“I’m bullish on hydrogen,” says CNBC market analyst Jim Cramer about a fuel touted to clean-up the environment. “Over the next 10 to 20 years, I expect hydrogen to take major market share in transportation, power storage for renewables like solar, and even as a replacement for natural gas buildings all over America.” *
Hydrogen has lots of proponents. It’s not far away from the Carolinas, either. NextEra is called a pioneer in hydrogen to reduce emissions and serve its customers. The company has pilot projects underway. Check here, here, and here.
Could the company be laying a base for a cleaner future; learning from experience?
Bottom line: Hydrogen is a clean fuel. The issue to resolve is getting the hydrogen in a usable state in an efficient and clean way.
ECC started this blog with the idea that it would be a summary of all hydrogen possibilities. No chance of that. Hydrogen is a huge topic, so over the next few weeks ECC will cover various aspects of the hydrogen fuel economy and its technology.
This time, what is hydrogen and its possibilities?
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. On Earth hydrogen in the greatest quantity is in water. It is a gas in the atmosphere in tiny amounts.
Hydrogen is not necessarily new in industry. “Hydrogen already is used in large quantities, primarily for the refining of oil and gas and the production of fertilizer, methanol, and other chemicals. To a smaller extent, the gas is also used as a zero-emissions fuel source in rockets and some material-handling vehicles.” (Source)
The process to get hydrogen: “Most hydrogen is produced by heating natural gas with steam to form syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide). The syngas is separated to give hydrogen. Hydrogen can also be produced by the electrolysis of water” (Source) (YouTube about electrolysis of water)
“Hydrogen is a clean fuel that, when consumed in a fuel cell, produces only water. Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of domestic resources, such as natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewable power like solar and wind. These qualities make it an attractive fuel option for transportation and electricity generation applications. It can be used in cars, in houses, for portable power, and in many more applications.” That is from the Department of Energy website.
Flexibility is what hydrogen adds to the energy system. An energy carrier is how some describe it. Hydrogen can be used to store, move or deliver energy to where it is needed, when it is needed.
Think of it like money – dollars. Molecules are money. You earn dollars at work (hydrogen molecules) and you can place them in a bank (energy storage) for use later. Hydrogen is a way to bank energy.
Just as money can be made through different jobs, hydrogen can be isolated in different ways. The most common methods today are natural gas reforming (a thermal process), and electrolysis. Other methods include solar-driven and biological processes. (Source)
The how is the hurdle for hydrogen to become a common and clean fuel for society. Fossil fuels are commonly used to obtain hydrogen now, and that can be a problem because of emissions. A green solution is needed. Using renewables to power the electrolysis of water creates no CO2 emissions.
NextEra is working on that, and a leading environmental magazine has taken note: “NextEra will propose a $65 million pilot in the Sunshine … The project, which could be online by 2023 if it receives approval from state regulators, would represent the first step into green hydrogen for NextEra Energy, by far the largest developer and operator of wind, solar and battery plants in North America.”
An alluring idea – using renewable energy (carbon-free) to make hydrogen fuel (also carbon-free). Add that hydrogen is an attractive, flexible energy carrier and the energy future looks brighter. As is said in cartoon strips – Jeepers!
*Note: Even if a CNBC spokesperson is bullish on hydrogen, ECC notes it only as an energy possibility, not as an investment. ECC is not a financial organization or advisor.
Feature image from the National Renewable Energy Lab