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Does Hydrogen have a future in the world of energy?

FROM A CONTRIBUTOR

About two decades ago the US DoD ran some tests designed to test the efficacy of a propulsion system for shallow draft/shallow water vessels. These tests failed, and they failed miserably. However, there was a surprise that came out of these tests. The experimental propulsion system produce large amounts of gas – hydrogen and oxygen gas. In fact, so much gas was produced that it became an explosion hazard.

Why is this interesting? Well, it demonstrated (albeit accidentally) the feasibility of a ‘new’ method for the production of hydrogen gas. Today most hydrogen gas is produced from methane gas.

The scuttlebutt floating about now is that this method is being investigated to determine whether it can be improved upon and the equipment scaled up to produce massive amounts of hydrogen gas, maybe on the order of trillions of cubic meters/year. The goal would apparently to produce enough hydrogen gas to economically compete with natural gas.

Why would this be important? Well, for one thing it could go along way to help make the US, and the Western World in general, far less dependent upon politically unreliable sources of hydrocarbon fuels. One would think that China would be intensely interested in this type of technology, given the amount of coal that country consumes.

Interestingly, it might even provide a method for the recycling of carbon dioxide. For many years it has been know that in the presence of an appropriate catalyst carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas can be combined to produce methane gas, or even liquid hydrocarbons, with oxygen gas as a by-product. A trillion cubic meters of hydrogen could be used to produce a great deal of liquid hydrocarbons.

At one time NASA even envisioned using this technique for producing kerosene type fuel, and oxygen, to fuel a return trip from the planet Mars. A processing plant would be launched from Earth and land on Mars for that purpose, and the fuel was to be produced on Mars directly from the Martian atmosphere. This technology is tested, mature and quite reliable.

Imagine if you will, the carbon dioxide from a coal fired power plant being recycled to produce diesel fuel, and at a cost that would be cost competitive with diesel produced from crude oils. The required carbon dioxide could be harvested directly from the atmosphere and from sea water as well.

I wonder how the oil companies would react to this kind of technical development? Well, we are clearly going to need an alternative to the continued consumption of crude oil and natural gas.

RELATED: Hydrogen as an Alternative Fuel

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