Scam of the Month: The Hydrogen Economy

Scam of the Month: The Hydrogen Economy

Postby Dardedar » Wed May 28, 2008 6:39 pm

DAR
Every month at our freethinker meeting we like to highlight a "scam of the month." I plan to give a presentation based upon the following article which was published in the latest Skeptic Magazine (earlier versions have been all over the web since 2004).
The article is self-explanatory. Producing hydrogen as a fuel for vehicles is so bad it is worthy of being called a scam. Especially when the government is investing a lot of our tax dollars on the idea. For example the following:

White House Fact Sheet: Hydrogen Fuel: a Clean and Secure Energy Future

In his State of the Union address, President Bush announced a $1.2 billion hydrogen fuel initiative to reverse America's growing dependence on foreign oil by developing the technology for commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells to power cars, trucks, homes and businesses with no pollution or greenhouse gases." Whitehouse news release


Here is a car I saw at a Canada Day event in Vancouver in 2005:

Image

It's powered by a fuel cell made by Ballard, a Canadian company sincerely devoted to hydrogen powered vehicles. Their mission is "to accelerate fuel cell market adoption." They went public in 1993 and their stock reached a peak of $120 in the spring of 2000. Today it is trading around $4.00. They sold off the hydrogen vehicle part of their company early this year but they still are playing with other products like back-up power systems (which may be viable). I don't think the vehicle technology with ever be viable based upon the reasons given in this article.

***
The Hydrogen Economy

Savior of Humanity or an Economic Black Hole?

by Alice Friedemann

Image

Skeptics scoff at perpetual motion, free energy, and cold fusion, but what about energy from hydrogen? Before we invest trillions of dollars in a hydrogen economy, we should examine the science and pseudoscience behind the hydrogen hype. Let’s begin by taking a hydrogen car out for a spin.

Although the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) in your car can burn hydrogen, the hope is that someday fuel cells, which are based on electrochemical processes rather than combustion (which converts heat to mechanical work), will become more efficient and less polluting than ICEs.1 Fuel cells were invented before combustion engines in 1839 by William Grove. But the ICE won the race by using abundant and inexpensive gasoline, which is easy to transport and pour, and very high in energy content.2

Production

Unlike gasoline, hydrogen isn’t an energy source — it’s an energy carrier, like a battery. You have to make hydrogen and put energy into it, both of which take energy. Hydrogen has been used commercially for decades, so we already know how to do this. There are two main ways to make hydrogen: using natural gas as both the source and the energy to split hydrogen from the carbon in natural gas (CH4), or using water as the source and renewable energy to split the hydrogen from the oxygen in water (H2O).

1) Making Hydrogen from Fossil Fuels. Currently, 96 percent of hydrogen is made from fossil fuels, mainly for oil refining and partially hydrogenated oil.3 In the United States, 90 percent is made from natural gas, with an efficiency of 72 percent,4 which means you lose 28 percent of the energy contained in the natural gas to make it (and that doesn’t count the energy it took to extract and deliver the natural gas to the hydrogen plant).

One of the main arguments made for switching to a “hydrogen economy” is to prevent global warming that has been attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. When hydrogen is made from natural gas, however, nitrogen oxides are released, which are 58 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.5 Coal releases large amounts of CO2 and mercury. Oil is too powerful and useful to waste on hydrogen — it is concentrated sunshine brewed over hundreds of millions of years. A gallon of gas represents about 196,000 pounds of fossil plants, the amount in 40 acres of wheat.6

Natural gas as a source for hydrogen is too valuable. It is used to create fertilizer (as both feedstock and energy source). This has led to a many-fold increase in crop production, allowing billions more people to be fed who otherwise wouldn’t be.7,8 We also don’t have enough natural gas left to make a hydrogen economy happen from this source. Extraction of natural gas is declining in North America.9 It will take at least a decade to even begin replacing natural gas with imported liquid natural gas (LNG). Making LNG is so energy intensive that it would be economically and environmentally insane to use it as a source of hydrogen.10

2) Making Hydrogen from Water. Only four percent of hydrogen is made from water via electrolysis. It is done when the hydrogen must be extremely pure. Since most electricity comes from fossil fuels in plants that are 30 percent efficient, and electrolysis is 70 percent efficient, you end up using four units of energy to create one unit of hydrogen energy: 70% * 30% = 21% efficiency.11

Producing hydrogen by using fossil fuels as a feedstock or an energy source defeats the purpose, since the whole point is to get away from fossil fuels. The goal is to use renewable energy to make hydrogen from water via electrolysis. When the wind is blowing, current wind turbines can perform at 30–40 percent efficiency, producing hydrogen at an overall rate of 25 percent efficiency — 3 units of wind energy to get 1 unit of hydrogen energy. The best solar cells available on a large scale have an efficiency of ten percent, or 9 units of energy to get 1 hydrogen unit of energy. If you use algae making hydrogen as a byproduct, the efficiency is about .1 percent.12 No matter how you look at it, producing hydrogen from water is an energy sink. If you want a more dramatic demonstration, please mail me ten dollars and I’ll send you back a dollar.

Hydrogen can be made from biomass, but there are numerous problems:

1. it’s very seasonal;
2. it contains a lot of moisture, requiring energy to store and dry it before gasification;
3. there are limited supplies;
4. the quantities are not large or consistent enough for large-scale hydrogen production;
5. a huge amount of land is required because even cultivated biomass in good soil has a low yield — 10 tons per 2.4 acres;
6. the soil will be degraded from erosion and loss of fertility if stripped of biomass;
7. any energy put into the land to grow the biomass, such as fertilizer and planting and harvesting, will add to the energy costs;
8. the delivery costs to the central power plant must be added; and
9. it is not suitable for pure hydrogen production.13

Putting Energy into Hydrogen

No matter how it’s been made, hydrogen has no energy in it. It is the lowest energy dense fuel on earth.14 At room temperature and pressure, hydrogen takes up three thousand times more space than gasoline containing an equivalent amount of energy.15 To put energy into hydrogen, it must be compressed or liquefied. To compress hydrogen to the necessary 10,000 psi is a multi-stage process that costs an additional 15 percent of the energy contained in the hydrogen.

If you liquefy it, you will be able to get more hydrogen energy into a smaller container, but you will lose 30–40 percent of the energy in the process. Handling it requires extreme precautions because it is so cold — minus 423 F. Fueling is typically done mechanically with a robot arm.16

Storage

For the storage and transportation of liquid hydrogen, you need a heavy cryogenic support system. The tank is cold enough to cause plugged valves and other problems. If you add insulation to prevent this, you will increase the weight of an already very heavy storage tank, adding additional costs to the system.17

Let’s assume that a hydrogen car can go 55 miles per kg.18 A tank that can hold 3 kg of compressed gas will go 165 miles and weigh 400 kg (882 lbs).19 Compare that with a Honda Accord fuel tank that weighs 11 kg (25 lbs), costs $100, and holds 17 gallons of gas. The overall weight is 73 kg (161 lbs, or 8 lbs per gallon). The driving range is 493 miles at 29 mpg. Here is how a hydrogen tank stacks up against a gas tank in a Honda Accord:

See chart at article

According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), “Vehicle weight reduction is probably the most powerful technique for improving fuel economy. Each 10 percent reduction in weight improves the fuel economy of a new vehicle design by approximately eight percent.”

The more you compress hydrogen, the smaller the tank can be. But as you increase the pressure, you also have to increase the thickness of the steel wall, and hence the weight of the tank. Cost increases with pressure. At 2000 psi, it is $400 per kg. At 8000 psi, it is $2100 per kg.20 And the tank will be huge — at 5000 psi, the tank could take up ten times the volume of a gasoline tank containing the same energy content.

Fuel cells are heavy. According to Rosa Young, a physicist and vice president of advanced materials development at Energy Conversion Devices in Troy, Michigan: “A metal hydride storage system that can hold 5 kg of hydrogen, including the alloy, container, and heat exchangers, would weigh approximately 300 kg (661 lbs), which would lower the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.”21

Fuel cells are also expensive. In 2003, they cost $1 million or more. At this stage, they have low reliability, need a much less expensive catalyst than platinum, can clog and lose power if there are impurities in the hydrogen, don’t last more than 1000 hours, have yet to achieve a driving range of more than 100 miles, and can’t compete with electric hybrids like the Toyota Prius, which is already more energy efficient and low in CO2 generation than projected fuel cells.22

Hydrogen is the Houdini of elements. As soon as you’ve gotten it into a container, it wants to get out, and since it is the lightest of all gases, it takes a lot of effort to keep it from escaping. Storage devices need a complex set of seals, gaskets, and valves. Liquid hydrogen tanks for vehicles boil off at 3–4 percent per day.23

Hydrogen also tends to make metal brittle.24 Embrittled metal can create leaks. In a pipeline, it can cause cracking or fissuring, which can result in potentially catastrophic failure.25 Making metal strong enough to withstand hydrogen adds weight and cost. Leaks also become more likely as the pressure grows higher. It can leak from un-welded connections, fuel lines, and non-metal seals such as gaskets, O-rings, pipe thread compounds, and packings. A heavy-duty fuel cell engine may have thousands of seals.26 Hydrogen has the lowest ignition point of any fuel, 20 times less than gasoline. So if there’s a leak, it can be ignited by any number of sources.27 Worse, leaks are invisible — sometimes the only way to know there’s a leak is poor performance.

Transport

Canister trucks ($250,000 each) can carry enough fuel for 60 cars.28 These trucks weigh 40,000 kg, but deliver only 400 kg of hydrogen. For a delivery distance of 150 miles, the delivery energy used is nearly 20 percent of the usable energy in the hydrogen delivered. At 300 miles, that is 40 percent. The same size truck carrying gasoline delivers 10,000 gallons of fuel, enough to fill about 800 cars.29

Another alternative is pipelines. The average cost of a natural gas pipeline is one million dollars per mile, and we have 200,000 miles of natural gas pipeline, which we can’t re-use because they are composed of metal that would become brittle and leak, as well as the incorrect diameter to maximize hydrogen throughput. If we were to build a similar infrastructure to deliver hydrogen it would cost $200 billion. The major operating cost of hydrogen pipelines is compressor power and maintenance.30 Compressors in the pipeline keep the gas moving, using hydrogen energy to push the gas forward. After 620 miles, 8 percent of the hydrogen has been used to move it through the pipeline.31
Conclusion

At some point along the chain of making, putting energy in, storing, and delivering the hydrogen, we will have used more energy than we can get back, and this doesn’t count the energy used to make fuel cells, storage tanks, delivery systems, and vehicles.32 When fusion can make cheap hydrogen, when reliable long-lasting nanotube fuel cells exist, and when light-weight leak-proof carbon-fiber polymer-lined storage tanks and pipelines can be made inexpensively, then we can consider building the hydrogen economy infrastructure. Until then, it’s vaporware. All of these technical obstacles must be overcome for any of this to happen.33 Meanwhile, the United States government should stop funding the Freedom CAR program, which gives millions of tax dollars to the big three automakers to work on hydrogen fuel cells. Instead, automakers ought to be required to raise the average overall mileage their vehicles get — the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard.34

At some time in the future the price of oil and natural gas will increase significantly due to geological depletion and political crises in extracting countries. Since the hydrogen infrastructure will be built using the existing oil-based infrastructure (i.e. internal combustion engine vehicles, power plants and factories, plastics, etc.), the price of hydrogen will go up as well — it will never be cheaper than fossil fuels. As depletion continues, factories will be driven out of business by high fuel costs35,36,37 and the parts necessary to build the extremely complex storage tanks and fuel cells might become unavailable.

The laws of physics mean the hydrogen economy will always be an energy sink. Hydrogen’s properties require you to spend more energy than you can earn, because in order to do so you must overcome waters’ hydrogen-oxygen bond, move heavy cars, prevent leaks and brittle metals, and transport hydrogen to the destination. It doesn’t matter if all of these problems are solved, or how much money is spent. You will use more energy to create, store, and transport hydrogen than you will ever get out of it.

Any diversion of declining fossil fuels to a hydrogen economy subtracts that energy from other possible uses, such as planting, harvesting, delivering, and cooking food, heating homes, and other essential activities. According to Joseph Romm, a Department of Energy official who oversaw research on hydrogen and transportation fuel cell research during the Clinton Administration: “The energy and environmental problems facing the nation and the world, especially global warming, are far too serious to risk making major policy mistakes that misallocate scarce resources.

Article here... scroll down
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Re: Scam of the Month: The Hydrogen Economy

Postby Savonarola » Wed May 28, 2008 7:54 pm

Unlike gasoline, hydrogen isn’t an energy source — it’s an energy carrier, like a battery.

An extremely misleading statement. One that reeks of propaganda, if you ask me. I'll discuss this below addressing energy density.

(and that doesn’t count the energy it took to extract and deliver the natural gas to the hydrogen plant)

Of course it doesn't, because the energy we actually get out of the natural gas has to serve as the baseline for comparison. Again, this sort of statement looks like propaganda directed at people who don't understand the statistics.

When hydrogen is made from natural gas, however, nitrogen oxides are released, which are 58 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

When natural gas is burned normally, how much NOx compounds are released? Why is there no comparison? This might be like saying, "Natural gas is good; when we burn gasoline, we produce carbon dioxide! OH NOES!", even though carbon dioxide is produced from burning natural gas, too. There should be numbers to compare, but they conveniently leave them out. Why?

Since most electricity comes from fossil fuels in plants that are 30 percent efficient, and electrolysis is 70 percent efficient, you end up using four units of energy to create one unit of hydrogen energy: 70% * 30% = 21% efficiency.

While I'll be the first to tell you that electrolysis is terribly inefficient, I'll be one of the first to tell you that it works with any electricity source; that is, that input of energy need not come from fossil fuels. Use solar, and that hydrogen is essentially free.

Producing hydrogen by using fossil fuels as a feedstock or an energy source defeats the purpose, since the whole point is to get away from fossil fuels.

I agree, but why is this supposed to damn all of the hydrogen push? Since when does "I don't have a great answer right now" mean "We'll never ever find a good answer"?

No matter how you look at it, producing hydrogen from water is an energy sink.

Only if the energy input can be used more efficiently otherwise. I'd rather have inefficient hydrogen production from the sun shining on my roof than a hot attic making my residence unbearably hot in the summer.

No matter how it’s been made, hydrogen has no energy in it.

An utter lie, both technically from a chemistry standpoint and from a functional standpoint. To say that this renders hydrogen an energy carrier but not a source is as asinine as saying that gasoline is merely a carrier. (If one wants to take the view that hydrogen only carries energy, then applying the same logic leads to the conclusion that all fuels are merely carriers.)

To put energy into hydrogen, it must be compressed or liquefied.

No, this increases the energy density because it increases the hydrogen density.

“A metal hydride storage system that can hold 5 kg of hydrogen, including the alloy, container, and heat exchangers, would weigh approximately 300 kg (661 lbs), which would lower the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.”

Probably so. Perhaps we could work on making lighter systems? Or would that just be too logical?

Fuel cells are also expensive. In 2003, they cost $1 million or more.

Random, baseless assertion. Maybe huge ones are this expensive, but one for personal/residential use isn't even close.

As soon as you’ve gotten it into a container, it wants to get out, and since it is the lightest of all gases, it takes a lot of effort to keep it from escaping.

It is true that hydrogen molecules are smaller than almost all other gases, and that makes this more difficult, but any pressurized gas "wants to get out" of its container. Put a small hole in the top of your current gasoline tank and the same thing happens, just a bit more slowly.

All this being said, I'm not saying that hydrogen is great, or definitely will be great. But a lot of the things in this article are severly misleading to the point of being dishonest.
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Postby Dardedar » Wed May 28, 2008 10:13 pm

Savonarola wrote:
Unlike gasoline, hydrogen isn’t an energy source — it’s an energy carrier, like a battery.

An extremely misleading statement. One that reeks of propaganda, if you ask me. I'll discuss this below addressing energy density.


DAR
I completely disagree. I'm just a goat farmer remember, but I have been reading a lot about this tonight and everything, including the pro-hydrogen material, and including Bill Harter who I just talked to this afternoon (about this) said the same thing. Hydrogen, when concentrated to be used as a fuel, is an energy carrier. Until then it is not an energy source, it's a potential energy carrier, like an uncharged battery. Perhaps air would be an analogy. You can compress it and store energy, but until you store the energy, air is not an energy source, just a potential carrier.

I am sure this has been battled out on Wiki, they reached the consensus of stating it this way:

"In the context of a hydrogen economy, hydrogen is an energy storage medium, not a primary energy source..."

Perhaps better.

(and that doesn’t count the energy it took to extract and deliver the natural gas to the hydrogen plant)

Of course it doesn't, because the energy we actually get out of the natural gas has to serve as the baseline for comparison. Again, this sort of statement looks like propaganda directed at people who don't understand the statistics.


DAR
In context:

"In the United States, 90 percent is made from natural gas, with an efficiency of 72 percent, which means you lose 28 percent of the energy contained in the natural gas to make it (and that doesn’t count the energy it took to extract and deliver the natural gas to the hydrogen plant)."

Why is it not perfectly appropriate to point out that the 72% figure does not include the further costs of NG extraction production? It would be misleading if they had included that but I don't see how it is misleading to simply specify that it is not included.

When hydrogen is made from natural gas, however, nitrogen oxides are released, which are 58 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

When natural gas is burned normally, how much NOx compounds are released?


DAR
The implication obviously is that there aren't any.

Why is there no comparison?


DAR
Because if none are released there is no comparison? It seems hydrogen is usually made by this:

"Natural gas steam reforming/water gas shift reaction method."

Probably too much technical/detail for this article. My understanding is that NG burns very clean and only releases C02 and some water vapor.

While I'll be the first to tell you that electrolysis is terribly inefficient, I'll be one of the first to tell you that it works with any electricity source; that is, that input of energy need not come from fossil fuels. Use solar, and that hydrogen is essentially free.


DAR
Until, as the article points out, you try to store it or transfer it (or even use it). Then the costs, complications and risks mount quickly. Especially when used for small consumer vehicles. Since electrolysis is terribly efficient it seems it would be almost always be better to find a way to use the electricity directly rather than piss a lot of the energy away with such an inefficient process. When we have limitless electricity via fusion (dream on) or something like it, then suddenly hydrogen will be in the ball game. Maybe.

Producing hydrogen by using fossil fuels as a feedstock or an energy source defeats the purpose, since the whole point is to get away from fossil fuels.

I agree, but why is this supposed to damn all of the hydrogen push?


DAR
It just does. These is a common mis-perception that hydrogen is a promising energy source when actually it is just a promising way to waste lots of energy.

Since when does "I don't have a great answer right now" mean "We'll never ever find a good answer"?


DAR
Seems pie in the sky to me. Fuel cell technology is older than internal combustion technology and even though we are throwing $billions at it, it is currently unworkable. Completely uneconomically viable. For instance this:

"As might be imagined, because of its fragile nature, research into extending the operational life of the [fuel cell] membrane is on-going with the goal being 5,000 hours of operation. As of 2008, no fuel cell developer has announced achieving that goal, though some have alluded to getting close to reaching 1,500 hours. Achieving a durable, rugged PEM fuel cell stack that rivals the IC engine in operational life continues to be a distant goal." [url=http://www.evworld.com/guide_fuelcell.cfm?fctype=issues]Link


I have read some more and found that the Ballard company was a very prominent (perhaps the leading) fuel cell proponent in the 90's. The fact that they have completely sold off this part of their company is telling.

No matter how you look at it, producing hydrogen from water is an energy sink.

Only if the energy input can be used more efficiently otherwise. I'd rather have inefficient hydrogen production from the sun shining on my roof than a hot attic making my residence unbearably hot in the summer.


DAR
Not if the hydrogen production machinery costs 10,000x more than the cost of running small fan (which is probably about right). And then you gotta compress it, store it, use it. Very tricky. Very expensive.
You would be better off using that sunshine to make electricity. Or much better, heat your water.

No matter how it’s been made, hydrogen has no energy in it.

An utter lie, both technically from a chemistry standpoint and from a functional standpoint. To say that this renders hydrogen an energy carrier but not a source is as asinine as saying that gasoline is merely a carrier.


DAR
I think you are completely wrong. I think you are really missing something here. Consider this explanation (I have seen many variations of it everywhere):

Hydrogen Production: Although hydrogen is abundant, it is always chemically associated with other atoms. It currently takes a great deal of primary energy to separate the hydrogen from its atomic bond; in effect making hydrogen an energy carrier, not an energy source. Where that primary energy comes from is at issue. What generates the electricity to run the electrolysis process to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, or separate it from its carbon companion in methane is at the heart of the debate over "black" hydrogen versus "green" hydrogen. At present, the bulk of the millions of tons of hydrogen generated each year for use in the petroleum refining and chemical industry comes from the steam-reformation of natural gas (methane), itself a depleting, non-renewable, carbon-based resource."
Link

(If one wants to take the view that hydrogen only carries energy, then applying the same logic leads to the conclusion that all fuels are merely carriers.)


DAR
I think this shows you are misunderstanding this issue. Oil squirts out of the ground and sits there. It is abundant, extremely energy dense and WE don't have to do anything but scoop it up and use it (we can choose to refine it, move it etc, but we can do so easily, quite cheaply, at atmospheric pressure and at room temperature).
Hydrogen will never and can never be found in such a state. The only way to have it be a usable fuel is for us is to put energy into it, like a battery, like compressed air etc. Hydrogen is being sold as a future replacement for handy gasoline. In this context, hydrogen is in effect a fuel carrier and can never be anything but.

To put energy into hydrogen, it must be compressed or liquefied.

No, this increases the energy density because it increases the hydrogen density.
[/quote]

DAR
What!? If you don't compress it or liquefy it, poof, it's gone! Completely 100% worthless as a fuel. This is interesting:

"Although molecular hydrogen has very high energy density on a mass basis, due in part to its low molecular weight, as a gas at ambient conditions it has very low energy density by volume. If it is to be used as fuel stored on board the vehicle, pure hydrogen gas must be pressurized or liquefied to provide sufficient [but still pathetic -Dar] driving range. Increasing gas pressure improves the energy density by volume, making for smaller, but not lighter container tanks (see pressure vessel). Achieving higher pressures necessitates greater use of external energy to power the compression. Alternatively, higher volumetric energy density liquid hydrogen may be used. However liquid hydrogen is cryogenic and boils at 20.268 K (–252.882 °C or –423.188 °F). Cryogenic storage cuts weight but requires large liquification energies. The liquefaction process, involving pressurizing and cooling steps, is energy intensive. The liquefied hydrogen has lower energy density by volume than gasoline by approximately a factor of four, due to the low density of liquid hydrogen — there is actually more hydrogen in a liter of gasoline (116 grams) than there is in a liter of pure liquid hydrogen (71 grams)." link

“A metal hydride storage system that can hold 5 kg of hydrogen, including the alloy, container, and heat exchangers, would weigh approximately 300 kg (661 lbs), which would lower the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.”

Probably so. Perhaps we could work on making lighter systems? Or would that just be too logical?


DAR
Believe me, they have been, for a long time. I thought the article and little chart was pretty darn clear in exposing the problem. And the problems increase exponentially.

Fuel cells are also expensive. In 2003, they cost $1 million or more.

Random, baseless assertion. Maybe huge ones are this expensive, but one for personal/residential use isn't even close.


DAR
How is that not a random baseless assertion? The article is referring to fuel cells specifially in vehicles and is line with what I have heard. And this problem is one that I think has the potential to be overcome. That is, if they can find a catalyst other than platinum. And consider this random baseless assertion:

"...the actual amount of known or projected platinum in Earth would allow for less than a hundredth of a cubic centimeter for every one out of three people on Earth for private use or ownership."

I think the author did a good job of referencing their claims. If you read the article it at the Skeptic link provided you will see that it has 38 reference notes.

As soon as you’ve gotten it into a container, it wants to get out, and since it is the lightest of all gases, it takes a lot of effort to keep it from escaping.

It is true that hydrogen molecules are smaller than almost all other gases, and that makes this more difficult, but any pressurized gas "wants to get out" of its container. Put a small hole in the top of your current gasoline tank and the same thing happens, just a bit more slowly.


DAR
Just a bit!? Are you punking me? Hydrogen wants to get out like almost no other. With hydrogen we are talking ranges of 3,000 PSI. What do I have in my gas tank, 30 PSI?

All this being said, I'm not saying that hydrogen is great, or definitely will be great. But a lot of the things in this article are severly misleading to the point of being dishonest.


DAR
I still completely disagree, as I have shown above. This article has been around for a long time, early variations going back to 2004. I'll see if I can find a thorough roast of it. I am not impressed with your attempt!

D.
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Postby Dardedar » Thu May 29, 2008 12:25 am

DAR
The National Academy of Sciences prepared a report on "The Hydrogen Economy" in 2004. It's a small book but you can read it online. It is more optimistic that the above but has a lot of similar conclusions.

Under "Basic Conclusions" they say this:

***
Research and Development Priorities

There are major hurdles on the path to achieving the vision of the hydrogen economy; the path will not be simple or straightforward. Many of the committee’s observations generalize across the entire hydrogen economy: the hydrogen system must be cost-competitive, it must be safe and appealing to the consumer, and it would preferably offer advantages from the perspectives of energy security and CO2 emissions. Specifically for the transportation sector, dramatic progress in the development of fuel cells, storage devices, and distribution systems is especially critical. Widespread success is not certain.

The committee believes that for hydrogen-fueled transportation, the four most fundamental technological and economic challenges are these:

1.
To develop and introduce cost-effective, durable, safe, and environmentally desirable fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage systems. Current fuel cell lifetimes are much too short and fuel cell costs are at least an order of magnitude too high. An on-board vehicular hydrogen storage system that has an energy density approaching that of gasoline systems has not been developed. Thus, the resulting range of vehicles with existing hydrogen storage systems is much too short.

2.
To develop the infrastructure to provide hydrogen for the light-duty-vehicle user. Hydrogen is currently produced in large quantities at reasonable costs for industrial purposes. The committee’s analysis indicates that at a future, mature stage of development, hydrogen (H2) can be produced and used in fuel cell vehicles at reasonable cost. The challenge, with today’s industrial hydrogen as well as tomorrow’s hydrogen, is the high cost of distributing H2 to dispersed locations. This challenge is especially severe during the early years of a transition, when demand is even more dispersed. The costs of a mature hydrogen pipeline system would be spread over many users, as the cost of the natural gas system is today. But the transition is difficult to imagine in detail. It requires many technological innovations related to the development of small-scale production units. Also, nontechnical factors such as financing, siting, security, environmental impact, and the perceived safety of hydrogen pipelines and dispensing systems will play a significant role. All of these hurdles must be overcome before there can be widespread use. An initial stage during which hydrogen is produced at small scale near the small user seems likely. In this case, production costs for small production units must be sharply reduced, which may be possible with expanded research.

3.
To reduce sharply the costs of hydrogen production from renewable energy sources, over a time frame of decades. Tremendous progress has been made in reducing the cost of making electricity from renewable energy sources. But making hydrogen from renewable energy through the intermediate step of making electricity, a premium energy source, requires further breakthroughs in order to be competitive. Basically, these technology pathways for hydrogen production make electricity, which is converted to hydrogen, which is later converted by a fuel cell back to electricity. These steps add costs and energy losses that are particularly significant when the hydrogen competes as a commodity transportation fuel—leading the committee to believe that most current approaches—except possibly that of wind energy—need to be redirected. The committee believes that the required cost reductions can be achieved only by targeted fundamental and exploratory research on hydrogen production by photobiological, photochemical, and thin-film solar processes.

4.
To capture and store (“sequester”) the carbon dioxide by-product of hydrogen production from coal. Coal is a massive domestic U.S. energy resource that has the potential for producing cost-competitive hydrogen. However, coal processing generates large amounts of CO2. In order to reduce CO2 emissions from coal processing in a carbon-constrained future, massive amounts of CO2 would have to be captured and safely and reliably sequestered for hundreds of years. Key to the commercialization of a large-scale, coal-based hydrogen production option (and also for natural-gas-based options) is achieving broad public acceptance, along with additional technical development, for CO2 sequestration.

For a viable hydrogen transportation system to emerge, all four of these challenges must be addressed.
***

PAGE 4

Fuel Cell Vehicle Technology

The committee observes that the federal government has been active in fuel cell research for roughly 40 years, while proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells applied to hydrogen vehicle systems are a relatively recent development (as of the late 1980s). In spite of substantial R&D spending by the DOE and industry, costs are still a factor of 10 to 20 times too expensive, these fuel cells are short of required durability, and their energy efficiency is still too low for light-duty-vehicle applications. Accordingly, the challenges of developing PEM fuel cells for automotive applications are large, and the solutions to overcoming these challenges are uncertain.

The committee estimates that the fuel cell system, including on-board storage of hydrogen, will have to decrease in cost to less than $100 per kilowatt (kW)4 before fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) become a plausible commercial option, and that it will take at least a decade for this to happen. In particular, if the cost of the fuel cell system for light-duty vehicles does not eventually decrease to the $50/kW range, fuel cells will not propel the hydrogen economy without some regulatory mandate or incentive.

Automakers have demonstrated FCVs in which hydrogen is stored on board in different ways, primarily as high-pressure compressed gas or as a cryogenic liquid. At the current state of development, both of these options have serious shortcomings that are likely to preclude their long-term commercial viability. New solutions are needed in order to lead to vehicles that have at least a 300 mile driving range; that are compact, lightweight, and inexpensive; and that meet future safety standards.

Given the current state of knowledge with respect to fuel cell durability, on-board storage systems, and existing component costs, the committee believes that the near-term DOE milestones for FCVs are unrealistically aggressive.

DAR
There won't be time to get into all of this in the May meeting. Not even close. It's already pretty full. Maybe I should bump this one to June or July and SAV and I can have debate. You can talk about the glorious future of Hydrogen cars and I can tell how it will really be. Just kidding!

According to this NAS study, it is still a good idea to spend more money funding the research into this. What's a few more billion bucks, just a couple days in Iraq. And we might learn some good side technology even if the fuel cell vehicles never pan out.

D.
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Postby Savonarola » Thu May 29, 2008 1:11 am

Perhaps air would be an analogy. You can compress it and store energy, but until you store the energy, air is not an energy source, just a potential carrier.

You cannot burn air. You can hydrogen. Period.

Why is it not perfectly appropriate to point out that the 72% figure does not include the further costs of NG extraction production?

As I said, it's probably misleading to people who don't understand the stats (which was not meant to imply that you don't). Tagging on a bit about "and that doesn't count even more costs!" as if this is further damnation when the alternative by definition has the same costs doesn't strike you as directed toward people who don't realize what's going on?

The implication obviously is that there aren't any.

Then the implication is downright dishonest. NOx gases are byproducts of natural gas combustion.

My understanding is that NG burns very clean and only releases C02 and some water vapor.

The heat produced by the combustion process provides the energy to create NOx gases from nitrogen and oxygen in the air.
Fuel cells, on the other hand, don't get nearly as hot and can carry out the reaction in the complete absence of nitrogen.
Also note that the article says that it's the process of converting the methane to hydrogen that creates the NOx, not the combustion of hydrogen. (I don't know whether the combustion of H2 produces NOx gases.)

Since electrolysis is terribly [in]efficient it seems it would be almost always be better to find a way to use the electricity directly rather than piss a lot of the energy away with such an inefficient process. When we have limitless electricity via fusion (dream on) or something like it, then suddenly hydrogen will be in the ball game.

You seem to be missing the point that even though electrolysis isn't terribly efficient, it's simple, produces very clean hydrogen, and can be virtually free. (Not that I'm a huge fan of it or am opposed to looking for better alternatives.) If these guys are going to make the case that production of hydrogen is dirty and harmful, I get to point at free and clean electrolysis.

Seems pie in the sky to me.

And perhaps this is true. But these guys should make a good case instead of a shoddy one.

Fuel cell technology is older than internal combustion technology and even though we are throwing $billions at it, it is currently unworkable.

The same can be said for electric-only cars. We don't have the energy storage capacity for long-range competition with ICEs, even though electric motors were around before ICEs. I don't see everyone abandoning EVs...

I think you are completely wrong. I think you are really missing something here. Consider this explanation (I have seen many variations of it everywhere):

Hydrogen Production: Although hydrogen is abundant, it is always chemically associated with other atoms. It currently takes a great deal of primary energy to separate the hydrogen from its atomic bond; in effect making hydrogen an energy carrier, not an energy source.

When I say hydrogen, I mean H2 gas. It has already been separated from other atoms. Electrolysis of water is one way of doing this. If this is the argument, then the water is the carrier, and we "extract" the energy source, which is H2.

Oil squirts out of the ground and sits there. It is abundant, extremely energy dense and WE don't have to do anything but scoop it up and use it (we can choose to refine it, move it etc, but we can do so easily, quite cheaply, at atmospheric pressure and at room temperature)

There are two issues here. One is energy density. H2 has a low energy density; I am not denying this. Another issue is transportation. H2 isn't easily transported. I don't see why either of these issues renders H2 not an "energy source." It's just not a very good one in most cases.

To put energy into hydrogen, it must be compressed or liquefied.

No, this increases the energy density because it increases the hydrogen density.
What!? If you don't compress it or liquefy it, poof, it's gone! Completely 100% worthless as a fuel.

Let's clarify: we have to expend energy to compress/liquefy hydrogen. One could view this as "putting energy into" the hydrogen. But we have to expend energy to compress/liquefy any gas, like air, and we don't get the same result when we try to use compressed air (e.g. to burn it or use it in a fuel cell). There is inherently more energy in the hydrogen; compressing it increases the energy density. Let's call a spade a spade already.

Let me take this opportunity to remind you that my degree is in chemistry, so there is no need to lecture me about states of matter.

The article is referring to fuel cells specifially in vehicles and is line with what I have heard.

Not with what I have heard, although after contemplation I may be familiar with used/salvage prices. I'm still looking for more info.

That is, if they can find a catalyst other than platinum.

Nickel has similar properties and is abundant. I think it is likely that a nickel-based catalyst can be implemented. This would greatly reduce the cost.

What do I have in my gas tank, 30 PSI?

My mistake. I was under the impression that the vapor pressure of gasoline is much higher than I've now learned it really is.

I'll see if I can find a thorough roast of it. I am not impressed with your attempt!

I wasn't trying to thoroughly roast it. I agree that hydrogen is currently unworkable and doesn't show incredible promise right now. I just want to cut through the bull.
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Postby Savonarola » Thu May 29, 2008 1:22 am

Darrel wrote:There won't be time to get into all of this in the May meeting. Not even close. It's already pretty full. Maybe I should bump this one to June or July and SAV and I can have debate.

Do your thing this month. I don't want to debate because I'm largely agreeing. Just leave out the backhanded tactics and dishonesty. No double-standard energy comparisons. Don't say that we can't make uncontaminated hydrogen. Don't say (or imply) that NOx gases are problems unique to hydrogen production. You can make a good enough case without the crap.

And we might learn some good side technology even if the fuel cell vehicles never pan out.

Absolutely. Just because we can't set up a good system to use them in highly transportable vehicles, fuel cells themselves are still useful and warrant attempts at improvement.
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Postby Dardedar » Thu May 29, 2008 10:14 am

Savonarola wrote:
Perhaps air would be an analogy. You can compress it and store energy, but until you store the energy, air is not an energy source, just a potential carrier.

You cannot burn air. You can hydrogen. Period.


DAR
No, not period. You misunderstand my analogy. Perhaps it was a poor one. I am not talking about burning air but using it as a battery bank via compression. Like a spring. To get energy out of a spring you have to compress it.
You still don't understand how hydrogen is being used, referred to, in "the hydrogen economy." Perhaps your training as a chemist effecting this. You cannot burn hydrogen as a fuel, unless you put energy into it by creating it. It is a fuel carrier, not a fuel source, as is commonly misunderstood by people who think we can tap into hydrogen as fuel like we now tap oil as a fuel source. When speaking about hydrogen "fuel" for a hydrogen economy the statement "hydrogen is a fuel carrier, not a fuel source" is 100% accurate and not misleading or propaganda.

Why is it not perfectly appropriate to point out that the 72% figure does not include the further costs of NG extraction production?

As I said, it's probably misleading to people who don't understand the stats (which was not meant to imply that you don't). Tagging on a bit about "and that doesn't count even more costs!" as if this is further damnation when the alternative by definition has the same costs doesn't strike you as directed toward people who don't realize what's going on?


DAR
Okay, I see your point. It's a nit.

The implication obviously is that there aren't any.

Then the implication is downright dishonest. NOx gases are byproducts of natural gas combustion.


DAR
So you are saying the author is being misleading or outright lying when they said this?
"When hydrogen is made from natural gas, however, nitrogen oxides are released, which are 58 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide."
I'll have to check into this.

snip for later....

Since electrolysis is terribly [in]efficient it seems it would be almost always be better to find a way to use the electricity directly rather than piss a lot of the energy away with such an inefficient process. When we have limitless electricity via fusion (dream on) or something like it, then suddenly hydrogen will be in the ball game.

You seem to be missing the point that even though electrolysis isn't terribly efficient, it's simple, produces very clean hydrogen, and can be virtually free.


DAR
I don't know where you get the idea that electricity is or can be virtually free. It has a value. My electric company just raised it's summer rate to about 11 cents per kwh. It's not free and it is extremely wasteful to, well, waste it.

(Not that I'm a huge fan of it or am opposed to looking for better alternatives.) If these guys are going to make the case that production of hydrogen is dirty and harmful, I get to point at free and clean electrolysis.


DAR
Point away. Reality check:

"Currently, global hydrogen production is 48% from natural gas, 30% from oil, and 18% from coal; water electrolysis accounts for only 4%."

"H2 production is... equivalent to 1.8% of total U.S. energy consumption and comes 95% from natural gas." (links later)

Seems pie in the sky to me.

And perhaps this is true. But these guys should make a good case instead of a shoddy one.


DAR
I think the case is a really, really good one.

Fuel cell technology is older than internal combustion technology and even though we are throwing $billions at it, it is currently unworkable.

The same can be said for electric-only cars.


DAR
Nonsense. Right now hydrogen fuel cells, in vehicles, with extremely expensive components, work for about 1,000 hours. That's 41.6 days. If we had been working on electric cars for decades and we could only get them to work for a month and a half I would not be optimistic about them either. No comparison.

We don't have the energy storage capacity for long-range competition with ICEs, even though electric motors were around before ICEs. I don't see everyone abandoning EVs...


DAR
I think a combination is going to be the next thing (like a diesel electric train with a big battery). Like the Chevy Volt. It's supposed to have a range of 600 miles.


DAR
I think you are completely wrong. I think you are really missing something here. Consider this explanation (I have seen many variations of it everywhere):

Hydrogen Production: Although hydrogen is abundant, it is always chemically associated with other atoms. It currently takes a great deal of primary energy to separate the hydrogen from its atomic bond; in effect making hydrogen an energy carrier, not an energy source.

When I say hydrogen, I mean H2 gas. It has already been separated from other atoms. Electrolysis of water is one way of doing this. If this is the argument, then the water is the carrier, and we "extract" the energy source, which is H2.
[/quote]

DAR
You are thinking like a chemist and missing it. For the context of using hydrogen as a fuel, "separating it from other atoms" is the process of storing the energy, like a battery bank, like compressing air or a spring. Until you do this you have no fuel for your hydrogen economy. This is very different than oil.

I'll get to the rest later. Have to go to work. I am going to invite Art Hobson and Bill Harter to check this out.

I won't have time to get to this topic at this meeting. The meeting is already stuffed.

D.
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Postby ChristianLoeschel » Thu May 29, 2008 12:03 pm

This whole "carrier vs source" debate is terribly silly guys...look at the actual process of how you get any energy from either.

Gasoline releases energy, both kinetic and thermal, when it is rapidly oxidized (i.e. burned). This happens by breaking carbon-carbon bonds and forming carbon-oxygen bonds. One important principle here is that breaking a bond costs energy, forming a bond releases energy.

So in order to get energy from gasoline, you put in energy to break C-C and C-H bonds, and in turn you gain energy from forming C-O double bonds - energetically you come out way ahead.

For hydrogen, its the exact same thing: you break a H-H bond, and you form 2 H-O bonds when you burn H2 to give H2O. The energy gained per molecule of hydrogen gas is less, true...but the EXACT same mechanism of generating energy is followed.
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Postby Savonarola » Thu May 29, 2008 6:05 pm

It's ludicrous to argue that my training in chemistry negatively affects my explanation about the chemical potential energy of hydrogen. Even Christian -- who I trust on chemistry matters even more than I trust myself -- concurs.

I am not talking about burning air but using it as a battery bank via compression. Like a spring.

Then your statements are true but applicable only in la-la land. If we care about only compression, why don't we use a cheaper gas? Why not just compress air?
The answer is because we don't care about only compression. We care about the chemical energy content of the gas, and how to retrieve it efficiently and cleanly.

To get energy out of a spring you have to compress it.

Unless you're arguing that we can get energy by burning the compressed spring but not by burning it while relaxed, this doesn't matter.

So you are saying the author is being misleading or outright lying when they said this?

Just because I'm not a mindreader doesn't nullify my point. I don't remember reading anything about natural gas not producing NOx in the article, so maybe accusations of outright lying are misplaced. But -- as you said yourself -- the implication was that it is a one-way street when the truth is that it's not. I can think of three possibilities:
1. The author thinks that natural gas combustion doesn't produce NOx gases, in which case he is misinformed and accidentally being misleading.
2. The author knows that natural gas combustion does produce NOx gases but implies the opposite, in which case he is intentionally being misleading.
3. The author knows that natural gas combustion does produce NOx gases but neglects to mention this because he assumes that everyone already knows this, in which case there's no reason to point out that producing hydrogen also produces NOx gases. Why would he then do it if not to be misleading?

There may be something else at play: Maybe more NOx gases are produced during hydrogen production than during methane combustion. Then the guy would have a point. But he doesn't say this, and without any numbers, how would we know? This is why I asked for a comparison in my original list of objections.

I don't know where you get the idea that electricity is or can be virtually free. It has a value.

Are you paying for the sunlight shining on your solar panels? Not having a significant cost is not the same as not having significant value; you should know firsthand.

Reality check:

"Currently, global hydrogen production is 48% from natural gas, 30% from oil, and 18% from coal; water electrolysis accounts for only 4%."

My turn for an analogy: What percentage of cars on the road are electric? Less than 5%? Does that mean that EVs are dumb and hopeless?
My point is this: We don't have to rely upon methane for hydrogen. Arguing that we currently do doesn't change this.

Fuel cell technology is older than internal combustion technology and even though we are throwing $billions at it, it is currently unworkable.
The same can be said for electric-only cars.
Nonsense. Right now hydrogen fuel cells, in vehicles, with extremely expensive components, work for about 1,000 hours. That's 41.6 days. If we had been working on electric cars for decades and we could only get them to work for a month and a half I would not be optimistic about them either.

Let's address what I actually said, not what you think I said. Only very recently did we come up with electric cars (and I said electric, not necessarily fuel cell) that even remotely compare with the power and range of ICE vehicles. There should be no denying this. There should also be no denying that consumer EV technology is still aggravatingly far behind ICE features of power and range. We have thrown billions of dollars toward EVs, and for a very long time, it was unworkable. Is it now?

You are thinking like a chemist and missing it. For the context of using hydrogen as a fuel, "separating it from other atoms" is the process of storing the energy, like a battery bank, like compressing air or a spring. Until you do this you have no fuel for your hydrogen economy.

Because I'm thinking like a chemist, I'm getting what you're missing. If you'd like me to show you that we can burn hydrogen produced by electrolysis without compressing it, just ask; there's a classic classroom experiment for this. The drawback is not that there's no fuel, it's that there is a fuel that's simply not a very good fuel.
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Postby Dardedar » Thu May 29, 2008 8:28 pm

Savonarola wrote:It's ludicrous to argue that my training in chemistry negatively affects my explanation about the chemical potential energy of hydrogen.


DAR
I don't think it is ludicrous, I think it is exactly right. But admittedly I am just guessing as to why you aren't getting this. What is more bizarre is that you, our resident chemist, are clearly are not getting this. I certainly understand Christian being skeptical of my claim but I think it is right. I am searching for a reason for why you aren't getting the entire thrust of this thread. I'll try some more.

Even Christian -- who I trust on chemistry matters even more than I trust myself -- concurs.


DAR
Well then he is misunderstanding me too. I am sure that if we were talking in person I could clear this up in a minute.

I am not talking about burning air but using it as a battery bank via compression. Like a spring.

Then your statements are true but applicable only in la-la land. If we care about only compression, why don't we use a cheaper gas? Why not just compress air?


DAR
This is dismaying that you completely misunderstand my analogy again (but compressing air is a good way to store energy and is smarter than Hydrogen for a whole bunch of obvious reasons).
Forget air for now. That one missed the boat.

To get energy out of a spring you have to compress it.

Unless you're arguing that we can get energy by burning the compressed spring but not by burning it while relaxed, this doesn't matter.
[/quote]

DAR
And now you talk of burning compressed springs! Dear god HELP!

So you are saying the author is being misleading or outright lying when they said this?

Just because I'm not a mindreader doesn't nullify my point.


DAR
Right, lets skip the guessing about the honesty of the author before their comment has even been shown to be incorrect. That's premature.

There may be something else at play: Maybe more NOx gases are produced during hydrogen production than during methane combustion. Then the guy would have a point.


DAR
That was in fact my understanding the first time I read it.

But he doesn't say this, and without any numbers, how would we know?


DAR
I guess the author, like me, thought it was implied clearly enough.

I don't know where you get the idea that electricity is or can be virtually free. It has a value.

Are you paying for the sunlight shining on your solar panels? Not having a significant cost is not the same as not having significant value; you should know firsthand.


DAR
Actually I was thinking of using that example myself, because it is a good one and makes my point. But you ask the wrong question. The question is not do I pay for the sunlight (no monetary value there yet), but rather do I pay for the electricity that comes out of them.

Remember we were talking about the value of "electricity" not sunlight. The answer of course is yes. Lets do the math:

With an annual average of 5.5 hours of sunlight per day in Arkansas my 60 watt panels can produce about .330kw of electricity per day. Lets use a value of 10 cents per kw since that is a good average between the winter/summer rates of Ozark electric. That means my panels can make, year around, about 3.3 cents per day of electricity. My investment:

$299
$26 tax
$75 battery (you have to provide the battery)
-----
$400 on the nose.

Take $400 and divide by .033 cents and we get 12,121.

So, not counting debt service on the value of $400 over several years (which would be considerable, about $18 the first year alone at 4.5%, the rate I earn right now) we have a break even point of:

12,121 divide by 365 = 33 years.

Oops, wait a minute. It gets much worse. If the debt service adds $18 the first year (and it does) and my panels can only make $12.04 per year (and they do), then my panels will never dig their way out of the hole they have made in my wallet. That is, unless perhaps the cost of electricity increases substantially and quickly.
This is why I have said that my buying these panels was a hobby to play with. They do not make financial sense.

So the answer to the question is yes. I most certainly do pay for the electricity coming out of my solar panels. And if we keep the electricity rates constant, they will in fact, because of the exponential effect, completely bankrupt me in a few thousand years.

Reality check:
"Currently, global hydrogen production is 48% from natural gas, 30% from oil, and 18% from coal; water electrolysis accounts for only 4%."

My turn for an analogy: What percentage of cars on the road are electric? Less than 5%?


DAR
Way less. If you don't count hybrid electric it would be something like .00001%. If you do count hybrid electric it would still be far less than 5%. Probably around 1% I would guess. But increasing quickly.

Does that mean that EVs are dumb and hopeless?


DAR
No, because they aren't using the energy carrier hydrogen, which for vehicles is dumb and hopeless. Bigtime.

My point is this: We don't have to rely upon methane for hydrogen. Arguing that we currently do doesn't change this.


DAR
Right. We can use a number of methods to store energy in the form of hydrogen. All of them are exceedingly dumb but especially so if we do it for the purpose of vehicle propulsion. As I think the article clearly shows. If we have way more electricity than we know what to do with (via fusion or some other miracle) then it's a different ball game. Except, that other huge problem: the fuel cells are filled with platinum (over $1,000 an ounce) and they don't work for long.

Okay, let me skip back to trying to get you to understand why I made this thread and titled it as I did. It is extremely ironic that you seem to be falling for the scam that I am trying to debunk. That is, that hydrogen, in the hydrogen economy, is a fuel rather than a carrier, or, effectively nothing but a way to store energy.

Let's go back to the beginning. Right out of the box you accuse the author of giving misleading propaganda:

[quote]Article says:
"Unlike gasoline, hydrogen isn’t an energy source — it’s an energy carrier, like a battery."

You respond:
"An extremely misleading statement. One that reeks of propaganda, if you ask me. I'll discuss this below addressing energy density."

Okay try this, here is how it is presented in the National Academy of Science study I have referenced above, page 16:

"Like electricity, hydrogen is not a primary energy source, although it is a high-quality energy carrier."

So I have a question for you, is their statement "extremely misleading" and one that "reeks of propaganda?"

The answer of course is no. They are exactly right. And so is the author of my article.

I am going to dinner tomorrow night with Dr. Bill, can you come? Before I even posted this article I talked with him on the phone about this exact problem of explaining to people how hydrogen, when used as a fuel, is not an energy source but rather a carrier. This is the myth, the common misunderstanding I am trying to swat down (because I used to believe it myself). I said to him, "it sure looks like a fuel, after all you can burn it like gasoline."

Anyway, I tried to write some more here but it sounds like baby talk since you are chemist and are missing this for some language reason. Best to talk about this in person I suspect. Physicist Bob Park who I post regularly in a thread devoted to him, constantly tries to swat this one down too. I am certain of two things here:

a) I have, at best, 1% of the knowledge of chemistry you do
b) You are not getting this

That you are having this much difficulty getting this point tells me it is tough.

Let me try this. Perhaps it is a language thing.

Notice I have said, in the context of a hydrogen economy, hydrogen is effectively a fuel carrier, not a source of energy.

Analogy: If we have a transaction and I give you $20, and you give me $5, the effect is that I have given you $15. Now I didn't literally give you $15. I literally gave you $20. But the part we are interested in is the end result of the transaction, which is that I gave you $15.

Similarly, hydrogen is literally a fuel, literally a form of energy that can be burned or used to create electricity (this is the part you are hearing as a chemist). But the part we are interested in with the "hydrogen economy" is the effect, end result, that it has for humans. Hydrogen, as it is present around us is useless until we expend a lot of energy creating it in a concentrated form. In this regard hydrogen is a not a energy/fuel source, it is an energy carrier. That's what matters in "the hydrogen economy."

Hope this helps,

D.
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Postby ChristianLoeschel » Thu May 29, 2008 9:03 pm

Hmmm I guess I understand where the carrier thing comes in, let me see if I can put it into different terms.

Hydrogen gas, for all intents and purposes, comes from water. So water is basically our "spring" at a relaxed state. If we put energy into this "spring", we get H2 and O2, which makes H2 the "compressed spring". Thus, the energy we put into electrolysis is now stored in H2.

Sounds like HIGHLY oversimplified terminology to me, but I suppose I see your point...

The counterargument I have here is this though: The difference between burning H2 and burning hydrocarbons is that we humans have to provide the energy to generate the H2 we burn, whereas we dont for gasoline. But guess what...crude oil didnt just pop out of nowhere, the chemical energy stored in it was just provided by high pressures/temperatures during the formation of crude oil millions of years ago.

From a puritan standpoint...theyre either both energy storage systems...or energy sources. The only difference is WHEN the energy was put into the system.
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Postby Dardedar » Thu May 29, 2008 9:21 pm

ChristianLoeschel wrote:Hydrogen gas, for all intents and purposes, comes from water. So water is basically our "spring" at a relaxed state. If we put energy into this "spring", we get H2 and O2, which makes H2 the "compressed spring". Thus, the energy we put into electrolysis is now stored in H2.

Sounds like HIGHLY oversimplified terminology to me, but I suppose I see your point...


DAR
Hey, simple is a good thing. Ask Occam. Simple or not, isn't it the case that there is no other way around it this? Because of the characteristics of hydrogen (extremely diffuse, boils at what -252 C) we have to essentially load it with energy like a spring, or a battery, whatever. The fact that it is so abundant, like water, does not mean it can be a energy source. This is the myth that gets passed around. "Hey, we are running out of oil, but what about hydrogen, it's the most abundant element in the universe!"

Doesn't matter. Humans don't get net energy from hydrogen. They put it in, and lose lots. No exceptions.

The counterargument I have here is this though: The difference between burning H2 and burning hydrocarbons is that we humans have to provide the energy to generate the H2 we burn, whereas we dont for gasoline. But guess what...crude oil didnt just pop out of nowhere, the chemical energy stored in it was just provided by high pressures/temperatures during the formation of crude oil millions of years ago.


DAR
Right. As my article above puts it:

"Oil is too powerful and useful to waste on hydrogen — it is concentrated sunshine brewed over hundreds of millions of years."

This is why it is a different animal than hydrogen. We have been partying on that oil inheritance for a few hundred years (few thousand if you count early adopters I suppose). But it is finite and production is probably about to peak and then decline. A very interesting time in human history to live for sure. We can make oil and grow hydrocarbons but that is a questionable energy carrier too.

From a puritan standpoint...theyre either both energy storage systems...or energy sources. The only difference is WHEN the energy was put into the system.


DAR
Right. Which brings me to my MAIN POINT:

Hydrogen is never going to be a substitute for oil. Oil is the concentrated gift of millions of years of stored sunlight. WE have to put the energy into hydrogen. It's a storage system.* That's a really really really big difference! My goal is that people understand this. The idea that hydrogen is a fuel we can tap and use like oil is the myth.

D.

*And a really ineffective, and inefficient one for vehicles for reasons given above.
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Postby Dardedar » Thu May 29, 2008 9:42 pm

DAR
As I mentioned, physicist Bob Park has long been making fun of this pervasive misconception about hydrogen. Very informative, here are some of his comments over the years:

***
Friday, 31 Mar 95 Washington, DC

1. HYDROGEN BILL SEEKS REPEAL OF THE 2ND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS!
The devotion of Bob Walker (R-PA) to development of hydrogen as an "energy source" seems at odds with his aversion to "picking winners and losers." Yesterday, the House Science Committee reported out H.R.655, "the Hydrogen Future Act of 1995." The bill points out that "fossil fuels are limited and polluting," whereas "hydrogen holds tremendous promise as a new and better energy source." Source? Hydrogen is a wonderful non-polluting fuel, since the only product of its combustion is water. Alas, there are no hydrogen wells. Where will the hydrogen come from? Why from water of course! The supply is "practically infinite."

***
Friday, November 12, 2004

1. SHELL GAME: INDUSTRY PLAYS ITS PART IN THE HYDROGEN CIRCUS.
They installed the nation's first public hydrogen pump in the Shell station at 525 Benning Road in Washington, DC, just 5.2 miles from the U.S. Capitol Building. We thought you'd like to know just in case you're in town driving your hydrogen powered car. Oh! I forgot -- you can't buy one, can you? GM has six hydrogen prototype minivans in Washington, parked by the Capital for what a GM executive calls "educational outreach." Parked, because a round trip to the Shell station will use a third of a tank of hydrogen. No matter, GM isn't trying to sell hydrogen cars. Here's a WN educational outreach: the Bush administration points to the hydrogen car to show that while other countries sign treaties, we do something about the environment. Here's more education: even if they solve all the problems with the hydrogen car, it won't do squat for the environment. Pollution comes from making the hydrogen. GM will turn out a handful of hydrogen concept-cars with government subsidies while selling thousands of profitable SUVs, and Shell's gasoline sales will climb filling up those SUVs, at the cost of putting up with a few little-used hydrogen pumps, paid for with government subsidies.

2. FOSSILIZED: ASSESSING ENERGY TRENDS FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE.
There was an Exxon Mobil ad on the op-ed page of the Washington Post yesterday titled "Energy through 2030." It was an ad by a fossil-fuel company, not a research paper, but it was sobering: "Fossil fuels meet more than 80% of world energy needs," it concluded, "and we expect this trend to continue through 2030." There was no mention of a hydrogen initiative.

***
Friday, June 20, 2003

1. THE HYDROGEN SCAM: THEY STILL HAVEN'T FOUND A HYDROGEN WELL!
Far from feeling threatened, energy companies welcome the idea of a hydrogen economy. The main commercial source of hydrogen after all is reforming of fossil fuels, a highly polluting process (WN 31 Jan 03). The media, however, which tends to paint hydrogen as the savior of civilization, was in shock this week over a report in Science pointing out that hydrogen leakage could gobble up ozone faster than CFCs, which we banned. Perhaps, but that's not the fundamental problem. We've been through this before. Eight years ago, the House Science Committee reported out the Hydrogen Future Act of 1995. It called for extracting hydrogen from water by electrolysis, and then using the hydrogen as fuel to generate electricity (WN 31 Mar 95). After the laughter died down, the bill was quietly revised. These days, hydrogen is described by the media as "a clean energy source," proving there is no scam so obvious it can't be tried again. The hydrogen solution has even been exported to Europe, where the media gushes over it like their American counterparts. Franco Battaglia at the University of Rome put it this way: "You can buy an apple for one euro. If you really want an apple, you might pay five euros. You could even pay a thousand euros, but you would never pay two apples."

***
Friday, February 27, 2004

1. THE HYDROGEN INITIATIVE: WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO MAKE IT WORK?
Two years ago, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced the "Freedom Car" program (WN 18 Jan 02). It was supposed to stimulate development of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, freeing us from reliance on foreign oil. The big auto makers pledged their support, but something was missing. A year later, President Bush announced a $1.2B Hydrogen Initiative to produce Freedom Fuel to run the Freedom Car. The plan calls for competitive use of hydrogen in commercial transportation by 2020. Huge performance gaps in hydrogen engines, production and storage must be overcome for this to happen. It is likely that the early phases of any hydrogen economy will rely on production methods that use fossil fuels (WN 31 Jan 03). On Monday, a report critiquing the Hydrogen Initiative, prepared by the APS Panel on Public Affairs, will be released.

***
Friday, January 18, 2002

1. FREEDOM CAR: HAS SPENCER ABRAHAM DISCOVERED A HYDROGEN WELL?
Parking garages near the North American International Auto Show in Detroit were crammed with monster SUVs last week. The owners were there to hear the Secretary of Energy describe "the best way to protect the environment and reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil." He announced the "freedom car" program, meant to stimulate development of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The big- three auto makers were quick to pledge their support. After all, a decade is needed to perfect the technology, during which time they can forget about CAF standards (WN 27 Jul 01), even as SUVs grow to the size of cement trucks. Meanwhile, story after story in the media gushed that hydrogen fuel cells are environmentally benign, producing only water as a by-product. Almost none asked where the hydrogen would come from. You may recall the Hydrogen Future Act of 1995, introduced by Bob Walker (R-PA). It called hydrogen "a new energy source." It's great fuel, but it's not a source. The bill died after it was pointed out that the hydrogen would come from electrolysis of water (WN 31 Mar 95). About 65% of U.S. electric power is generated by burning fossil fuels. The cell will supply less energy than it took to make the hydrogen.

***
Friday, January 17, 2003

2. MORE FIRST LAW: GENESIS PROJECT SHUNS “CONVENTIONAL THINKING.”
Genesis World Energy (WN 13 Dec 02) proposes to free the world from fossil fuel dependence by “harnessing energy from the molecular structure of water”. The idea is deceptively simple: use electrolysis to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen and then use a hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity. I know, you’re going to say it will take more electricity to split the water than the fuel cell can generate. We’ve got to think outside the black box. The Genesis people say they assembled a team of 400 top scientists. You think these guys never heard of the conservation of energy? “For security purposes,” Genesis explains, “the Genesis Team has elected to disclose little about the science behind the technology. In the absence of detailed information, it is not possible to understand how Genesis’ stated results were achieved. Therefore, the scientific community at large will analyze the Genesis Project based on conventional thinking.” OK, I’m busted! I’ve been relying on the First Law of Thermodynamics, which is about as conventional as you can get.
***
Friday, March 25, 2005

1. FREEDOM ELEMENT: DO YOU KNOW HOW EASY IT IS TO SELL BALONEY?
In his 2003 State-of-the-Union address, President Bush called for building a Freedom Car, "powered by hydrogen and pollution free" (WN 31 Jan 03). Baloney, but people didn't ask where the hydrogen will come from. They asked if it's safe. Hey, it's fuel -- fuel burns. However, Dr. Addison Bain insists that in the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, it was the paint that burned, and compared it to rocket fuel. More baloney, but guess who bought it (APS News July 2000)? However, A.J. Dessler, D.E. Overs and W.H. Appleby found the burn rate of an actual piece of Hindenburg fabric to be thousands of times too slow. The fire consumed the Hindenburg in 34 seconds. If the 800 foot-long craft was painted with solid rocket fuel, it would have taken 12 hours to burn end to end. Dessler is a PhD physicist (Duke), 26 years as Professor of Space Physics and Astronomy at Rice (15 years as Dept Chair), directed the NASA Marshall Space Sciences Lab (4 years), and is Sr. Scientist at Univ of Arizona, Lunar and Planetary Lab. What about Dr. Bain?
***

Friday, May 27, 2005

3. HYDROGEN: PRESIDENT BUSH PUMPS HYDROGEN AT FILLING STATION.
Speaking of energy balance, here’s one that is guaranteed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics to be negative. With a security cordon disrupting traffic for blocks around, the President held the nozzle at the sole hydrogen pump in Washington, DC at a Shell station (WN 12 Nov 04). It proves: you can make hydrogen, you can put it in cars, and you can drive the cars. Is it practical? No! Will it diminish oil dependence? No! Will it cut pollution? No! Will it happen? Not this way!
***

Friday, December 13, 2002

3. GENESIS PROJECT: A REALLY GOOD SCAM CAN BE USED OVER AND OVER.
Back in the early '70s, an inventor named Sam Leach claimed to have built a car that used ordinary water as a fuel. The idea was simple: You use electrolysis to decompose the water into oxygen and hydrogen and then use the hydrogen as a fuel to run the engine and generate electricity for the separation. So there you have it: You start with water and end up with water plus work. Scientists scoffed: it would take more energy to decompose the water than you could get from the combustion of hydrogen. Ordinarily yes, Leach agreed, but he had a secret catalyst that reduced the energy of decomposition. The great thing about the First Law of Thermodynamics, however, is that it doesn't care what's in your secret box, it gives you the limit of any process. Leach raised millions from investors and then retired to a seaside villa in California. Who needs a car that runs on water when you have a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce? The rumor spread that he had been bought off by the oil companies. Now something called Genesis World Energy is running the same scam over again.
***
Friday, January 26, 2007

2. STATES IN THE CORN BELT: THE AMERICAN ADDICTION TO ALCOHOL.
"It's in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply," the President said, "and the way forward is through technology." He's absolutely right, as long as we choose the right technologies. You may recall his 2003 State of the Union speech; he assured us that Freedom Car, "powered by hydrogen and pollution free," is the answer. This year he did not mention hydrogen. Hydrogen is dead. Last year Bush lamented America's addiction to oil, but the only thing that held down consumption was soaring prices. This year, Bush called for greater use of ethanol. Congressmen from the corn belt applauded wildly, but Mr. Bush didn't mention corn. Ethanol from corn is simply an agricultural subsidy. He was talking about making ethanol from switch grass and wood chips. Cellulosic ethanol has one big advantage: too little is known to say it can't work.
***

etc.

DAR
There's lots more. I just went to his website:

http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/search.html

And put "hydrogen" in the search engine.

D.
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Postby Savonarola » Thu May 29, 2008 10:15 pm

Darrel wrote:What is more bizarre is that you, our resident chemist, are clearly are not getting this. I certainly understand Christian being skeptical of my claim but I think it is right.

More bizarre than two highly-educated chemists both being wrong about the chemistry? He once again backs me up on the manufactured/artificial distinction between "carrier" and "source."

Darrel wrote:This is dismaying that you completely misunderstand my analogy again (but compressing air is a good way to store energy and is smarter than Hydrogen for a whole bunch of obvious reasons).

I don't think I'm misunderstanding your analogy; I think you don't understand the nature of the energy. But we can figure it out in person on Saturday if we can't do it here first.

Darrel wrote:And now you talk of burning compressed springs! Dear god HELP!

That's the extension of your analogy; I'm using this absurdity to expose the flaw of said analogy.

Darrel wrote:Right, lets skip the guessing about the honesty of the author before their comment has even been shown to be incorrect. That's premature.

Uncertainty about whether the author was accidentally misleading or purposely misleading doesn't negate the fact that the message was misleading. See below.

Darrel wrote:
There may be something else at play: Maybe more NOx gases are produced during hydrogen production than during methane combustion. Then the guy would have a point.
That was in fact my understanding the first time I read it.

But you said that the clear implication was that no NOx gases were produced via methane combustion. Don't make me quote you.

Darrel wrote:
But he doesn't say this, and without any numbers, how would we know?
I guess the author, like me, thought it was implied clearly enough.

...
No, seriously, how many contradicting "clear" implications can we have at the same time?

Darrel wrote:The question is not do I pay for the sunlight (no monetary value there yet), but rather do I pay for the electricity that comes out of them.

Remember we were talking about the value of "electricity" not sunlight.

No, we're talking about the cost, or at least one of us is trying to. Now, I'm not arguing that it has no value. I'm also not arguing that there are no initial costs for the equipment. But the electricity actively costs you nothing besides maintenance to produce. You don't have to buy a source from which you get the electricity; you are only buying the conversion apparatus. The source is free. This is not true of hydrogen-from-methane (for which -- obviously -- there is also apparatus to buy). If memory serves, you've previously referred to your solar setup as a source of "free energy."

Darrel wrote:So the answer to the question is yes. I most certainly do pay for the electricity coming out of my solar panels.

No, you pay for the panels and the rest of the setup. If you produced zero electricity, your costs wouldn't appreciably change. If you miraculously tripled expected output, your costs wouldn't appreciably change.

Darrel wrote:No, because they aren't using the energy carrier hydrogen, which for vehicles is dumb and hopeless. Bigtime.

Now who's missing the point? It used to be the case that electric cars were hopeless. We called this shameful period of time the entire twentieth century.

Darrel wrote:We can use a number of methods to store energy in the form of hydrogen. All of them are exceedingly dumb ...

I think it's more accurate to say that they're exceedingly inefficient, and this is because of hydrogen's low energy density. Not that I think being wasteful isn't dumb... Again, let's call a spade a spade.

Darrel wrote: ... the fuel cells are filled with platinum (over $1,000 an ounce) and they don't work for long.

Can't really disagree with you on these points. Make this the thrust of the argument instead of using this gobbledygook above.

Darrel wrote:Article says:
"Unlike gasoline, hydrogen isn’t an energy source — it’s an energy carrier, like a battery."

You respond:
"An extremely misleading statement. One that reeks of propaganda, if you ask me. I'll discuss this below addressing energy density."

....

So I have a question for you, is their [NAS's] statement "extremely misleading" and one that "reeks of propaganda?"

I've never heard that distinction made elsewhere. Christian and I have both explained why a distinction between "carrier" and "source" is spurious. It is both more accurate and more easily understandable to speak in terms of energy density. (Or at least it is for me; but anytime you look up comparison of battery types, you'll compare energy density, so it can't be just me.)

Darrel wrote:I am going to dinner tomorrow night with Dr. Bill, can you come?

Since a trip to Fayetteville costs me $20, how about you and Dr. H hammer out these details, and we'll clear up misconceptions at intermission or dinner Saturday? (See, this is what happens when I don't have a kickass hybrid vehicle.)

Darrel wrote:I said to him, "it sure looks like a fuel, after all you can burn it like gasoline."

But that's what makes it a fuel. It's just a worse one than most (all?) hydrocarbons.

Darrel wrote:Notice I have said, in the context of a hydrogen economy, hydrogen is effectively a fuel carrier, not a source of energy.

And notice that I have said that the distinction is artificial.

Darrel wrote:Similarly, hydrogen is literally a fuel, literally a form of energy that can be burned or used to create electricity (this is the part you are hearing as a chemist).

Yes.

Darrel wrote:But the part we are interested in with the "hydrogen economy" is the effect, end result, that it has for humans.

Yes.

Darrel wrote:Hydrogen, as it is present around us is useless until we expend a lot of energy creating it in a concentrated form.

Not necessarily. Yes, our methods aren't exceptional. Yes, it has to be compressed to be useful for vehicles, and that takes energy. But hydrolysis can produce clean hydrogen from minimal resources (water and sunlight). And there may be other ways to concentrate (increase the energy density of the) hydrogen such that some of these hurdles become lower. (Carbon nanotubes come to mind; Dr. Harter should know about their ability to adsorb hydrogen gas.)

Darrel wrote:In this regard hydrogen is a not a energy/fuel source, it is an energy carrier. That's what matters in "the hydrogen economy."

Let's try another analogy. Suppose I have solar panels that run a motor to lift a 5lb weight 5ft off the ground.
Or suppose I have hydrogen that runs a fuel cell that runs a motor that lifts a 5lb weight 5ft off the ground.
Or suppose I walk up to the 5lb weight and lift it 5ft off the ground.

Does the weight give a rat's ass how it got 5ft off the ground? No, it has been lifted: the work has been done. It's gone from point A to point B, and that fact does not depend upon the source or carrier of the energy.
How picky do we want to be? If I lift the weight, am I a carrier or a source? Either I'm a source because I exerted energy to do that work, or I'm a carrier because I took in energy from elsewhere and moved the weight. In the end, in regards to the overall result for humans, does it even matter? Only in efficiency.
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Postby Savonarola » Thu May 29, 2008 10:45 pm

Darrel wrote:The fact that it is so abundant, like water, does not mean it can be a energy source. This is the myth that gets passed around. "Hey, we are running out of oil, but what about hydrogen, it's the most abundant element in the universe!"

And this is worth debunking. But do it well and do it accurately. Even Bob Park says that hydrogen is a fuel (05Mar2005). Virtually all of his objections stem from the problem of using fossil fuels to electrolyze water because it produces more pollution than using that electricity otherwise. This doesn't apply when fossil fuels are not used.

Darrel wrote:Right. Which brings me to my MAIN POINT:

Hydrogen is never going to be a substitute for oil.

The energy densities hardly compare. "Never," though, is a long time. What if we further develop adsorbing materials? other substances like sodium borohydride? cheaper, longer-lived fuel cells? kickass photovoltaics?

Darrel wrote:WE have to put the energy into hydrogen.

1) Depends on the method. Hydrogen from methane is simply a step down the energy ladder, but we didn't have to spend energy to take a step back up. We just went from the top rung to a lower one.
2) If the input is cheap and clean enough (e.g. solar), putting the energy in isn't the damnable offense it's made out to be.
3) See below.

Darrel wrote:It's a storage system.

A statement which I maintain applies to anything usable and is therefore vacuous. The point you should emphasize is that our current methods make it:
Darrel wrote:a really ineffective, and inefficient one for vehicles...
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Postby Dardedar » Fri May 30, 2008 12:33 am

Savonarola wrote:
Darrel wrote:What is more bizarre is that you, our resident chemist, are clearly are not getting this. I certainly understand Christian being skeptical of my claim but I think it is right.

More bizarre than two highly-educated chemists both being wrong about the chemistry?


DAR
I don't think Christian is "wrong about the chemistry."

He once again backs me up on the manufactured/artificial distinction between "carrier" and "source."


DAR
When did he do that? (oh, I see his post now, response below)

I am not interested in word games and some linguistic nit. Do you understand the main point or not? In "the hydrogen economy" hydrogen is understood to be a carrier, not unlike electricity. Please read the material from Bob Park I have posted for background on this.

It seems to me that when we run out of oil and are looking for its substitute it is just as mistaken to say:

"Hey, there is lots of electricity in the universe so we can get our energy from electricity now."

As it is to say:

"Hey, there is lots of hydrogen in the universe so we can get our energy from hydrogen now."

Darrel wrote:This is dismaying that you completely misunderstand my analogy again (but compressing air is a good way to store energy and is smarter than Hydrogen for a whole bunch of obvious reasons).

I don't think I'm misunderstanding your analogy; I think you don't understand the nature of the energy.


DAR
Oh I am sure I don't. But I do understand this issue and I am also certain you completely misunderstood my analogy. Christian got it. Using a spring was not my first choice. But all of this is incidental. You apparently still don't understand the entire point, which is almost unbelievable.

Darrel wrote:And now you talk of burning compressed springs! Dear god HELP!

That's the extension of your analogy; I'm using this absurdity to expose the flaw of said analogy.


DAR
Maybe a spring is poor, but your response just exposes you misunderstood the analogy. Completely.

Darrel wrote:Right, lets skip the guessing about the honesty of the author before their comment has even been shown to be incorrect. That's premature.

Uncertainty about whether the author was accidentally misleading or purposely misleading doesn't negate the fact that the message was misleading. See below.


DAR
You haven't shown this.

Darrel wrote:
But he doesn't say this, and without any numbers, how would we know?
I guess the author, like me, thought it was implied clearly enough.

...
No, seriously, how many contradicting "clear" implications can we have at the same time? [/quote]

DAR
If you want to charge the author with dishonesty, you might want to at least do a little checking. Here is the comment in question, in context:

"One of the main arguments made for switching to a “hydrogen economy” is to prevent global warming that has been attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. When hydrogen is made from natural gas, however, nitrogen oxides are released, which are 58 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.5"

Notice, they provided a reference. I'll get the link for you. It's from a "backgrounder" article by the Union of Concerned Scientists, entitled: "How Natural Gas Works."

The relevant section:

Environmental Issues

Although natural gas is a fossil fuel and so is made up mostly of carbon, global warming emissions from gas are much less than coal or oil. Compared to coal, gas produces 43 percent fewer carbon emissions for each unit of energy produced, and 30 percent less than oil. Gas also produces no solid waste, unlike the massive amounts of ash from a coal plant, and very little sulfur dioxide and particulate emissions.

On the other hand, the combustion of gas still produces nitrogen oxides, a cause of smog and acid rain. And while carbon emissions are lower, natural gas itself is a powerful greenhouse gas. Natural gas (methane) is much more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, 58 times more effective on a pound-for-pound basis. Methane concentrations have increased eight times faster than carbon dioxide, doubling since the beginning of the industrial age. Natural gas use has accounted for about 10 percent of all global warming emissions."


Are they misleading too?

Darrel wrote:The question is not do I pay for the sunlight (no monetary value there yet), but rather do I pay for the electricity that comes out of them.

Remember we were talking about the value of "electricity" not sunlight.


No, we're talking about the cost, or at least one of us is trying to.


DAR
My comment was pretty clear:

"I don't know where you get the idea that electricity is or can be virtually free. It has a value."

The electricity from the electric company has a cost as does the electricity from my solar panels. As I have shown, the electricity from the panels costs more.

But the electricity actively costs you nothing besides maintenance to produce.


DAR
I have explained, in some careful detail how the electricity most certainly, "actively costs me" something to produce. And it costs me more than electricity from Ozark Electric. The $400 was real money, not hypothetical money.

You don't have to buy a source from which you get the electricity; you are only buying the conversion apparatus.


DAR
Constructing a barrier between the cost of the panels and cost of the electricity produced is not an idea I can even take seriously. Talk about spurious!

The source is free.


DAR
That's nice. Making it into useful electricity is not.

Ditto "hydrogen energy." The source is free (water). Making it into a useful form of energy is not.

Important: I don't see how pointing out that the "source is free" is in any way useful. It's not like the costs can just be ignored when calculating the cost of the resulting energy.

If memory serves, you've previously referred to your solar setup as a source of "free energy."


DAR
Then I must have been joking. I am well aware of the costs.

Darrel wrote:So the answer to the question is yes. I most certainly do pay for the electricity coming out of my solar panels.

No, you pay for the panels and the rest of the setup.


DAR
Which means I have paid in advance for the electricity coming out of my solar panels.
And actually the math is far worse than I have shown. Batteries add inefficiency to the system and would need to be replaced several times over during the life of the system. Ignoring these costs or pretending they don't exist doesn't make them go away. It makes for an inaccurate accounting of the cost.

If you produced zero electricity, your costs wouldn't appreciably change. If you miraculously tripled expected output, your costs wouldn't appreciably change.


DAR
You want to invoke a miracle to try to save this silly argument?

It used to be the case that electric cars were hopeless. We called this shameful period of time the entire twentieth century.


DAR
I don't agree at all. The problem of getting a battery that will give good range for a car, while daunting, pales in comparison to the challenges of creating and using hydrogen for a vehicle.
We have always had electric vehicles during the course of automotive history. Dozens of examples have been posted on this forum over the years. IMO, cheap oil has kept them from being successfully mass produced. $130 oil is changing that.

Darrel wrote:We can use a number of methods to store energy in the form of hydrogen. All of them are exceedingly dumb ...

I think it's more accurate to say that they're exceedingly inefficient, and this is because of hydrogen's low energy density. Not that I think being wasteful isn't dumb... Again, let's call a spade a spade.


DAR
I think you just did. Exceedingly inefficient = dumb. We agree.

Darrel wrote: ... the fuel cells are filled with platinum (over $1,000 an ounce) and they don't work for long.

Can't really disagree with you on these points. Make this the thrust of the argument instead of using this gobbledygook above.


DAR
The unfortunate thing is that in this entire exchange I haven't learned anything. You say you see gobbledygook yet I have not seen you be able to demonstrate any gobbledygook.


Darrel wrote:
Article says:
"Unlike gasoline, hydrogen isn’t an energy source — it’s an energy carrier, like a battery."

You respond:
"An extremely misleading statement. One that reeks of propaganda, if you ask me. I'll discuss this below addressing energy density."

[insert snipped statement from NAS: "Like electricity, hydrogen is not a primary energy source, although it is a high-quality energy carrier."]

So I have a question for you, is their [NAS's] statement "extremely misleading" and one that "reeks of propaganda?"


I've never heard that distinction made elsewhere.


DAR
How bizarre. Google: "energy carrier" hydrogen. I got 73,700 hits. It's everywhere.

Christian and I have both explained why a distinction between "carrier" and "source" is spurious.


DAR
Oh, I see his first post now. I had missed it. He says: "This whole "carrier vs source" debate is terribly silly guys." There certainly is some silliness going on. Christian, is this comment from the National Academy of Science silly?"

"Like electricity, hydrogen is not a primary energy source, although it is a high-quality energy carrier."

The comment certainly seems to make a useful distinction.

It is both more accurate and more easily understandable to speak in terms of energy density.


DAR
Not to non-scientists it isn't. But I am open to you showing why that would be more understandable.

Darrel wrote:Notice I have said, in the context of a hydrogen economy, hydrogen is effectively a fuel carrier, not a source of energy.

And notice that I have said that the distinction is artificial.


DAR
Okay, I see. I think the distinction is useful when teaching people this main myth about hydrogen but I can see why a chemist would squirm.

Question: Would such a distinction also be artificial with regard to electricity?

D.
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Postby Dardedar » Fri May 30, 2008 1:17 am

Savonarola wrote: Even Bob Park says that hydrogen is a fuel (05Mar2005).


DAR
Of course it can be a fuel. If this is what you are referring to, he is actually making fun of the people off-handedly calling it a fuel:

"Friday, March 25, 2005
1. FREEDOM ELEMENT: DO YOU KNOW HOW EASY IT IS TO SELL BALONEY?
In his 2003 State-of-the-Union address, President Bush called for building a Freedom Car, "powered by hydrogen and pollution free" (WN 31 Jan 03). Baloney, but people didn't ask where the hydrogen will come from. They asked if it's safe. Hey, it's fuel -- fuel burns."

Virtually all of his objections stem from the problem of using fossil fuels to electrolyze water because it produces more pollution than using that electricity otherwise. This doesn't apply when fossil fuels are not used.


DAR
No, he also objects to the waste. See the "who would pay two apples for an apple" quote:

"You can buy an apple for one euro. If you really want an apple, you might pay five euros. You could even pay a thousand euros, but you would never pay two apples."

If we use energy other than fossil fuels to make our hydrogen, we are giving up more than one apple for an apple. This is especially so with the main contender: electricity.

Darrel wrote:WE have to put the energy into hydrogen.

1) Depends on the method. Hydrogen from methane is simply a step down the energy ladder, but we didn't have to spend energy to take a step back up. We just went from the top rung to a lower one.


DAR
It depends? Is it ever the case that we don't have to spend energy to make hydrogen? No. And with few exceptions we could use that energy directly. As this fellow put it:

"A hydrogen car is one of the least efficient, most expensive ways to reduce greenhouse gases," said Joseph Romm, a physicist who was in charge of renewable energy research in the Carter administration. "If you want to slow down global warming, you're not going to do it with a hydrogen car."

2) If the input is cheap and clean enough (e.g. solar), putting the energy in isn't the damnable offense it's made out to be.


DAR
Solar ain't cheap and waste is a damnable offense. If we had a bunch of cheap electricity via solar or some other it is far more efficient to use the electricity directly rather than waste most of it in a conversion to hydrogen only to waste a bit more of it when it is converted back to electricity again.

And then 41.6 days later the extremely expensive fuel cell is busted.

Here is a question I am curious about. Do we lose the platinum when the fuel cell is worn out or is it still there to be retrieved?

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Postby Savonarola » Fri May 30, 2008 3:05 am

Darrel wrote:It seems to me that when we run out of oil and are looking for its substitute it is just as mistaken to say:

"Hey, there is lots of electricity in the universe so we can get our energy from electricity now."

As it is to say:

"Hey, there is lots of hydrogen in the universe so we can get our energy from hydrogen now."

And I won't argue with this. Make this a part of your argument instead of harping on "carrier" vs. "source."

Darrel wrote:You apparently still don't understand the entire point, which is almost unbelievable.

You're right. I don't believe that I don't understand the entire point. I believe that I do understand the entire point. But I believe that the point can be made a lot better than that article has done. I'm trying to show you why.

Darrel wrote:You haven't shown this [that the author was wrong regarding NOx production].

"Thermal NOx formation, which is highly temperature dependent, is recognized as the most relevant source when combusting natural gas."
link

Darrel wrote:If you want to charge the author with dishonesty...

But I said that I don't know whether the author was intentionally dishonest or just mistaken. Not that it should matter. But thanks to your citation, I can show that either the author can't read or I've gone insane from my new job.

the article's author wrote:One of the main arguments made for switching to a “hydrogen economy” is to prevent global warming that has been attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. When hydrogen is made from natural gas, however, nitrogen oxides are released, which are 58 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.5 [bold added]

www.ucsusa.org wrote:And while carbon emissions are lower, natural gas itself is a powerful greenhouse gas. Natural gas (methane) is much more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, 58 times more effective on a pound-for-pound basis.
The source explains that natural gas itself is the substance that is 58 times more effective than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. It does not say this about NOx gases, but the article does!. The source merely says that converting the methane to hydrogen produces NOx. But burning the methane otherwise does, too, and the article -- however conveniently -- leaves out that information, and it does so in a way that you acknowledge gives the wrong impression.

Darrel wrote:The electricity from the electric company has a cost as does the electricity from my solar panels. As I have shown, the electricity from the panels costs more.

Due to the cost of the panels, not the cost of the process. Can you at least acknowledge this fact, and we'll go from there?

Darrel wrote:I have explained, in some careful detail how the electricity most certainly, "actively costs me" something to produce.

If this were a complete representation of the scenario, then we could conclude that shutting down your system would take your costs to zero. This is clearly not true. You are effectively amortizing the cost of the apparatus by treating it as an ongoing production cost. I have not argued that there is no cost for the apparatus, or that the $400 you spent was imaginary.
So, here's a new thought experiment to see my point: Suppose you give me your apparatus for free. Does it cost me anything to produce the electricity? No (not appreciably, anyway). The cost is in obtaining the apparatus. If you are going to count this as part of the overall cost, then so be it; but you then need to count the cost of the acquisition of equipment needed for the alternatives for a valid comparison.

Darrel wrote:Constructing a barrier between the cost of the panels and cost of the electricity produced is not an idea I can even take seriously. Talk about spurious!

Applying costs selectively in order to sell a point is not an idea I can support.

The source is free.
Darrel wrote:That's nice. ...

It is. It's hellaciously nice. It's extremely hard to do better.

Darrel wrote:... Making it into useful electricity is not.

But -- save for maintenance -- it's free once the original cost has been paid off. This is not true of fossil fuels. So, once again, let's be fair: if we're going to count the cost of the apparatus for electrolysis, we should count the cost of the apparatus for obtaining/pressurizing/etc methane.

Darrel wrote:Important: I don't see how pointing out that the "source is free" is in any way useful. It's not like the costs can just be ignored when calculating the cost of the resulting energy.

That's like saying that you wouldn't want free gasoline since you already had to buy the (ICE) car to use it.

Darrel wrote:Which means I have paid in advance for the electricity coming out of my solar panels.

Sorry, I just don't know how I can explain this any differently. You have paid regardless of how much electricity your panels produce. If you bought the panels and never used them, your math would say that the panels are infinitely inefficient. My math says that they weren't used.
You say that my system makes for an inaccurate accounting of the cost.
Once you've bought the system, it doesn't cost you any more to use it. Treating the system mathematically as if it does isn't accurate, either. The difference between the total cost of producing 1kWh and the total cost of producing 1000kWh (ignoring maintenance) is ZERO.
Again, this goes back to equal factoring: If we're going to count the cost of the solar panels, that's fine, as long as we count the cost of the equipment we need for the other energy retrieval methods.

Darrel wrote:You want to invoke a miracle to try to save this silly argument?

I'm saying that you can't count the initial costs of one but not the other. I'm saying that a free source is a free source. You want to show why my accounting is unfair?

Darrel wrote:I don't agree at all. The problem of getting a battery that will give good range for a car, while daunting, pales in comparison to the challenges of creating and using hydrogen for a vehicle.

It used to be that the problem of getting a battery that could take the place of gasoline was essentially hopeless. Some people argue that our battery technology still relatively sucks. I can agree with the conclusion that what we have now for hydrogen looks bleak -- and therefore that developing a huge infrastructure is unwise -- but let's not paint a picture of prophetic everlasting failure.

Darrel wrote:The unfortunate thing is that in this entire exchange I haven't learned anything. You say you see gobbledygook yet I have not seen you be able to demonstrate any gobbledygook.

But you've now caught up with Christian's posts regarding the artificial distinction between "carrier" and "source"?
You originally said that the article "obviously" implied that burning natural gas didn't produce NOx. The snippet from the source explains that burning natural gas does produce NOx.
The article says that NOx gases trap heat with 58 times the effect of CO2. The source explains that the methane, not NOx, has 58 times the greenhouse effect.
Whether these falsehoods were put into the article purposely or accidentally, the fact remains that they are in the article but shouldn't be. Perhaps this guy is just being careless. Either way, though, it doesn't bode well for the author. So, as I have been trying to say: make a good case, not a shoddy one.

Darrel wrote:How bizarre. Google: "energy carrier" hydrogen. I got 73,700 hits. It's everywhere.

Well, I don't spend much time recently researching hydrogen. That said, I'm no slouch when it comes to understanding energy. And I think my case has been made on this point.

Darrel wrote:
It is both more accurate and more easily understandable to speak in terms of energy density.
Not to non-scientists it isn't. But I am open to you showing why that would be more understandable.

Not to imply that you're a dummy, but you're not a scientist (at least, you don't have advanced training in science), and you know what energy density is. I bet you even have a good grasp on the concept. In fact, it's exactly what it sounds like. Plus, as I said earlier, it's the standard unit used for comparison.

Darrel wrote:I think the distinction is useful when teaching people this main myth about hydrogen but I can see why a chemist would squirm.

I still think that calling hydrogen (especially from methane) a "carrier" that has to be "charged" with energy is purely inaccurate. Even if it were true that we took energy from methane, converted it to some other form, and then made hydrogen gas from that intermediate form of energy, that doesn't change the energy content of the hydrogen gas. It is a fuel that can be converted to energy even without compression; the drawback is that it's not a good fuel due to low energy density, which most people can understand by thinking of as the amount of energy per pound (solid or liquid) or per gallon (liquid or compressed gas).

Darrel wrote:Question: Would such a distinction also be artificial with regard to electricity?

Not sure exactly what you're asking.
If you mean between electricity and something else, I'd have to know what else. But I'd guess the answer is no, and here's why: a given amount of electric energy by definition has a given amount of electric energy. Once the energy is to that form, does anything change based on how the energy got to that form? No.

Darrel wrote:No, he also objects to the waste.

This is true, and he should object.

Darrel wrote:Is it ever the case that we don't have to spend energy to make hydrogen? No.

It's never the case that we don't have to spend energy to get any usable fuel source. The efficiency is the important factor. And remember, I've been agreeing with you that hydrogen isn't currently efficient. There's no need to continue beating the dead horse.

Darrel wrote:Solar ain't cheap and waste is a damnable offense.

Again, I agree that using solar for something besides hydrogen is preferable. But when your battery banks are full, then any incoming light is being wasted, so anything we get out of it is bonus.

Darrel wrote:Here is a question I am curious about. Do we lose the platinum when the fuel cell is worn out or is it still there to be retrieved?

Some distant relatives of mine salvage fuel cells to recover the platinum, so yes, we can retrieve it.

I'll apologize if some of this is hard to follow, because it's late, and I'm sleep deprived.
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Postby Doug » Fri May 30, 2008 9:18 am

Problem solved! Just buy this "kit" for $150 and put a garden hose near the driveway...

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http://www.runyourscarwithwater.com/

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Hint: It's a scam!!!!
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Postby ChristianLoeschel » Fri May 30, 2008 9:38 am

I just want to point out one thing to you guys on the NOx debate...

Whenever you burn ANYTHING in a system that is open to air, a significant amount of N2 from the air will be oxidized to NOx...no way around that.
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