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Michael R. Asks Thoughtful Questions about Hydrogen Transportation

I received an email last week from Michael R. who has asked many thought provoking questions regarding emerging hydrogen transportation technology. I thought that rather than trying to answer these questions myself I would put out these questions to the interested hydrogen community to think about.

With his permission, here are Michael R.’s questions:

I’m curious how much hydrogen is available if landfills are tapped for reformation? Some of the methane landfills produce is burned to produce electricity, how much isn’t? I’d like to see statistics on the carbon footprint of procuring hydrogen by reforming methane compared to the carbon footprint of refining oil and burning the gasoline/diesel.

I’m certain that refining natural gas to procure hydrogen as popular and common as this is not the only way to get hydrogen. Thing is, how much methane is available for this purpose that isn’t currently being used? I don’t think reforming natural gas is a long term solution, but short term this might be a place to start.

Have you heard about Dan Nocera’s invention? He apparently has an electrolyzer design that costs less than $200 to manufacture which can be powered by solar panels. I’m interested in a second opinion on this man and his technology. Is it for real? Will he ever commercialize it? And the question of when comes to mind.

The broad question about hydrogen, has the means of procuring enough hydrogen to power: cars, forklifts, homes, tractors, trucks, etcetera become clear yet? I guess a mix of electrolysis, drilling for hydrogen, reforming natural gas, and possible something I’m not thinking of right now is the answer. Question is, how much reformation of natural gas is possible and needed? With Dan Nocera’s claim that 2/3rds of an Olympic size swimming pool contains enough hydrogen to power the whole entire world, is electrolysis alone, albeit with catalysts, the answer? There are two questions that a hydrogen economy concept raises: question one is how much hydrogen do you need, and question two is how do you procure that amount?

Supply and demand, if a supply of hydrogen adequate to support a hydrogen economy is procured in an environmentally sensible fashion, there should be great demand to use that hydrogen effectively. What side of the chicken and egg problem do you solve first? Do you come up with the hydrogen, or do you come up say a car, fork lift, or stationary fuel cell first?

How feasible is splitting water on the ocean to refuel ships? Is there any new information on laser metal hydride storage of hydrogen?

So, these are Michael R.’s questions. Feel free to chime in with your input. I have my own opinions, but I thought I would put these out to see what the hydrogen community has to say.

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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  1. I too would like to know the answers to Michael R’s question but there is one question that the answer jumps obviously to the fore.

    In a supply and demand equation demand is always the engine. If the early automobile manufacturers had waited for infrastructure we’d still be riding horses.

    Somehow both politicians and economists seem to miss this simple fact. Demand is always the cause and supply is always the effect.

    You want to jumpstart something, create demand, supply will follow.

  2. Michael R.-

    I don’t have any data on hydrogen/methane from landfills, but I know you can go to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at to find that info.

    Dan Nocera’s invention does work, but like most such inventions at that early stage of development, one can only guess at its eventual commercial economics.

    Regarding splitting water on the ocean to refuel ships, that is just like splitting water in a moving car to run the car — in other words a variant on a perpetual motion machine.


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