Hydrogen Energy Technology

TitleHydrogen Energy Technology
Publication TypeTyndall Working Paper
SeriesTyndall Centre Working Papers
Tyndall Consortium Institution


Secondary TitleTyndall Centre Working Paper 17
AuthorsDutton, A.
Year of Publication2002

The term hydrogen economy was first used during the energy crises of the 1970s to describe a national (or international) energy infrastructure based on hydrogen produced from non-fossil primary energy sources. Within this concept, hydrogen is regarded as a suitable storage and transmission vector for energy from renewable or nuclear power systems, allowing the generator or utility increased flexibility in responding to fluctuations in wind or solar input or consumer demand, on a short term (minutes/hours) or seasonal basis. Hydrogen can be stored and transported in pressure vessels or transmitted by pipeline to the point of end-use. It is a versatile fuel, which can easily be substituted for traditional fuels, whether for stationary or transport applications, resulting in improved efficiency and negligible pollution at the point of use. Considering the current need to develop responses to human-induced climate change, a fully developed hydrogen economy has the potential to drastically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide within the electrical power, transport, and low grade heat supply sectors. However, the energy path from solar, wind, and other renewable generators, through hydrogen production via electrolysis and widespread storage and distribution, to end-use in cars, aeroplanes, and domestic and business premises is complex and currently very expensive. Intermediate paths, employing hydrogen derived from fossil fuel sources, are already used to produce merchant hydrogen and are likely to be more economic (subject to fluctuations in fossil fuel price) in the short to medium term. Most, but not all, of these fossil fuel based paths will require potentially expensive carbon dioxide sequestration, if they are to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. This paper on hydrogen energy conversion technologies aims to identify the current state of the art in terms of typical plant sizes, readiness for large scale application, estimated capital and running costs, and the need and potential for significant innovation against time scales of 10, 20, and 50 years.

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