I was reading the Washington Post earlier this week and came across this article by Curt Suplee titled, “Don’t bet on a hydrogen car anytime soon.” I sent Curt a message and thought I’d share those same thoughts here to spark some discussion. My message appears below.
Dear Mr. Suplee,
I just read your November 17 piece in the Washington Post on the problems with a hydrogen-powered car. I can’t disagree that this technology still has a long way to go and may end up being a tailpipe dream. But as someone who clearly approaches these issues with a rational scientific perspective I thought you might be interested in another technology that has been developed to strip hydrogen from natural gas without generating the “copious emissions of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide” associated with the traditional steam reformation technology.
It is a technology developed by a Canadian company, Atlantic Hydrogen, that uses a plasma-arc process to drop carbon out of the natural gas stream as a solid. Earlier this year I visited their facility to look at a demonstration project and came away impressed.
The company’s focus is not on producing pure hydrogen for hydrogen fuel cells but on enhancing the hydrogen content of natural gas stream to produce a natural gas product (Hydrogen Enriched Natural Gas – HENG) with lower CO2 and NOx emissions. The process itself produces hydrogen without producing CO2 emissions. Here is their website, which includes a paper describing the process and an interesting video.
For the record, they are not a full member of the American Gas Association and neither the association not I have a financial interest in their business.
Also I would like to thank you for addressing the issue of energy loss from energy conversion. That is something that is rarely addressed in the media and can be a source of frustration when discussing energy efficiency issues. At AGA we have been trying to get recognition of this issue because it tends to favor use of natural gas appliances.
While the norm is to look at appliance efficiency and ignore all upstream energy conversion losses, recently the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science studied the issue and recommended that the Department of Energy move to measuring appliance energy efficiency on a full fuel cycle basis.
Attached is their recommendation along with slides we use to illustrate the issue and a joint statement we recently entered into with the Natural Resources Defense Council supporting full fuel cycle energy efficiency measurement.
Thanks again for your thoughtful article.