Energy Storage Continued:

Hydrogen as a Secondary Fuel:

While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe on the Earth its mostly found as water.

Hydrogen can be easily separated from Oxygen in water via Electrolysis. This process is about 67% efficient

Burning hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water --> no other combustion products (except for small amounts of nitrogen oxides formed around high temperature combustion zone)

For use as a secondary fuel, Hydrogen needs to be stored as a liquid. (20 K; -253 C).

As a liquid its energy density per unit volume is 1000 times higher.

For a given stored energy requirment, a cryogenic hydrogen facility is much less expensive than a pumped hydro facility

But overall efficiency is 25%a (cryogenic storage is energy intensive)

But, one can make a hydgrogen-oxygen fuel cell --> Using a catalyst, hydrogen combines with oxygen to make water plus electricity. In the lab, such cells can acheive 85% efficiency --> but large scale value is unknown and untested

Hydrogen is already produced mainly to form ammonia to be used in fertilizer. Hydrogen is extracted from methane and steam to make Carbon Dioxide.

Problems with the use of Hydrogen:

  • For 10% of our national energy budget, 400 1000 Megawatt power plants operating at 24 hours per day would be required to produce hydrogen via electolysis. This is twice the current national demand.

  • Hydrogen is incredibly explosive (Hindenburg disaster). More explosive than natural gas. Can explode when mixed with air at concentrations of 4-75%. The ignition energy for this mixture is also very small and easily generated from a spark of static electricty.

    Transport of Hydrogen Gas:


    Because of the inefficiency in producing it, hydrogen will always be more expensive than the electricity that produced it, if you do the price comparison at the production site

    But, for situations where customers are 1000 miles away from the production site - it is cheaper to deliver hydrogen through a pipeline system than electricity through the power grid.

    A possible strategy is to build large, sturdy windmills in the Aleutian Island Chain (one of the windiest places on the Earth), for the purposes of producing electricity to make hydrogen from Sea Water. The hydrogen would then be shipped over the pipeline network to customers thousands of miles away.

    The use of liquid hydrogen as a fuel source has potential (particularly on jet airplanes) but technical problems associated with storage and delivery have not yet been overcome

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