H is for Hydrogen Dreams

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on the 22 Billion Energy Slaves on November 7, 2016

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

 

I can clearly recall one day in 1997 when I was working for a large company in the UK energy sector and one of heads of the Corporate Strategy department came down to give us a talk. He confidently predicted that inside 10 years "almost every car on the planet" would be powered by hydrogen. This sounded a bit fishy to me, and even though I was a corporate flak at the time, something didn't ring true about his claim. I asked him a question: "But where will the hydrogen come from?"


His eyes boggled at the sheer stupidity of such a question. "Where will it come from?" he repeated, his mouth curling into a smile at the corners as if I had made some kind of joke. "Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe! It's everywhere! You yourself are 10% hydrogen!" There was a ripple of laughter around the room and I felt like the stupidest kid in the class. How could I be such a dumbo!?

Now, almost 20 years later, I have yet to see a car powered by hydrogen. But why?

For a start, hydrogen might be abundant, but it is not a primary fuel. It had to be turned into a useable fuel by employing methods that involve using other fuels. Electrolysis is the main method used to extract hydrogen from water, and most electricity is currently produced using fossil fuels.*

Never mind, let's ignore this energy usage for now and continue making hydrogen. Once we have extracted some pure hydrogen from water (or natural gas, as if often the case – but shhh! don't tell anyone!) we will notice that it is incredibly light and fluffy. To get it into a liquid form we'll have to compress it using a compressor. 10,000psi should do it so that it's usable for a car. Of course, it'll need to be stored in a very thick and heavy high pressure tank.

Okay, so now we've arrived at the stage where we've burned up loads of coal, natural gas or even uranium making water into liquid hydrogen fuel. We have compressed it and stuffed it inside a heavy steel tank ready for using. Can we just store it there until we might need to use it? Well, actually this is also problematic as hydrogen has a boiling point of -253C — which is damned cold by most accounts. Anything above this and it will boil off and evaporate. So forget filling up the tank of your nifty "green" hydrogen car and leaving it sitting on the drive for a few days — you need to use up your fuel before it disappears, which it typically does at a rate of 3-4% a day.

Does it still seem so attractive? Leave you car for a couple of weeks while you go on holiday and you'll likely come back to an empty tank.

Anyway, assuming none of the above really bothers us, what about our good friend the Second Law of Thermodynamics — you know, that old Cassandra party-pooper who endlessly repeats that energy is lost at every stage of conversion, increasing entropy as it does so — does he have anything to say about hydrogen powered motoring? Well yes, quite a lot actually. It turns out that using electrolysis to create hydrogen, compressing it and storing it gives it an energy return (EROEI) of about 0.25. Yep, that means we have to put in four units of energy to get one back.

If anyone still thinks this is a good idea go and grab the nearest six-year old and ask them to explain it to you.

But … assuming you don't care about the energy loss, the burning of fossil fuels to turn natural gas feedstock — sorry, water — into hydrogen, the compression costs, the storage losses and the fact that your hydrogen car weighs twice as much as a normal one due to the giant onboard tank — assuming none of that matters — where are you going to fill it up? According to the US Department of Energy there are 31 stations nationwide where you can fill up your vehicle. Yes, that's 31 that have hydrogen, compared with about 90,000 that have gasoline. As far as I can tell, there are around two in the UK "with another four planned". Yep, the hydrogen future is already here.**

So, for our hydrogen fuelled cars — which will inevitably also feature lithium ion batteries — to be usable to those people who don't live across the road from a hydrogen fuelling station and who like to travel more than 10 miles from their homes, we'll need to retrofit more or less the entire energy infrastructure.

Need I go on …?

So, here we are, still waiting for the great hydrogen future ("It's everywhere! The only pollution is water vapour! The fossil fuel industry doesn't want this to take off!") It probably has some industrial application that could be useful but if we think that hydrogen is a straight substitute for petrol we're going to be sorely disappointed.

In the meantime, here's a "zero emissions" train that's just hit the tracks in Germany. Apparently it is entirely pollution free and "runs on water" (like Jesus, but faster?***) Want to play a fun game and lose all you friends in the process? Every time one of them posts a link to the train on Facebook, leave a simple reply saying 'BS' and link to this post. It works wonders — I've already lost several friends as a result, and expect to lose more in the future.

But don't mind me, I'm just a dumbo, and I'm 10% hydrogen.

* Yep, I know you can make electrolysis happen using solar PV or other renewables, but please refer to the bit where I mention the Second Law, and also consider the sheer amount of solar PV that would be needed to do so on a large scale to keep us on a happy motoring course and how it might be better employed.

** In my second career as a journalist/editor, we got invited to meet the late Shimon Peres in a darkened hotel room in Copenhagen during the shambolic COP15 conference. Peres wanted to push his 'Better Place' hydrogen/electric car initiative on us. We were not allowed to ask questions, such as whether it would actually work. "Better Place" went bust a couple of years later due to the unwillingness of the Second Law to negotiate, and the plug was pulled on it — as were several articles that reported on its demise such as this one in The Guardian "Better Place: What went wrong for the electric car startup"

*** As a small footnote, there's a personal irony in this. The Jesus Train was built by the company Alstom, for which my father, gods rest his soul, used to be a purchasing director. In his time he negotiated and purchased all the major parts for the first trains to run through the Channel Tunnel, as well as the French high speed TGVs. I actually spent a summer working in Alstom's French train factory when I was 21. My father would have hated all this BS — he's probably turning in his grave right now.

3 Responses to H is for Hydrogen Dreams

  • Disaffected says:

    Great post Jason. Cornucopianism can best be viewed as the last arrow in the quiver for a cargo cult society such as ours. One built on "endless tomorrows" and "boundless resources," but in the end not all that unique to the ones that came before it.

    The answer, alas, is much more mundane, although we won't hear of it. "Reduce your numbers and your pretentions, or I'll do it for you," says Mother Nature. "Not on your life old girl, for we are the young and we know better," say we.

    The results are preordained and playing out as we speak.

  • Mister Roboto says:

    Yeah, another way to put the first and biggest concern you mentioned, is that hydrogen bonds very readily, which means the vast, overwhelming majority of the stuff is already bound up in various molecules. Turning it into some kind of liquid fuel means unbinding it from where it is bound up, and this alone turns hydrogen fuel into an energy sink. I suppose one could imagine hydrogen fuel to be a matter of convenience because one could theoretically turn wind and solar power into some kind of liquid fuel…but then there is all the other stuff you mentioned.

  • SomeoneInAsia says:

    I like to imagine those truly desperate cornucopians will say: Huh? Hydrogen won't work? Oh, wait, there's still one more thing that will save us, and that's… MAGIC!! 🙂

    Yes, I'll be looking forward to the article in this series titled 'M Is For Magic'. 🙂

    Want to play a fun game and lose all you friends in the process? Every time one of them posts a link to the train on Facebook, leave a simple reply saying 'BS' and link to this post. It works wonders — I've already lost several friends as a result, and expect to lose more in the future.

    I think if those 'friends' did not have the sense to see the folly of the idea of using hydrogen as our future fuel — and furthermore can get so upset over an article that they would not talk to you anymore — then it's okay to lose such 'friends' as they probably aren't worth having anyway. :rolleyes:

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

https://image.freepik.com/free-icon/musical-notes-symbols_318-29778.jpg

Support the Diner
Search the Diner
Surveys & Podcasts

NEW SURVEY

Renewable Energy

VISIT AND FOLLOW US ON DINER SOUNDCLOUD

" As a daily reader of all of the doomsday blogs, e.g. the Diner, Nature Bats Last, Zerohedge, Scribbler, etc… I must say that I most look forward to your “off the microphone” rants. Your analysis, insights, and conclusions are always logical, well supported, and clearly articulated – a trifecta not frequently achieved."- Joe D
Archives
Global Diners

View Full Diner Stats

Global Population Stats

Enter a Country Name for full Population & Demographic Statistics

Lake Mead Watch

http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/NA-BX686_LakeMe_G_20130816175615.jpg

loading

Inside the Diner

Humanity has a new definition of the kilogram, the standard unit of mass used the world over.The change — implemented on this World Metrology Day — will occur more silently than when a leap second was added to a year. It will disrupt nothing. The num...

The little-noticed surge across the U.S.-Mexico border: It’s Americans he...

It's Rockin' out there in Flyover country![embed=1200,900]

[img width=250]https://www.jetms.aero/cache/uploads/images/gallery/cabin_refurbishment/2/ru/0x0xoriginal/optimalnoe_kachest...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Native American elk hunter, citing an 1868 treaty between his tribe and the U.S. government as it revived his legal challenge to a conviction for hunting out of season in Bighorn Na...

Recent Facebook Posts

There’s a global crackdown on the dark web happening right now

Criminals are going to have a tougher time using the dark web for illegal activity. On Tuesday, the FBI announced the seizure of Deep Dot Web,..

10 minutes ago

Britain's equivalent to Tutankhamun found in Southend-on-Sea

An Anglo-Saxon burial chamber found on a grassy verge next to a busy road and not far from an Aldi is being hailed as Britain’s equivalent..

16 minutes ago

Indigenous Peoples of Amazon Resist Bolsonaro's Plans | Earth First! Newswire

Indigenous Peoples of Amazon Resist Bolsonaro’s Plans–

19 minutes ago

Just Don’t Call Them UFOs

The U.S. military wants pilots to report strange sightings in the sky–Pilots are about to receive a new memo from management: If you encounter..

23 minutes ago

VA Home Loan Secretly Ripped Off Veterans By $150 Million

For the past five years, the VA Home Loan program has knowingly withheld $150 million in refunds for some disabled veterans for fears that should..

27 minutes ago

Diner Twitter feed

Knarf’s Knewz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday [...]

 A sub-adult great white shark measuring nearly 10 [...]

For the past five years, the VA Home Loan program [...]

Diner Newz Feeds
  • Surly
  • Agelbert
  • Knarf
  • Golden Oxen
  • Frostbite Falls

[html]How Fox News pushed a debunked conspiracy th [...]

Doomstead Diner Daily May 20The Diner Daily is ava [...]

Quote from: UnhingedBecauseLucid on March 18, 2019 [...]

CleanTechnicaSupport CleanTechnica’s work via dona [...]

QuoteThe FACT that the current incredibly STUPID e [...]

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday [...]

 A sub-adult great white shark measuring nearly 10 [...]

For the past five years, the VA Home Loan program [...]

Dear Readers, Things in Venezuela are getting mess [...]

Quote from: Golden Oxen on April 27, 2019, 01:49:4 [...]

Quote from: Eddie on April 25, 2019, 09:09:46 AMQu [...]

Quote from: Golden Oxen on April 25, 2019, 04:33:0 [...]

                             Judy Shelton Is Right [...]

You can read more or subscribe to this feed at Glo [...]

Quote from: Surly1 on May 19, 2019, 12:40:41 PMQuo [...]

Quote from: K-Dog on May 19, 2019, 10:59:35 AMTwo [...]

Quote from: K-Dog on May 19, 2019, 10:28:09 AMSaud [...]

Alternate Perspectives
  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

A Window Into Our World By Cognitive Dissonance   Every year during the early spring awakening I qui [...]

Deaf, Dumb and Blind Who Is Better at Conceding They Are Wrong - Conservative or Liberal Extremists? [...]

The Apology: From baby boomers to the handicapped generations. by David Holmgren Re-posted from Holm [...]

Society Is Made Of Narrative. Realizing This Is Awakening From The Matrix. By Caitlin Johnstone Orig [...]

But We Need the Eggs Re-posted from Epsilon Theory   Ben Hunt of Epsilon Theory is one of those rare [...]

Event Update For 2019-05-18http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-05-17http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-05-16http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-05-15http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-05-14http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability
  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

What is your climate pawprint?"If US dogs had their own country it would be bigger than 200 other countries and likely be on [...]

Orellana's Robots"Climate scientists are now connecting the dots and starting to glimpse how a terra preta thera [...]

Can some nut unseat King Corn?"Acornucopia is sprouting under a tree near you."“I am partial to the peculiar and wholeso [...]

Cheddar and the Leafcutters"What can you do when geophysics outpaces evolution?"My personal ancestry has a major limb [...]

Pushing on to Venus"We need to stop our warming ways or there will be Hell to pay." I sometimes look back at [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

To fight climate change, you need to get the world off of fossil fuels. And to do that, you need to [...]

Americans are good on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. Also not so bad about digging in f [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

Top Commentariats
  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

I'll take a look at it. Thanks. In my own book series humans, robots and cyborgs are uploaded b [...]

global politics is just a puppet show to distract and obfuscate while century long agendas play out [...]

I mean those elders too. I mean all elders at all levels that make decisions for the rest of the gro [...]

The worst part of being aware of the impending collapse is trying to muster the energy to care about [...]

Hi Steve. I recently found what I believe is a little gem, and I'm quite confident you'd a [...]

The Federal Reserve is thinking about capping yields? I don't know how long TPTB can keep this [...]

As some one who has spent years trying to figure out what the limits to growth are. let me say that [...]

Peak oil definitely happened for gods sake. Just because it isn't mad max right now is no indic [...]

@Volvo - KMO says he made some life choices he regrets. Not sure what they were. And I don't th [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Simplifying the Final Countdown

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

Off the Keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Merry Doomy Christmas

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Collapse Fiction
Useful Links
Technical Journals

The creation of realistic gridded precipitation fields improves our understanding of the observed cl [...]

A recent article reviewed data on Great Salt Lake (Utah) and concluded falsely that climate changes, [...]

Stretching along the border of North Dakota and Minnesota, The Red River Valley (RRV) of the North h [...]

The idea of compact cities is attracting enthusiasts, and some have proposed sustainable options for [...]

Follow on our http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/