort to commercialize technologies enabling convenient refueling of hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2015. Coincidentally (or not), that date goes hand-in-hand with Toyota's target for selling hydrogen vehicles on the retail level.

According to the Nikkei in Japan (via Trading Markets), unnamed automakers are considering joining the group, which expects to start field-testing dozens of hydrogen refueling stations across Japan in short order. It's hoped that the oil companies can generate the hydrogen and the gas companies can use their existing pipelines and stations to transport it at a cost comparable to gasoline.

Considering that the great promise of hydrogen is its lack of tailpipe emissions, we can only hope the oil and gas companies find a way to generate the energy carrier in an environmentally friendly manner, even if it's not necessarily the most profitable solution. Sound likely?




[Source: Trading Markets via Fuel Cell Today]


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  • 32 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Considering that the great promise of hydrogen is its lack of tailpipe emissions"

      Tailpipe emissions don't mean squat. It's 'well-to-wheel' emissions that actually matter. I think that BEVs are a more viable technology since there are fewer energy transfer systems involved, and therefore less energy loss, than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Obviously, it is dependent on battery technology more than anything, but I would rather see the infrastructure built up for the increase in electric grid capacity and recharging stations. Just my .02
        • 5 Years Ago
        Tankdog,

        Calling personal transportation emissions laughable is, well, laughable. Both hydrogen and batteries are nothing more than means of energy storage. The difference is that batteries are much more efficient since there are fewer opportunities for energy loss.

        Also, the best way to produce hydrogen right now is by natural gas reformation, which emits, guess what, CO2! When comparing well-to-wheel CO2 emissions for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles using hydrogen from natural gas reformation to BEVs using electricity produced based on the US 2008 fuel consumption for electricity generation, they are very, very close (BEVs are slightly more efficient).

        Now, consider that 52% of the electricity generated in the US in 2008 was from coal, the fuel with the highest carbon content. If you are going to argue that a natural gas reformation infrastructure be built up for hydrogen fuel cells, then I would argue that a cleaner electricity infrastructure be built up for the increased electricity demands for BEVs. This cleaner energy generation would further increase the well-to-wheel emissions advantage that the BEVs hold.

        The one drawback is the battery size and weight. This causes packaging issues and the transportation industry is one area that demands a long range and would therefore require large batteries. I think that as battery technology continues to improve, this technology will be come more and more viable and eventually the obvious answer. Also consider that electric motors make maximum torque at 0 rpm (this is obviously an advantage for both BEVs and hydrogen fuel cells since both use electric motors).

        Regardless of my opinions, it will be interesting to see where the industry goes and I am excited to be a part of it. If you're interested, I can send you my engineering research paper that I did on alternative fuel technologies.

        -Lemon
      • 5 Years Ago
      A friend of mine tells me that valves used for petroleum and other liquids in pipelines leak like sieves when you put hydrogen gas in them. It's a much smaller molecule.

      If I were an oil company, I'd be putting a lot of money into electrical generation and transmission, because people can make their own hydrogen from water with electricity, although some way to refill in a hurry would be necessary. But shifting our energy resources from hydrocarbons to electricity without emitting CO2 will be a far bigger project than most of the proponents of such a switch really understand. Personally, I'd prefer to generate electricity from energy dense fuels like coal and oil and concentrate on finding ways to treat the emissions there, rather than trying to make clean cars burning gasoline.

      Still I'd like to see some dollar figures comparing current costs of transportation to those we're likely to see from any of these alternate proposals. I suspect that the poor will be hurt most.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just what do you think a hydrogen infrastructure would look like? Pipelines everywhere? think again.
      • 5 Years Ago
      this makes me sad in a way: not because I dislike hydrogen or because I think what the Japanese and others are doing is bad in some way, but rather because I greatly admire what they are doing while at the same time feel that we will never be able to do the same. Here you have industry collaboration in a direction that will produce a viable product for the consumer, benefiting both in a symbiotic way. (and they are beginning their effort NOW, as opposed to when they are in dire straits or when their competitors the world over are already doing it.) I have a sneaking suspicion that when we try that here, our industry will infight and pay-off our politicians to dupe the public into thinking hydrogen makes baby Jesus cry.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Wow that is deep with baby Jesus crying and all.

        What a great solution to use fossil fuel to make hydrogen. These guys are really thinking ahead. Remarkable. Yes I would love to pay 3 dollars a gallon for hydrogen. Compared to .40 cents for a EV to go the same distance. Let me bend over and grab my ankles now.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No one has yet mentioned that hydrogen leaks. The molecules are so small (they're just protons, after all) that they can leak out of any containment system. Unless they are held in place by a powerful magnetic field, of course.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes, hydrogen is a very small molecule (the smallest possible), but the greater problem with gaseous H2 is its reactivity. Long-term exposure to hydrogen makes metals brittle, and degrades common seal materials to varying degrees. The chemical and petrochemical industries have worked with hydrogen as a process gas for a long time, and chemical engineers have worked solutions to these problems.

        However, scaling these solutions to consumer use will be an interesting engineering problem. It is one thing to design a method of transporting H2 safely in an industrial environment, with trained workers and preventive maintenance schedules. It is quite another to design methods that will be used by untrained citizens in a fueling station forecourt. Accidents from hydrogen leaks are very, very nasty.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Uhg. Give it up already with the hydrogen economy.

      http://www.physorg.com/news85074285.html
      Marshall Davidoff
      • 5 Years Ago
      Polo and ken are dead wrong. You don't need natural gas to extract hydrogen. Hydrogen would be gotten from sea water(H2O) by using electricity to separate it from oxygen. The only thing objectionable to anyone about the process is the need to build nuclear plants to produce enough electricity to produce the quantity of hydrogen that would be needed for all the cars, at a reasonable price This would limit our need for fossil fuel. If the US would do this, we could become energy independent and sell hydrogen to the rest of the world. It looks like the Japanese will beat U.S. to it, but its not too late.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Marshall Davidoff
        You you could just use biomass. Invented in the USA back in 2006...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why not simply install hydrogen refueling stations at the dealerships?. The manufacturers could enter a lease agreement whereby the dealership sets aside an island near the service station for hydrogen refueling (or high speed electric battery recharging for plug in hybrids) to facilitate support for the new propulsion technologies.

      Then we wouldn't *need* to invest trillions of tax dollars building a nationwide infrastructure. It would be privately funded. Buidling these refueling stations at the dealerships would solve the problem of deciding where to place them. They'd automatically and logically be installed where they're most needed--in locations where the cars are being sold. This would naturally support sales and adoption of the new technology, removing one of the primary objectives for potential buyers.
      And it would give dealers another revenue stream to offset the continuing erosion of profits from new car sales.

      Whom do we petition to make this happen?
      • 5 Years Ago
      "They'll keep making their fortune by jacking up the price of fossil fuels required to generate electricity to recharge all of those EVs."


      Not likely. The energy market is much more diversified and becoming more-so as more clean energy projects go online. The oil companies don't even have that capability - they do not control or have majority ownership in the energy market.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What is with this "anybody who makes a profit is evil" attitude that so many people seem to embrace? Oil companies are not evil. They simply produce something that a lot of people choose to purchase. Their product will hopefully be replaced over time by technologically and environmentally superior alternatives, but that doesn't make the companies that provide today's most viable options the devil for making money at it. Companies that do not make profits cannot afford to produce the goods and services that we all buy. Maintaining "approved" industry through taxpayer bailouts is not a sustainable system. Some industries have to make it on their own, and actually manage to pull it off, by virtue of all those "evil" profits that some people so vehemently despise.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Hydrogen leakage problem has already been identified as a significant ozone depleter. We have a hard time controlling gasoline vapors at the filling station. Imagine the issues with safely handling cryogenic liquids at the retail level. Improved seals and transfer mechanisms will help, but the problem is non-trivial.

      As far as obtaining the hydrogen, using NG is truly idiotic when using the NG directly is a lot more efficient. I am more impressed by research that looks at getting H2 from seawater. For example, one could use floating arrays of solar cells to convert seawater to H2 and O2. The electricity generated there could also refrigerate and liquify the gases. Fleets of tankers could transport the H2. Alternatives, include using modified bio-organisms to convert sunlight and water to Hydrogen. There are huge dead aeas in the oceans where shading due to floating infrastructure would have very little impact. Yeah, those pesky typhoons might be a problem but engineers love a challenge...

      The problem with solar energy has been that it is a daytime only source of electricity. By converting it to H2, you create a storable, transportable fuel whose energy can be released at any time.

      The real Hydrogen economy however will occur when we use hydrogen for fusion. With clean, compact sources of incredible amounts of electricity you have a lot of options including both electric and hydrogen vehicles. Unfortunately, at the rate our Bureaucratic/Academic masters are working on the fusion problem, it will be over 100 years since the first H-bomb before we have peaceful application of thermonuclear energy. I'll be dead by then and I had such hopes...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ozone deleter?? Now I've heard it all.
      Carlos
      • 5 Years Ago
      I just want an ICE engine that burns hydrogen, it that too much to ask for?
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Carlos
        Why do you want one?
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Carlos
        although you guys are right, it is not a primary fuel source, it doesnt have to be made from methane. It can be made from water, using power from whatever source of electricity you like (solar, nuclear, coal, wind...). in the end this is just as good as EV just better since battery technology is not needed (ie no battery waste) and you can fill up in the same time as gasoline would. i think it is the perfect solution for the future of vehicles. so stop thinking about using it from methane (which requires digging out of the ground and the following reaction:

        "Commercial bulk hydrogen is usually produced by the steam reforming of fossil fuels such as natural gas, gasoline, ... At high temperatures (700–1100 °C), steam (H2O) reacts with methane (CH4) to yield syngas.

        CH4 + H2O → CO + 3 H2 + 191.7 kJ/mol" -wikipedia

        Notice 700-1100C temperatures, that takes power (electricity, and from what source?), so its not simply 'you get 191.7kj/mol of energy for free' and you have to clean up that carbon monoxide as well. So how much is the total energy of all that compared to 295KJ/mol you have to input from H2O --> H2 + O2. I would take the latter because you don't have to worry about finding methane (millions or billions in research?) then digging it out (envrionmental impact? energy and cost?) and then CO pollution, or removal (even more energy to change it to something else?) you may find that hydrogen production from water is far cleaner than from methane and less messy, and that means cheaper to make after the initital costs have been taken into account.

        remember, the whole process has to be looked at to see if it is more or less energy efficient.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Carlos
        @TranceMaster

        Still it takes 3 times the amount of energy to produce hydrogen than it would take to charge a battery. No matter from what angle you view it, hydrogen will always be an inefficient way to power our cars, Hydrogen = WASTEFUL.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Carlos
        Of course the gas and oil companies would fund hydrogen...it keeps them in the $$$ loop. Almost all the hydrogen produced comes from steam treated NATURAL GAS (found in the same pockets as oil, owned by the oil cartels), if we switched to hydrogen their profit margins wouldn't even be slightly affected (in fact they'd charge a premium for converting the NG to hydrogen). Of course a hydrogen fueling infastructure in the US would easily cost in the upper-100s of billions, and you could get two good Ferraris for what one OK hydrogen fuel cell car costs.

        What the oil companies are really trying to do is STALL and slow down acceptance of EVs so they can continue to profit off oil. Hydrogen IS NOT a option or backup - it is not cost-effective any way you look at it: it uses 3x the energy compared to an EV, the infastructure is NON-EXISTENT, and the cars themselves simply too expensive to be anything other than prototype grant-ponies. Let hydrogen die along with the oil companies.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Carlos
        @ Carlos , BMW H7.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Carlos
        Polo - Any new technology is expensive, but as new technology matures, prices begin to drop thanks to improvements in the manufacturing process. Things won't be any different with hydrogen, if someone starts taking it seriously there WILL be steady advances in the refining process and thus prices will drop. They may even find new resources that produce hydrogen more efficiently than natural gas - a find like that could put the Exxon boogeyman out of business!

        Also, let you forget, there was a time not so long ago when we had no gasoline infrastructure (nothing near the level we have now, anyway). We seemed to do just fine cranking out all these gas stations and we can do just as well in building a hydrogen infrastructure. That's a shaky argument at best.

        Of course, it's not the easiest or most immediate solution, but the best solutions are rarely the easiest. I think we're just wasting our time with the EV and hybrid band-aids we currently have - they both have their share of glaring problems. To me, hydrogen looks like very good long-term solution - it's not perfect RIGHT NOW, but with some funding and research, I think it has the most potential.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Carlos
        Yeap, Rhawb has no clue. Even the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy has made the case that hydrogen is NOT a viable technology.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Carlos
        i forgot to mention that you could use salt water, and i dont even think you need to distil it to get rid of the salt and other stuff since the product is gas (easy collection), so the only cleaning would be the tanks every once in a while. also, O2 being the product means we can reduce the ppm of CO2 in the air (win win :) ).
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm waiting, "Exxon is that You"? "Well it ant baby Jesus"!
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