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Brian Westenhaus

Brian Westenhaus

Brian is the editor of the popular energy technology site New Energy and Fuel. The site’s mission is to inform, stimulate, amuse and abuse the…

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Hydrogen Set to Compete with Fossil Fuels

  • The research highlights the potential of hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Houston, with its existing hydrogen plants and natural gas pipeline infrastructure, is an ideal location for transitioning to hydrogen-powered transportation.
  • The study compares different hydrogen generation processes and concludes that hydrogen can be supplied at a cost competitive with traditional fuels, considering the environmental benefits.

University of Houston energy researchers suggest hydrogen fuel can potentially be a cost-competitive and environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline and diesel, and that supplying hydrogen for transportation in the greater Houston area can be profitable today.

The research team is offering a white paper titled “Competitive Pricing of Hydrogen as an Economic Alternative to Gasoline and Diesel for the Houston Transportation Sector” where they examine the promise for the potential of hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

The white paper offers that traditional liquid transportation fuels like gasoline and diesel are preferred because of their higher energy density. Unlike vehicles using gasoline, which releases carbon dioxide, and diesel – which contributes ground-level ozone, fuel cell electric vehicles refuel with hydrogen in five minutes and produce zero emissions.

The paper then pitches “According to the Texas Department of Transportation, Houston had approximately 5.5 million registered vehicles in the fiscal year 2022. Imagine if all these vehicles were using hydrogen for fuel.”

Houston, home to many hydrogen plants for industrial use, offers several advantages, according to the researchers.

The study explains, “It (Houston) has more than sufficient water and commercial filtering systems to support hydrogen generation. Add to that the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure, which makes hydrogen production and supply more cost effective and makes Houston ideal for transitioning from traditional vehicles to hydrogen-powered ones.”

The study compares three hydrogen generation processes: steam methane reforming (SMR), SMR with carbon capture (SMRCC), and electrolysis using grid electricity and water. The researchers used the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)’s H2A tools to provide cost estimates for these pathways, and the Hydrogen Delivery Scenario Analysis Model (HDSAM) developed by Argonne National Laboratory to generate the delivery model and costs.

Additionally, it compares the cost of grid hydrogen with SMRCC hydrogen, showing that without tax credit incentive SMRCC hydrogen can be supplied at a lower cost of $6.10 per kg hydrogen at the pump, which makes it competitive.

Professor Christine Ehlig-Economides said, “This research underscores the transformative potential of hydrogen in the transportation sector. Our findings indicate that hydrogen can be a cost-competitive and environmentally responsible choice for consumers, businesses, and policymakers in the greater Houston area.”

***

Your humble writer is full of suspicion. As regular readers know, hydrogen is gaseous at any sensible consumer operating temperature and pressure. Its the smallest atom and slithers through most everything. Its not something one would want stored in an attached garage. The fuel cell tech isn’t quite there yet. And the study relies on power numbers for steam that likely come from natural gas. Just where the electrical watts needed from the grid would come from is anybody’s guess.

For all the contestable points the work does suggest that hydrogen fuel cells have economic potential. Maybe someday there will be a few models of hydrogen fueled automobiles to choose from.

But right now, the market forcing of electric battery energized cars isn’t building any confidence. Add to that the government wants to force heat pumps and electric appliances as the only choices. This after wind and solar aren’t looking like economically healthy ideas after all.

The reality forecast suggests a disaster. Government plus rule and regulation force? What will a community tolerate when forced to choose between air conditioning and charging the car tonight?

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Hydrogen might be the energy / fuel nirvana someday. But know one knows how that system is going to look today. All this political pressure is looking to blow the system up.

By Brian Westenhaus via New Energy and Fuel 

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Leave a comment
  • David on November 23 2023 said:
    Having worked with hydrogen I call bullshit. People who are still pushing this shite should be ashamed.
  • Alex Ashton on November 24 2023 said:
    This is the usual nonsense trying to push hydrogen for applications for which it is well suited. Production of hydrogen from electricity and reconversion to electricity for end use (e.g., in vehicles or for power generation) entails a 50% loss, so hydrogen is nothing but a means for converting electricity to half as much electricity.

    And the COST of doing that at scale is staggering -- electrolyzers on one end, fuel cells on the other, and massive compression, transmission, and storage technology in between, NONE of which exists today. Contrary to the claim, the natural gas grid CANNOT be used for hydrogen. It is incompatible with hydrogen above 20% by volume, which is only 7% by energy content.

    Electricity has already won the battle for cars, buses, taxis, and short-range hauling. It is 2X more efficient, and the infrastructure for transmission and delivery already exists throughout the country. Yes, that infrastructure needs upgrading, but it needs that whether we use EVs or not.

    Green hydrogen should be used only where we need hydrogen as such -- ammonia fertilizer, fuels, chemicals, possible decarbonization of steel, cement, and industrial heating -- NOT as a vehicle fuel or as an energy carrier.
  • Andrew Herbst on November 30 2023 said:
    Hydrogen is explosively combustible in any concentration with oxygen. When handling it, you must have a vent to atmosphere at the highest point in a building or machine, otherwise it will pocket into high points and explode with the slightest spark or static discharge. It is not suitable as a transportation fuel due to safety risks.

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