The Hydrogen Economy PLEASE READ about the Author.

[COMMENT: Basic translation is by WAP with some further editing by me WHP.  Where I feel a comment is needed it is inserted into the page in this format.  At the end of each page I have written a longer critique.  I refer to the the original author as K-H.]

In a hydrogen economy energy is utilised and traded at all levels only as hydrogen. In practice this means:

  • Conversion of all forms of energy into hydrogen
  • Distribution of Hydrogen to the end user via the gas grid
  • Decentralised conversion of hydrogen into electric power, heat and transport at the end user

The hydrogen economy is more efficient, less costly and produces lower CO2 emissions even when the primary energy is from fossil fuels. For a sustainable future however, the following criteria must be met:

  • Sustainable
  • Climate (CO2) Neutral
  • Sufficiently available from indigenous sources
  • Affordable ‐ at lower than current prices

In the hydrogen economy the primary source of energy is not really important. With unbiased calculation, renewable electricity and biomass energy can already be shown to be less expensive than from fossil fuels. The cost of distribution of energy via the gas grid is a small fraction of the cost of distribution via the power grid, and energy losses are also lower. Therefore sustainability, climate and environmental protection can all be achieved while reducing the cost of energy.

Decentralised generation by simple fuel cells provides combined heat and power (CHP) which greatly reduces the primary energy required to satisfy end users. Consequently, even in northern climates such as in Germany, there is sufficient biomass potential for all the energy needed. The improvements in cost and efficiency are so great that expenditure on energy should fall by 70%.

Lower cost energy from indigenous sources, increased national value (balance of payments) and the installation of advanced technology would create a surge of prosperity, or as the European Parliament put it in resolution (0016/2007) with reference to the hydrogen economy could establish a third industrial revolution.

In principle there is no need for any consumer to be connected to the electric power grid in a hydrogen economy. For a transitional period of several decades however, our existing electric and gas grids will be operated in parallel. During this time fluctuating wind and solar power will be easily firmed up by energy from the gas grid. Fuel cells at end users act as a 'virtual power station'. In a hydrogen economy fossil power stations will no longer be required to provide 'spinning reserve'.

Technical and scientific studies and reports support these claims for the hydrogen economy. Details are set out in the following pages.

COMMENTS:  Green Gas usually means bio-gas from the anaerobic digestion of plants. It is sustainable and carbon-neutral.
*  Green Hydrogen means it too is sustainable and non-polluting, and implies that it comes from gasification of plant material.
*  Hydrogen carries no carbon to the user.  No climate changing gas, particulate matter or poisonous carbon monoxide can be produced there.
*  Our gas network used to deliver Town Gas which was a roughly 50% hydrogen.  Therefore it could carry green hydrogen.

     Many argue that green methane (synthetic natural gas) would be easier to introduce and also point out that hydrogen is harder to store as a liquid or by compression.
     A few favour ammonia.  Ammonia fuel cells theoretically have slightly higher electrical efficiency than hydrogen and are equally non-polluting.  Advocates cite the huge ammonia distribution network in the American Mid-West to fertilise grain as a model for ammonia infrastructure.  Ammonia is very easily compressed to a liquid for storage.  Like carbon monoxide it is poisonous, but unlike carbon monoxide it is not a silent killer.  It has a very strong and repulsive smell. It is also less prone to spontaneous combustion than either methane or hydrogen.
     K-H pointed out to me that these alternative gases and also liquid fuels produced from biomass make much less efficient use of the primary energy of the biomass feedstock than hydrogen.

     Some of K-H statements look incredibly optimistic while others could equally apply to an all-electric renewables economy.  Yet in the interests of simplicity he ignores some enhancements to his proposals which could make a hydrogen economy even more efficient.

Read on for more detail...