Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter 4
Hydrogen Sources
Most of the hydrogen that is manufactured now is made by reacting
natural gas with high temperature steam, to separate the hydrogen from
the carbon. But, manufacturing hydrogen from fossil fuel resources does
not help the fossil fuel depletion problem. Hydrogen could become the
prime provider of energy, that would solve the problems of atmospheric
pollution and oil depletion. Hydrogen powered fuel cells have wide ap-
plications and could replace batteries in many portable application, power
vehicles and provide home and commercial electrical needs.
Making hydrogen from water through electrolysis was initially pro-
moted by nuclear engineers who thought that nuclear generated power
would be inexpensive enough to make hydrogen.
In Britain, one hydrogen experiment was financed by the Swedish
steel industry and SAAB among other firms. Power at a small home was
provided by a computer-controlled windmill in the garden. The power
was used to electrolyse filtered water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hy-
drogen gas was used for cooking and heating the house and as fuel for a
SAAB car.
Hydrogen has an energy content three to four times higher than oil,
and it can be produced from all known energy sources, besides being a
byproduct of many industrial processes.
The National Academy of Sciences committee believes that the tran-
sition to a hydrogen economy could take decades. Challenges exist in pro-
ducing, storing and distributing hydrogen in ample quantities at reason-
able costs without producing greenhouse gases that may affect the atmo-
sphere. The extraction of hydrogen from methane generates carbon diox-
ide. If electrolysis is used for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen,
the electricity may be produced by burning fossil fuels which generates
carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is also a leak-prone gas that could escape into
the atmosphere and set off chemical reactions.
Also, using fossil fuels to make hydrogen can take more energy than
that contained in the hydrogen. Researchers at the Idaho National Engi-
neering and Environmental Laboratory and Cerametec in Salt Lake City
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