Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Hydrogen Society

The world is in a major move to reduce its dependency on fossil fuel. Hydrogen is considered as the fuel of the future. This gas in its liquid form can be stored and used to power factories, cars, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and even aerospace rockets . Countries like Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Spain, South Korea, China, Australia, the USA and Russia, and a lot more are doing extensive research in finding the cheapest and safest way to produce and to store hydrogen. 

Green hydrogen that is produced using renewable energies (i.e. solar, hydro, and wind power) are considered as the most suitable solution for an environmentally friendly society. But its cost is very high. Large scale offshore wind farms combined with other renewable energy resources through efficient electrolysis can lower the cost of hydrogen production. Still this process is considered more expensive than fossil fuel.

A Canadian company called Proton Technologies patented a new technique of producing hydrogen with cost that is much cheaper than fossil fuel. The first process will be started by injecting hot oxygen enhanced air into the ground to oxidize heavy hydrocarbons, coke and other gases. When the temperature reaches more than 500 degrees Celcius, the hydrocarbon and water will brake apart. The chemical term for this process is thermolysis. The second process is extracting the hydrogen using special filter or membrane that allow pure hydrogen gas to pass through it whereas CO2 and other gases will be left underground.  Other valuable gases such as steam for electrical generation, helium and syngas can also be extrated from the well. This very promising technology can revitalize depleted or abandoned oil wells to produce more affordable hydrogen that will drive the world economy now and in the very near future. Seeing its potential positive impact to the environment, the hydrogen extracting method of Proton Technologies will attract serious interest from countries that have got hydrocarbon deposits.

Several European countries have accelerated the construction of the offshore wind-farms. 

As of today, steam reforming is considered as the cheapest method of hydrogen production. In this process, methane gas CH4, usually from natural gas or biogas, is reacted with steam (H2O) in very high temperature (around 1,000 degrees Celcius) to produce Hydrogen, and CO. 

CH4 + H2O → CO + 3 H2

The Carbon Monoxide can then be used to react with water vapour to produce more hydrogen gas. 

CO + H2O → CO2 + H2

Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element in the universe. However, in its pure form, hydrogen is highly flammable. For instance, a very small leakage in a fuel tank of a hydrogen-powered truck may drain the entire fuel or cause lethal explosion if there is fire, or sparks.

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