Hydrogen for ground transportation and heating is a bad idea

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The following submission statement was provided by /u/altmorty: — Scientists are alarmed at the lobbying by the oil industry (50 million euros a year) for expanding the use of hydrogen to ground transportation (cars) and heating. They say green hydrogen requires many times more electricity than direct means due to the inefficient process of producing it. The oil industry is keen to slow down electrification as much as possible, especially in a form that it could adapt to (pipelines, gas, etc). It’s claimed batteries, heat pumps, and directly using electricity for heating would be cheaper and more realistic ways of eliminating fossil fuels in these sectors. Much of the infrastructure is already in place, unlike pure hydrogen. With hydrogen only being used in aviation, shipping, and specific industries where other clean alternatives can’t be used. — Please reply to OP’s comment here: /r/Futurology/comments/r1aidx/hydrogen_for_ground_transportation_and_heating_is/hlxbb03/

FuturologyBot

Scientists are alarmed at the lobbying by the oil industry (50 million euros a year) for expanding the use of hydrogen to ground transportation (cars) and heating. They say green hydrogen requires many times more electricity than direct means due to the inefficient process of producing it. The oil industry is keen to slow down electrification as much as possible, especially in a form that it could adapt to (pipelines, gas, etc). It’s claimed batteries, heat pumps, and directly using electricity for heating would be cheaper and more realistic ways of eliminating fossil fuels in these sectors. Much of the infrastructure is already in place, unlike pure hydrogen. With hydrogen only being used in aviation, shipping, and specific industries where other clean alternatives can’t be used.

altmorty

Wouldn’t making hydrogen via renewable electricity be a method of storing that electricity, a type of battery?

96vette

hydrogen produced from excess solar / wind is the solution.

Spsurgeon

Some great points being made and some being missed. You cannot store hydrogen vapour efficiently. As a compressed gas the pressures are incredibly high so the tanks are built accordingly. As many have mentioned, hydrogen, and a lot of other compressed gases, will pass through the materials being used to hold them. Hydrogen is especially bad due to it’s very small molecule size. We can store hydrogen as a liquid under relatively low pressure but at cryogenic (very cold) temperatures. To do so, we must maintain the temperature. This is accomplished by insulating tanks and more importantly through auto refrigeration which is allowing some product to boil off and act as a refrigerant to keep the remainder cold. Making liquified hydrogen is hugely energy intensive. Contrary to what you may have learned in your high schools class you simply cannot compress gaseous hydrogen into a liquid. The only method is to super cool the gas and then compress at relatively low pressures. If you want to learn more about this, specifically for hydrogen and methane, look up critical point and phase diagrams for these products. You will be able to see at what pressures and temperatures the product is in different phases There is lots of talk about producing hydrogen through electrolysis. While this is possible, it is not currently a viable method of producing large quantities. It is hugely inefficient and currently requires the use of very expensive catalysts. These catalysts are used up in the process. While this is all fine for laboratory generation of hydrogen, it’s not going to cut it for mass production. Currently, most industrial hydrogen is produced by reactions with (primarily steam reforming of) methane as the feedstock. This is the same natural gas that heats your home and is being used to produce liquified natural gas or LNG. There is a possibility to produce industrial quantities of hydrogen by using anhydrous ammonia as a feedstock. This is not a bad idea as we have Infrastructure to handle ammonia relatively efficiently. Unfortunately, it is a dangerous product to handle and still takes significant amounts of energy to extract hydrogen. Both natural gas and ammonia can be used in the natural forms without processing into hydrogen much more efficiently. So why spend additional energy to simply change the primary fuel source? Many people talk up green hydrogen and how it is the solution to our problems. It might be if we could produce green hydrogen efficiently. Currently, we cannot. If we’re going to use methane to produce hydrogen, we still have the carbon to deal with and we will need huge amounts of energy to make the hydrogen. This is energy that could be used directly. It means that we still need to extract large quantities of methane which means more fracking as many gas fields have already given up their conventional gas reserves. Fracking has its own set of problems. It also ignores the fact that if we’re producing methane we could simply use it in its natural form or liquify it for transportation. This is a very simplified overview of the issues. If you’re interested in learning more, there is no shortage of information available. There are also many very smart people working on ways to produce hydrogen more efficiently than we do today, but the reality is it’s hugely inefficient to make it currently. For now, it is nothing more than a cool idea. It is not a solution to our energy needs until some major advances are made in producing large quantities of hydrogen cheaply. Even then, it has significant storage and transportation issues. TL;DR hydrogen is not currently a viable alternate energy source and is no where near as clean as it’s proponents would have you believe (considering the entire process including generation).

APLJaKaT