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Hydrogen Economy breakthrough? Why did earlier attempts fail? Why can the Hydrogen Economy now be successful?

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Hello everyone, I am very curious and unsure, today I watched a documentary about Hydrogen and the earlier attempts of a Hydrogen Economy. I am really fascinated! But I don't understand why the Hydrogen Economy always failed. Already in 1874 wrote Jules Verne that hydrogen will replace coal in the future, 100 years later in 1980, after the Chernobyl catastrophe the Hydrogen Economy had a new climax and it failed again, and now researchers shout out again : The Hydrogen Economy start now! -

What changed? -

Why can the Hydrogen Economy now be successful?

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Hydrogen is a storage medium, like a battery. It’s not an energy source, like oil and natural gas, which represent stored energy. For a “hydrogen economy” to succeed you need efficient generation, storage, and release of the hydrogen. Plus a source if energy to create the hydrogen. 

 

Quote

 

now researchers shout out again : The Hydrogen Economy start now! -

What changed? -

Why can the Hydrogen Economy now be successful?

 

 Who is shouting this?

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Posted (edited)
55 minutes ago, swansont said:

It’s not an energy source, like oil and natural gas, which represent stored energy.

...only if you have free access to (typically) gaseous Oxygen, with which fuel will react, during burning..

Fuel + Oxygen => CO2 + H2O + energy (in the case of fossil fuels)

Hydrogen + Oxygen => H2O + energy

(without free access to Oxygen or other oxidizer, there will be no reaction, and no release of stored energy).

55 minutes ago, swansont said:

Plus a source if energy to create the hydrogen. 

...same with fossil fuels.. there had to be invested energy to create them from H2O and CO2 in the past, millions years ago..

They remained under ground because they were not as volatile as gaseous Hydrogen..

Edited by Sensei

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11 hours ago, Sensei said:

...only if you have free access to (typically) gaseous Oxygen, with which fuel will react, during burning..

Which we do...

Quote

...same with fossil fuels.. there had to be invested energy to create them from H2O and CO2 in the past, millions years ago..

Which there was.

 

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Posted (edited)

As Swansont mentioned, Hydrogen from Electrolysis (*) is mostly a storage option for electric energy, either directly or as a precursor step of synthesizing other storage gases/liquids. It has low efficiency but high energy density and low storage costs. Hydrogen is central in future renewable energy systems as the basis of long-term energy storage for the electric system, replacement CO2-neutral fuel for ships and planes, and possibly even for land-based vehicles (batteries and overhead-lines being competing technologies, there). The main drivers that can trigger its breakthrough would be cost reduction or an outright ban of competing technologies (=fossil fuels). Costs for renewable electric power generation (i.e. the "raw material") have come down significantly in the last two decades (Electrolysis from fossil fuels is pointless of course - you could just keep your fuel in the first place).

Bottom line: Drivers are the need to replace fossil fuels and the cost reduction in renewable electric power generation.

 

This is nothing new to the scientists or the energy community, and Hydrogen is not the only topic you can get excited about (-> battery technology, low-temperature heating grids, off-shore wind turbines, demand-side management, ...). Hydrogen specifically came into the news recently when the German government released its national Hydrogen strategy (https://www.bmbf.de/files/bmwi_Nationale Wasserstoffstrategie_Eng_s01.pdf). No such strategies exist for any of the other topics I mentioned. Releases like this have a significant impact on the science community and what they talk about, since everyone want to jump on the funding train. Apparently, similar strategy ideas may exist on the EU level (https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/leaked-europes-draft-hydrogen-strategy/). And perhaps that's not even completely coincidental, given that Germany just took over the EU presidency. So to Swansont's question about who is shouting about a Hydrogen economy: The answer could be "the Europeans".

 

(*) Fun fact I learned only recently: Electrolysis is not how Hydrogen is being produced on scale today. Instead, we start with oil, extract the Hydrogen and release the CO2 to the atmosphere . Totally pointless in the context of replacing fossil fuels with CO2-neutral fuels, of course.

Edited by timo

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Fossil fuels are dirt-cheap. Coal is outrageously cheap, gas is extremely cheap, oil is very cheap. Presently, some renewables are still several times more expensive than oil but half as expensive than uranium fission.

Then, you must distinguish between electricity and other uses. Cheap electricity doesn't suffice to run a car for 1000 km. And even more, you must check if the price includes taxes or not: this can make the price *5, is one of the big money income for governments, and explains why most governments want to keep fossil fuels, whatever they claim.

Hydrogen, as a storage means, competes with batteries. As it looks, batteries have won for cars and lorries, despite serious research with heavy budget was made in hydrogen storage.

But my insulated tank makes liquid hydrogen extremely interesting for helicopters (and quadcopters, hexacopters...), where the energy per mass unit of kerosene isn't satisfactory. One hour is too little for a rescue operation in the mountains or at sea, too little to travel comfortably to an oil rig, and many more uses.
scienceforums and subsequent messages
Interesting for other aeroplanes too, which may adopt it after or before helicopters do
scienceforums and subsequent messages

Presently, hydrogen is produced by incomplete combustion of methane CH4, which releases CO2. But we can do it better. In a first improvement, we can convert methane to hydrogen and a gasoline equivalent without burning its carbon
chemicalforums
Research for that is already done and it works. It would be a means to run hydrogen and gasoline users on natural gas rather than oil, hence to reduce dioxide emissions. It is not done because it costs investments. Even the C3+C4 fraction from gas and oil wells is burnt at the well because it's not worth transporting, figure that. Getting hydrogen from it would emit no more dioxide, or better, we could transform the rest into polypropylene or high-octane additives.

A huge plant is presently being built in the Netherlands to produce hydrogen from renewable energy, so keep hope. I read they want to use electrolysis, a choice bizarre to me. Other paths like the zinc oxide cycle
wikipedia
don't waste power to make electricity nor electrolyse. The zinc oxide cycle runs on concentrated sunheat, which is cheap.

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