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Category Archives: Water Eelectrolyzer

There is so much discussion about Hydrogen as a source of clean energy because, it is the choice of Nature. Nature has provided us with fossil fuels which are Hydrocarbons, chemically represented by CxHy, Carbon and Hydrogen atoms. In the absence of Hydrogen in a Hydrocarbon, it is nothing but Carbon, which is an inert material. The Hydrocarbon gets its heating value only from the presence Hydrogen atom. The natural gas, now considered as the cleanest form of Hydrocarbon is represented by the chemical formula CH4, containing 25% Hydrogen by weight basis. It represents the largest Carbon to Hydrogen ratio at 1:4.This is the highest in any organic chemicals. In aromatic organic compounds such as Benzene, represented by C6H6, the Hydrogen content is only 7.69%.Even in Sugar which is an organic compound from Nature, represented chemically as C12H22O11 has only 8.27% Hydrogen. But Bioethanol, derived from sugar represented by C2H5OH has almost 13% Hydrogen.  Ethyl Alcohol known as ‘Bioethanol’ derived from sugar is blended with Gasoline (Hydrocarbon), for using as a fuel in cars in countries like Brazil. Brazil is the only country that does not depend on imported Gasoline for their cars. The same Bioethanol can also be derived from Corn starch. But the starch should first be converted into sugar before alcohol is derived; that is why it is more expensive to produce Bioethanol from starch than from cane sugar molasses. The climatic conditions of Brazil are more favorable for growing Cane sugar than corn.  Brazil is in a more advantageous position than North America, when it comes to Bioethanol. US is one of the largest consumer of Gasoline.US has imported 11.5 million barrels/day of oil in 2010.It has used 138.5 billion gallons of Gasoline (3.30billion barrels) in 2010) according to EIA. (US Energy Information Administration) It is estimated that Brazil’s sugar based Alcohol is 30% cheaper than US’s corn-based Alcohol. Brazil has successfully substituted Gasoline with locally produced alcohol .They also introduced ‘flexible fuel vehicles’ that can use various blends of Alcohol-Gasoline. Most of the Gasoline used in US has 10% Ethanol blend called E10 and E15, representing the percentage of Alcohol content in Gasoline. Brazil is the largest producers of Bioethanol in the world. Both Brazil and US account for 87.8% of Bioethanol production in the world in 2010 and 87.1% in 2011.Brazil is using Bioethanol blends of various proportions such as E20/E25/E100 (anhydrous alcohol) (Ref: Wikipedia). Almost all cars in Brazil use Bioethanol blended Gasoline and even 100% anhydrous Bioethanol are used for cars. Brazil has set an example as a ‘sustainable economy introducing alternative fuel’ to the rest of the world. The ‘bagasse’ from cane sugar is also used as a fuel as well in the production of ‘Biogas’, which helps Brazil to meet sustainability on renewable energy and greenhouse gas mitigation. The above example is a clear demonstration of sustainability because natural organic material such as sugar is the basic building block by which we can build our Sustainable clean energy of the future. The same Bioethnanol can easily be reformed for the production of Hydrogen gas to generate power and run Fuel cell cars. Many companies are trying to use chemicals such as metal Hydrides as a source of Hydrogen. For example, one company successfully demonstrated using Sodium Borohydride for Hydrogen production. Many companies are trying to find alternative sources of Hydrogen generation from water, including Photo-electrolysis using direct solar light and special photo catalyst materials. We know Nature produces sugar by using sun’s light, water and carbon dioxide from air by photosynthetic process. Can man duplicate this natural process and generate Hydrogen at the fraction of the cost by simply using water and sun’s light? The race is already on and only time can tell whether our pursuit for cheap and clean Hydrogen can become a commercial reality or just stay as an elusive dream.

There is a general opinion that Hydrogen is dangerous or explosive; people are often reminded of Hindenburg accident or Hydrogen bombs. Hydrogen is as safe as Gasoline or Butane gas. It should be handled with care like any combustible material. We have used Hydrogen in industries for so many decades and transported by pipelines across thousands of kilometers; the methods and procedures of handling Hydrogen is well established. It is a very light, colorless and odorless gas and it can easily escape into the atmosphere. Hydrogenation of vegetable oils for production of certain Margarines is one the classical industrial examples for Hydrogen usage. When 100m3 Hydrogen is compressed to 10,000psi pressure, it is reduced to just 0.163 m3 by vlume.That is how the Hydrogen storage space is reduced in passenger cars. This volume of gas can give a mileage of 652 miles, using Fuel cell power. The only emission is just pure water vapor! No noise, no smoke and it is entirely a new experience driving a Hydrogen Fuel cell car.

Powering your home with Hydrogen or fuelling your Fuel cell car is not very difficult. It is expensive compared to grid power for two simple reasons. Grid power is generated by power generation companies somewhere else using coal, oil or gas and transmitted across to millions of people.Therefore,  the  investment on power generation is shared by millions of people through their monthly energy bills. When you use the grid power, you do not pay any large sum except, a small deposit of few hundred dollars towards connection fee, and you pay your bills based on your monthly electricity usage.

But when you try to generate your own power using a solar panel or Fuel cell then you have to make an investment fully upfront. Of course, your bank can help you with the finance for the system. However, when you calculate the energy cost over the life period of 25 years then you can clearly see the value of such investment. The grid power cost will only increase and never decrease while your generation cost will decrease as the time passes. The future energy cost is likely to increase substantially due to various factors. You can export surplus power to the grid and your payback time will be reduced as the energy cost increases.

The first step in powering your home is to calculate your power requirements accurately in terms of watt.hrs.How many appliances you will be using  and how many hours you will using each of these appliances per day. Suppose you estimate 15,000 watt.hrs/day or 15kwhrs/day of power, and then a small Fuel cell consuming 1 Kg/day of Hydrogen or 30 kgs/month of Hydrogen will be sufficient to meet your power demand. Similarly you can calculate the amount of Hydrogen you will be using as a fuel for your Fuel cell car. For example, if you will be  driving your Fuel cell car for 1000 miles per month, then  your Hydrogen requirement will be about 14 kgs/month. Your Hydrogen requirement per month for both power and car together will be 44 kgs only.

Your total  power need to generate the above Hydrogen will be 2464 kwhrs/month costing less than $250 per month for both power and fuel. Of course you need to calculate other fixed costs on the investment. You can export your solar power at a higher tariff to the Government and import your power requirement from the grid during off-peak season at a lower tariff and generate Hydrogen and store it. You can generate your power as and when you need, and you are in complete control of your situation, even if there is a blackout due to grid failure!

There is a general opinion that Hydrogen is now very expensive compared to Gasoline and Diesel. It depends on how you generate Hydrogen. We have used Gasoline and Diesel for several decades and real cost of crude oil is much lower than what we are paying for Gasoline and diesel at the service stations. Crude oil is formed naturally and all the cost involved is for pumping, transportation and refining. The cost of energy spent on transportation and refining is also comparatively low. It is the geopolitical situation in the world, supply demand gap, Government taxes and levies, inventory levels, financial market and distributors play a key role in fixing the price of these fuels.

Hydrogen can be generated from tap water without involving fossil fuels at all. But Governments are spending on research and development of Hydrogen generation using fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal. It is understandable that these sources are suitable for bulk production of Hydrogen on an industrial scale. We will also be able to use existing fossil fuel infrastructure to the most extent. But the flip side of this approach is Hydrogen generated by this route is still not pure enough to meet Fuel cell requirements. This Hydrogen may be suitable for Hydrogen combustion engines. Why they are not suitable? For example, Hydrogen is generated from natural gas by steam reforming,Syngas is generated as an intermediary product which is a mixture of Hydrogen and Carbon monoxide; but also other impurities present in natural gas such Sulfur,Phosphorus and Mercaptans etc.Natural gas has to be purified to remove all these impurities before it can be subject to steam reformation. In spite of an elaborate purification methods adopted, Fuel cell suppliers are reluctant to guarantee the life of their Fuelcell.The Fuel cell uses expensive Platinum as a catalyst which can be readily poisoned by the presence of impurities in Hydrogen, produced from natural gas. This is one of the main reasons why Hydrogen becomes expensive by this route. Industries can pay high cost for this Hydrogen, but ordinary citizens cannot afford to pay.

Hydrogen can be generated directly from tap water by simply electrolyzing it using a Direct current such as solar and wind. If we use grid power, it requires about 68kwhrs of electricity, costing about $3.40 per Kg of Hydrogen. Assuming Hydrogen will cost about $5 per kg after compression and storage, it is still worth the cost. This Hydrogen will give a mileage of 73.4 miles/kg using Fuel cell car. This is equal to 3.67 Gallons of gasoline costing about $13.76, at the rate of $3.75 per gallon. It is very clear that hydrogen is cheaper than gasoline or diesel. At the current price,Gasoline  costs 275% more than Hydrogen gas.

By converting existing coal and oil based power plants into IGCC, Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle plants, Government can cut the current emission levels of greenhouse gases, and at the same time supply electricity at the prevailing rates. We do not have to import oil or gas. Government should fund conversion of coal and oil-fired power plants into IGCC plants and create Hydrogen infrastructure, by producing more Hydrogen Fuel cell cars and Hydrogen service stations. By adopting this policy, US Government can bring down the prices of crude oil in the international market which will help cut the prices of all other petrochemical products like fertilizers, plastics, drugs and cosmetics. The crux of the issue is to divert petroleum products from fuel use to other uses. At the same time Governments can reduce their greenhouse emissions to the level demanded by scientists. By reducing the cost of solar panels to less than $.100 per watt, Renewable Hydrogen will become a commercial reality and that will be the end of fossil fuels.

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