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Generating electricity using fossil fuel is a well-established technology, that has been practiced over several decades all over the world, despite its low efficiency. But this technology inherited certain disadvantages even before it was commercialized such as post combustion emissions, large amount of waste heat, and water intensity. Millions of people died of Carbon pollution over decades. Large scale usage of water both inland and on shore power stations created shortage of drinking water in many parts of the world resulting in desalination technologies creating its own environmental issues. Large scale mining of coal and unsustainable exploitation of oil and gas both on shore and off shore caused enormous environmental pollution. However, such emissions were completely ignored while the world celebrated the discovery of electro-magnetism, steam engine and petrochemicals. Millions of people were employed, and industries grew worldwide. Energy became synonymous with security of a nation. Population grew exponentially. However, we have reached a point in the history of mankind and all great discoveries once acclaimed as human achievements have started a new painful chapter of warming globe and changing climate for new generations to deal with. It is a great challenge of our time, but new generation can take this challenge and convert them into opportunities. The past lessons can show them a new clean and sustainable pathway while dealing with ever increasing population growth.

The challenge for the new generation is to curtail and eliminate Carbon pollution completely while meeting the energy demand in a time bound manner because we are running out of time. Currently renewable energy generation is too low to meet these challenges within the time frame to avert disastrous consequences scientists predict. Renewable Hydrogen is a potential substitute for fossil fuel to eliminate Carbon pollution but that will not solve our current problem soon because renewable energy generation is too small and too slow while our energy demand is huge. Battery technology is only a storage technology and without a base load power generation all other forms of technologies will not meet our current challenges. I am not discounting the potential of renewable energy and its critical role in the future energy mix but that alone will not solve the current crisis. Hydrogen is a weak and unstable atom and it requires a backbone such as Carbon. That is why Hydrogen do not exist in a free state in Nature, but it exists in the form of water or natural gas. Therefore, it is only logical to convert renewable hydrogen into renewable natural gas so that it can be used as a fuel as we have been using for decades. It does not require to create a special type of infrastructure such as required for Hydrogen or any storage technologies.

Our focus should be to achieve Zero Carbon emission in the shortest time scale possible while generating a base load power of 24 x7 using a renewable energy source. It looks like a daunting task but, it is not too big a challenge to overcome. In fact, the technologies are already available, and we are almost there to achieve the above, but governments should understand the challenge and its gravity and extend all the support it requires. Government around the world should implement the following with great urgency to achieve the above objectives.

1.Tax Carbon with immediate effect and minimum tax should be $500/ Mt of CO2 emitted. It should be centrally monitored by government agencies with appropriate technology implementations.

  1. Encourage Oxy combustion technologies for coal, oil and gas-based power plants with incentives to eliminate emissions pollution and reduce the cost of Carbon capture.
  2. Encourage large scale deployment of super critical Carbon dioxide power generation technologies with liberal grants and low interest loans for research and development of super critical CO2 technologies using Brayton cycle using fossil fuels with Zero Carbon emission.

4.Encourage large scale deployment of SNG plants using CO2 and renewable Hydrogen.

By using the above steps all fossil fuel-based power plants existing and operating can be converted and continue to generate base load power 24 x7 with Zero Carbon Emission within a time frame. Simultaneously it will generate large scale renewable hydrogen and renewable synthetic natural gas which can generate base load power with Zero Carbon emission. Such Zero emission power plants can then power all electric and fuel cell cars and eliminate Carbon pollution completely from our roads. The above implementation will create millions of jobs worldwide!

The greatest advantage of these technologies is to recycle Carbon indefinitely while generating power using renewable natural gas with Zero Carbon emission and fresh fossil fuel usage will be gradually eliminated from our planet earth.

 

“Over two-thirds of today’s proven reserves of fossil fuels need to still be in the ground in 2050 in order to prevent catastrophic levels of climate change” – a warning by scientists.

There is a great deal of debate on climate change due to man-made Carbon emissions and how to control it without any further escalation. The first obvious option will be to completely stop the usage of fossil fuel with immediate effect. But it is practically not feasible unless there is an alternative Non-Carbon fuel readily available to substitute fossil fuels. The second option will be to capture carbon emission and bury them under ground by CCS (Carbon capture and sequestration) method. But this concept is still not proven commercially and there are still many uncertainties with this technology, the cost involved and environmental implications etc.The third option will be not to use fresh fossil fuel  for combustion or capture and bury the Carbon emissions but convert the  Carbon emissions into a synthetic hydrocarbon fuel such as synthetic natural gas (SNG) and recycle them. By this way the level of existing Carbon emission can be maintained at current levels without any further escalation. At least the Carbon emission levels can be reduced substantially and maintained at lower levels to mitigate climate changes. It is technically feasible to implement the third option but it has to be implemented with great urgency.

One way of converting Carbon emission is to capture and purify them using conventional methods and then react with Hydrogen to produce synthetic natural gas (SNG)

CO2 + 4 H2 ———> CH4 + 2 H2O

The same process will be used by NASA to eliminate carbon built-up in the flights by crew members during their long voyage into the space and also to survive in places like Mars where the atmosphere is predominantly carbon dioxide. But we need Hydrogen  which is renewable so that the above process can be sustained in the future .Currently the cost of Hydrogen production using renewal energy sources are expensive due to high initial investment and the large energy consumption.

We have now developed a new process to generate syngas using simple coal, which is predominantly Hydrogen to be used as a Carbon sink to convert Carbon emissions into synthetic natural gas (SNG). The same Hydrogen rich syngas can be directly used to generate power using gas turbine in a simple or combined cycle mode. The Carbon emission from the gas turbine can be converted into SNG (synthetic natural gas) using surplus Hydrogen-rich  syngas. The SNG thus produced can be distributed for CHP (combined heat and power) applications so that the Carbon emission can be controlled or distributed. By implementing the above process one should be able to maintain Carbon at specific level in the atmosphere. Existing coal-fired power plants can retrofit this technology so that they will be able to cut their Carbon emissions substantially; they can also produce SNG as a by-product using their Carbon emissions and achieve zero Carbon emission at their site while generating revenue by sale of SNG.

Coal is the cheapest and widely used fossil fuel for power generation all over the world. Therefore it will be a win situation for everyone to use coal and also to cut Carbon emissions that can address the problems of climate change. Meanwhile research is going on to generate renewable Hydrogen cheaply directly from water using various technologies. But we believe we are still far away from achieving this goal and we require immediate solution to address our climate change problems.

Recently BASF made a press release : http://www.basf.com/group/press release/P-13-351‎ claiming a break-through technology to generate Hydrogen from natural gas without any CO2 emissions.

The climate is changing with increasing global warming caused by man-made Carbon emission. The economic impact of global warming can no longer be ignored by Governments around the world because it is impacting their budget bottom lines. Weather is becoming unpredictable. Even if Meteorological department predicts a disaster 24 hrs in advance, there is nothing Governments can do to prevent human and economic losses within a short span of time but evacuate people to safety leaving behind all their properties. Governments are forced to allocate funds for disaster management every year caused by severe draughts, unprecedented snow falls, and coastal erosion by rising sea levels, flash flooding, inundation and power black outs. We often hear people saying,” we were completely taken by surprise by this event and we have never seen anything like this in the last 50 years” after every naturals disasters explaining the nature and scale of disasters. Nature is forcing Governments to allocate more funds for disaster managements and such allocations have reached unprecedented levels. The cost of natural disasters around the world in 2011 was estimated at $ 400 billion and in 2012 it was estimated at $160 billion. The only way to fund these disasters is to tax Carbon pollution which causes global warming. Countries should take long-term decisions that will save their current and future generations to come.  They should understand how Carbon is emitted and what the best way to curb such emissions is. It is a global issue and its requires a collective solution.  There is no use of pricing Carbon when economic recession can jeopardize the pricing mechanism? Global warming is a moral and social issue and not just an economic issue.

Developed countries have emitted bulk of the Carbon since industrial revolution while developing countries such as India and China were emitting less carbon in spite of their vast population due to their lowest per capita consumption. But that trend has now changed with rapid industrialization and economic growth of India and China and other developing economies. Australia is still a leading emitter of Carbon in the world in spite of their low population because of their high energy consumption, availability of cheap and high quality Coal and increasing mining, industrial and agricultural activities. That is why Australia is one of the first few countries who introduced Carbon tax while rest of the countries is still debating about it. Now it is clear that Carbon emission is directly proportional to industrial, economic and population growth of a country and it can be easily quantified based on the growth rate of each country. It is time countries agree to cut their Carbon emissions to sustainable levels with a realistic Carbon pricing mechanism and sign a world-wide treaty through UN.

“THE EUROPEAN UNION carbon emissions trading scheme—the biggest in the world and the heart of Europe’s climate- change program—is in dire straits. The scheme’s carbon price has collapsed. The primary reason: The economic recession has suppressed manufacturing, thereby reducing emissions and creating a huge over- supply of carbon emissions allowances. Carbon trading is a market approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in which each facility involved is given an emissions cap for the year, and each year that cap is reduced. A firm must record and report its facilities’ emissions and must obtain allowances for its total emissions. An allowance permits a facility to emit 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide or its carbon equal; some allowances are given for free by the government, others can be bought at auction or from other firms. If a facility exceeds its cap, the company operating it has options: It can cut emissions, buy allowances from other companies, or get allowance offsets by reducing emissions at another pollution source. The cost of an allowance is referred to as the car-bon price and is driven by market conditions such as supply and demand. If the low-carbon price continues, the region’s ability to meet long-term reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions will be severely hampered because the trading scheme will fail to provide money for clean-tech programs and incentive for manfacturers to adopt cleaner technologies. The trading scheme is a key component of the EU’s climate-change strategy because about 40% of all greenhouse gases emit-ted in the region fall under EU’s control. The mandatory scheme applies to 11,000 industrial installations, including power plants and major chemical facilities, across all 27 member states, as well as in Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. The aviation sector has been included in the scheme, but its active participation has been deferred to allow for an international agreement on aviation emissions, which is expected to be concluded in the fall. The goal of the European Commission, the EU’s administrative body and the architect of the emissions trading scheme, is to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020. To contribute toward this goal, the trading scheme has targeted a 21% cut in the emissions of participating sectors by 2020 from a 2005 baseline. In recent weeks, however, the EU carbon price dropped to a new low of $5.20 for each metric ton allowance of CO2, down from a high of $23 in 2011. This is despite an annual reduction of the EU emissions cap of 1.74% through 2020 and the introduction on Jan. 1 of a new phase of the scheme requiring companies to purchase allowances. AT ITS CURRENT carbon price, the EU emission scheme’s role in encouraging chemical firms to ditch fossil fuels and adopt greener technologies “is meaningless,” says André Veneman, director of sustainability at AkzoNobel. Many of the industry’s investments in low-carbon technologies that are marginally financially viable also will likely be delayed, he says. Without a strong carbon price, the underlying push to clean-tech in the EU will come only from the price of oil, Veneman adds. Veneman and other experts say that a carbon price of between $68 and $135 is required if industry as a whole is to be forced to shift onto a new low-carbon footing. Yvo de Boer, special global adviser for climate change and sustainability for KPMG—an audit, tax, and advisory firm—and form EUROPEAN SCHEME IS IN FREE FALL Record-low CARBON PRICE threatens to derail transition away from fossil fuels and ability to meet climate-change targets.” Source: EUROPEAN SCHEME IS IN FREE FALL Record-low CARBON PRICE threatens to derail transition away from fossil fuels and ability to meet climate-change targets ALEX SCOTT, C&EN LONDO

The burden of Carbon tax should be borne by both power generators as well as consumers. Even if the Carbon tax is imposed on emitters it will eventually be passed on to consumers. Either way the cost of energy will increase steeply or there is no way to avoid such escalation if we want to keep up our power consumption levels or our current life style. In other words people will have to pay penalty for polluting the air either by generating or consuming power that causes Carbon pollution. All developed countries that have polluted the atmosphere with Carbon emission should be taxed retrospectively from the time of industrial revolution so that emerging countries need not bear the full cost of global warming. Such a fund should be used for developing renewable and clean energy technologies or to purchase Carbon allowances. Current mechanism of Carbon pricing does not penalize countries who caused the global warming in the first place for hundreds of years but penalizes only countries who now accelerate the rate of Carbon emission. Such an approach is a gross injustice on the emerging economies and not at all pragmatic. Most of the developed countries are currently facing economic recession resulting in plummeted Carbon price. This will only encourage existing Carbon emitters to emit Carbon cheaply and penalize Renewable energy and clean energy technologies with higher tariffs and drive them to extinction. In spite of Carbon level in the atmosphere exceeding 400 ppm according to the latest report, the world is helpless to cut the Carbon emission anytime sooner making our planet vulnerable to catastrophic natural disasters. Countries that are reluctant to pay Carbon tax will pay for Natural disasters which may be many times costlier than Carbon tax. Countries like US, European Union, Japan, Australia the largest power consumers and countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Libya the largest oil producers should bear the cost of Carbon pollution that caused the globe to warm sine industrial revolution. Such a fund should be used in developing innovative Renewable energy and clean energy technologies of the future. More than anything else the rich and powerful countries should declare global warming as a moral issue of the twenty-first century and take some bold and hard economic decisions to save the planet earth..Allowance overloadCarbon pricing downward trendcost of Natural disatersEU carbon trading

 

Seawater desalination is a technology that provides drinking water for millions of people around the world. With increasing industrialization and water usage and lack of recycling or reuse, the demand for fresh water is increasing at the fastest rate. Industries such as power plants use bulk of water for cooling purpose and chemical industries use water for their processing. Agriculture is also a major user of water and   countries like India exploit ground water for this purpose. To supplement fresh water, Governments and industries in many parts of the world are now turning to desalinated seawater as a potential source of fresh water. However, desalination of seawater to generate fresh water is an expensive option, due to its large energy usage. However, due to frequent failure of monsoon rains and uncertainties and changing weather pattern due to global warming, seawater desalination is becoming a potential source of fresh water, despite its cost and environmental issues.

Seawater desalination technology has not undergone any major changes during the past three decades. Reverse osmosis is currently the most sought after technology for desalination due to increasing efficiencies of the membranes and energy-saving devices. In spite of all these improvements the biggest problem with desalination technologies is still the rate of recovery of fresh water. The best recovery in SWRO plants is about 50% of the input water. Higher recoveries create other problems such as scaling, higher energy requirements and O&M issues and many suppliers would like to restrict the recoveries to 35%, especially when they have to guarantee the life of membranes and the plant.

Seawater is nothing but fresh water with large quantities of dissolved salts. The concentration of total dissolved salts in seawater is about 35,000mgs/lit. Chemical industries such as Caustic soda and Soda ash plants use salt as the basic raw material. Salt is the backbone of chemical industries and number of downstream chemicals are manufactured from salt. Seawater is the major source of salt and most of these chemical industries make their own salt using solar evaporation of seawater using traditional methods with salt pans. Large area of land is required for this purpose and solar evaporation is a slow process and it takes months together to convert seawater into salt. It is also labor intensive under harsh conditions.

The author of this article has developed an innovative technology to generate fresh water as well as salt brine suitable for Caustic soda and Soda ash production. By using this novel process, one is able to recover almost 70% fresh water against only 40% fresh water recovered using conventional SWRO process, and also recover about 7- 9% saturated brine simultaneously. Chemical industries currently producing salt using solar evaporation are unable to meet their demand or expand their production due to lack of salt. The price of salt is steadily increasing due to supply demand gap and also due to uncertainties in weather pattern due to global warming. This result in increased cost of production and many small and medium producers of these chemicals are unable to compete with large industries. Moreover, countries like Australia who have vast arid land can produce large quantities of salt   with mechanized process  competitively; Australia is currently exporting salt to countries like Japan, while countries like India and China are unable to compete in the international market with their age-old salt pans using  manual labor. In solar evaporation the water is simply evaporated.

Currently these chemical industries use the solar salt which has a number of impurities, and it requires an elaborate purification process. Moreover the salt can be used as a raw material only in the form of saturated brine without any impurities. Any impurity is detrimental to the Electrolytic process where the salt brine is converted into Caustic soda and Soda ash. Chemical industries use deionized water to dissolve solar salt to make saturated brine and then purify them using number of chemicals before it can be used as a raw material for the production of Caustic soda or Soda ash. The cost of such purified brine is many times costlier than the raw salt. This in turn increase the cost of chemicals produced.

In this new process, seawater is pumped into the system where it is separated into 70% fresh water meeting WHO specifications for drinking purpose, and 7-10% saturated pure brine suitable for production of caustic soda and Soda ash. These chemical industries also use large quantities of process water for various purposes and they can use the above 70% water in their process. Only 15-20% of unutilized seawater is discharged back into the sea in this process, compared to 65% toxic discharge from convention desalination plants. This new technology is efficient and environmentally friendly and generates value added brine as a by-product. It is a win situation for the industries and the environment. The technology has been recently patented and is available for licensing on a non-exclusive or exclusive basis. The advantage of this technology is any Caustic soda or Soda ash plant located near the seashore can produce their salt brine directly from seawater without stock piling solar salt for months together or transporting over a long distance or importing from overseas.

Government and industries can join together to set up such plants where Governments can buy water for distribution and industries can use salt brine as raw material for their chemical production. Setting up a desalination plants only for supplying drinking water to the public is not a smart way to cut the cost of drinking water. For example, the Victorian Government in Australia has set up a large desalination plant to supply drinking water. This plant was set up by a foreign company on BOOT (build, own and operate basis) and water is sold to the Government on ‘take or pay’ basis. Currently the water storage level at catchment area is nearly 80% of its capacity and the Government is unlikely to use desalinated water for some years to come. However, the Government is legally bound by a contract to buy water or pay the contracted value, even if Government does not need water. Such contracts can be avoided in the future by Governments by joining with industries who require salt brine 24×7  throughout the year, thus mitigating the risk involved by  expensive legal contracts.

 

People in the chemical field will understand the concept of ‘irreversibility’. Certain chemical reactions can go only in one direction and but not in the reverse direction. But some reactions can go on either direction and we can manipulate such reactions to our advantages. This concept has been successfully used in designing many chemical reactions in the past and many innovative industrial and consumer products emerged out of it. But such irreversible reactions also have irreversible consequences because it can irreversibly damage the environment we live in. There is no way such damage can be reversed. That is why a new branch of science called ‘Green Chemistry’ is now emerging to address some of the damages caused by irreversible chemical reactions. It also helps to substitute many synthetic products with natural products. In the past many food colors were made out of coal-tar known as coal-tar dyes. These dyes are used even now in many commercial products. Most of such applications were merely based on commercial attractiveness rather than health issues. Many such products have deleterious health effects and few of them are carcinogenic. We learnt from past mistakes and moved on to new products with less health hazards. But the commercial world has grown into a power lobby who can even decide the fate of a country by influencing political leaders. Today our commercial and financial world has grown so powerful that they can even decides who can be the next president of a country rather than people and policies. They can even manipulate people’s opinion with powerful advertisements and propaganda tactics by flexing their financial muscles.

Combustion of fossil fuel is one such example of ‘irreversibility’ because once we combust coal, oil or  gas,  it will be decomposed into oxides of Carbon, oxide of  Nitrogen and also oxides of Sulfur and Phosphorous depending upon the source of fossil fuel  and purification methods used. These greenhouse gases once emitted into the atmosphere we cannot recover them back. Coal once combusted it is no longer a coal. This critical fact is going to decide our future world for generations to come. Can we bring back billions of tons of Carbon we already emitted into the atmosphere from the time of our industrial revolution? Politicians will pretend not to answer these question and financial and industries lobby will evade these question by highlighting the ‘advancement made by industrial revolutions’. People need electricity and they have neither time nor resources to find an alternative on their own. It is open and free for all. People can be skeptical about these issues because it is ‘inconvenient for them’ to change But can we sustain such a situation?

Irreversibility does not confine only to chemical reactions but also for the environment and sustainability because all are intricately interconnected.Minig industries have scared the earth, power plants polluted the air with greenhouse emission and chemical industries polluted water and these damages are irreversible. When minerals become metals, buried coal becomes power and water becomes toxic effluent then we leave behind an earth that will be uninhabitable for our future generations and all the living species in the world. Is it sustainable and can we call it progress and prosperity? Once we lose pristine Nature by our irreversible actions then that is a perfect recipe for a disaster and no science or technology can save human species from extinction. One need not be scientist to understand these simple facts of life. Each traditional land owners such as Aborigines of Australia or Indians of America and shamans of Indonesia have traditionally known and passed on their knowledge for generations. They too are slowly becoming extinct species in our scientific world because of our irreversible actions. Renewability is the key to sustainability because renewability does not cause irreversible damage to Nature.

There is a raging debate going on around the world especially in US about the global warming and its causes, among scientists and the public alike. When IPCC released its findings on the connection between greenhouse gas emission and the global warming and its disastrous consequences, there was an overwhelming disbelief and skepticism in many people. In fact many scientists are skeptical even now   about these findings and many of them published their own theories and models to prove their skepticism with elaborate ‘scientific explanations’.   I am not going into details whether greenhouse gas emission induced by human beings causes the globe to warm or not, but certainly we have emitted billions of  tons of Carbon in the form of Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since industrial revolution. Bulk of these emissions is from power plants fueled by Coal, oil and gas. Why power plants emit so much Carbon into the atmosphere and why Governments around the world allow it in the first place?  When the emission of Oxide of Nitrogen and Sulfur are restricted by EPA why they did not restrict Oxides of carbon? The reason is very simple. They did not have a technology to generate heat without combustion and they did not have a technology to generate power without heat. It was the dawn of industrial revolution and steam engines were introduced using coal as a fuel. The discovery of steam engines was so great and nobody was disturbed by the black smoke it emitted. They knew very well that the efficiency of a steam engine was low as shown by Carnot cycle, yet steam engine was a new discovery and Governments were willing to condone Carbon emission. Governments were happy with steam engine because it could transport millions of people and goods in bulk across the country and Carbon emission was not at all an issue. Moreover carbon emission did not cause any problem like emission of oxides of Sulfur because it was odorless, colorless and it was emitted above the ground level away from human beings. However the effect of Carbon is insidious. Similarly, power generation technology was developed by converting thermal energy into electrical energy with a maximum efficiency of 33%.This means only 33% of the thermal energy released by combustion of coal is converted into electricity. When the resulting electricity is transmitted across thousands of kilometers by high tension grids, further 5-10% power is lost in the transmission. When the high tension power is stepped down through sub stations to lower voltage such as 100/200/400V further 5% power is lost. The net power received by a consumer is only 28% of the heat value of the fuel in the form of electricity. The balance 67% of heat along with Greenhouse gases from the combustion of coal is simply vented out into the atmosphere. It is the most inefficient method to generate power. Any environmental pollution is the direct result of inefficiency of the technology. Governments and EPA around the world ignore this fact .Thank to President Obama who finally introduced the pollution control bill for power plants after 212 years of industrial revolution.  Still this bill did not go far enough to control Carbon emission in its current form. Instead of arguing whether globe is warming due to emission of Carbon by human beings or not, Scientists should focus on improving the science and technology of power generation. For example, the electrical efficiency of a Fuel cell is more than 55% compared to conventional power generation and emits reduced or no carbon. Recent research by MIT shows that such conversion of heat into electricity can be achieved up to 90% compared to current levels of 35%.Had we developed such a technology earlier, probably we will not be discussing about GHG and global warming now. MIT research group is now focusing on developing new type of PV and according to their press release: “Thermal to electric energy conversion with thermophotovoltaics relies on radiation emitted by a hot body, which limits the power per unit area to that of a blackbody. Micro gap thermophotovoltaics take advantage of evanescent waves to obtain higher throughput, with the power per unit area limited by the internal blackbody, which is n2 higher. We propose that even higher power per unit area can be achieved by taking advantage of thermal fluctuations in the near-surface electric fields. For this, we require a converter that couples to dipoles on the hot side, transferring excitation to promote carriers on the cold side which can be used to drive an electrical load. We analyze the simplest implementation of the scheme, in which excitation transfer occurs between matched quantum dots. Next, we examine thermal to electric conversion with a glossy dielectric (aluminum oxide) hot-side surface layer. We show that the throughput power per unit active area can exceed the n2 blackbody limit with this kind of converter. With the use of small quantum dots, the scheme becomes very efficient theoretically, but will require advances in technology to fabricate.” Ref:J.Appl.Phys. 106,094315c(2009); http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3257402 Quantum-coupled single-electron thermal to electric conversion scheme”. Power generation and distribution using renewable energy sources and using Hydrogen as an alternative fuel is now emerging. Distributed energy systems may replace centralized power plants in the future due to frequent grid failures as we have seen recently in India. Most of the ‘black outs’ are caused  by grid failures due to cyclones, tornadoes and other weather related issues, and localized distribution system with combined heat and power offers a better alternative. For those who are skeptical about global warming caused by man-made greenhouse gases the question still remains, “What happened to billions of tons of Caron dioxide emitted into  the atmosphere by power plants and transportation  since industrial revolution?”.          

Seawater is an inexhaustible source of Hydrogen but the cost of generating Hydrogen from seawater is much higher compared to normal tap water. The quality of water should have a minimum electric conductivity at 0.1 micro Siemens/cm for electrolysis. Even our tap water is not up to this purity and it requires further purification. The electric conductivity of seawater is about 54,000 micro Siemens/cm.The conductivity increases due to the presence of dissolved salts. But seawater can be desalinated using the process of distillation or by the process called ‘reverse osmosis’. In both the above processes, desalination requires a large input of energy in the form of thermal or electrical. Currently the source of such energy comes from fossil fuels, which is one the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emission. Many countries in the Middle East have shortage of fresh water and most of these countries depend on desalination of seawater for their fresh water requirements. The cost of desalinated water varies from $ 1.00 to $ 1.75/m3 depending upon the capacity, site and the cost of energy. The fresh water for potable purpose normally has a TDS (Total dissolved solids) of 500ppm (parts per million) or less and this can further be lowered to a required level using reverse osmosis.

Currently Hydrogen is generated as a by-product on an industrial scale by electrolysis of saturated sodium chloride brine during the production of Caustic soda. Chlorine is another by-product in the above process. Most of Caustic soda manufacturers use Hydrogen as a fuel or for the production of Hydrochloric acid. But there is an opportunity in caustic soda plants to use Hydrogen to generate more electricity using PEM (Proto exchange membrane) Fuel cell suitable for their electrolysis. This will aid these industries to cut their energy consumption, which is one of the highest in Chemical industries.

Alternatively, offshore wind turbines can be installed to generate power for seawater desalination and Hydrogen production. Offshore wind turbines generate 50% more energy than onshore wind turbines. An integrated process to generate fresh water, Hydrogen using wind turbine is an interesting renewable energy application. The stored Hydrogen can used to generate electricity in remote islands where diesel is used as a fuel. Most of the island in Pacific use diesel predominantly for boat as well as for power generators at exorbitant costs. The wind velocity in such islands is good to generate cheap and clean electricity. For example, the island of PNG has a severe power shortage and it is well located near Coral Sea, which has one of the highest wind velocities in Pacific Ocean. An average wind velocity of 7mts/sec and above is an ideal place for wind turbines. Since these islands are small with less population, wind generated Hydrogen is an ideal solution for their power problems. They can also desalinate seawater to supply drinking water using wind generated power. In fact they can also use Hydrogen as a fuel for their boats and generate power for their cold storage for fisheries. International financial institutions and local banks should come forward to fund such projects instead of funding diesel boats and generators. These islands have pristine water and abundant fish and their main income is only tourism.

Sun, Sand and wind is an ideal combination to generate renewable power all round the year and for tourism industry. It is an opportunity these islands cannot afford to miss. The author is personally involved in a wind based Hydrogen solution for a small island in pacific. The people of this island welcome such projects because it guarantees them an uninterrupted supply of clean power and drinking water. Otherwise they have to sell most of fish catches in a nearby city to buy diesel and drinking water just to survive!

 

 

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