A few days back I talked about West Virginia opening the first leg (meaning hydrogen fueling station) of a hydrogen corridor from Charleston to Pittsburgh, PA. According to Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper the vehicles they were considering to convert to run on hydrogen could be from the sheriff’s department, Solid Waste Authority, recycling department, ambulance service and public transportation.
The Air National Guard, at the Yeager Airport in Charleston, in fact wants to use a hydrogen-powered forklift for testing purposes. Now, this is all well and good and a fine promotion for hydrogen-powered vehicles.
The problem with this scenario, however, is that hydrogen is to be generated from water plus electricity supplied from the local power plant. Kanawha County is the third largest coal producing county in West Virginia and so even though the hydrogen itself would be clean burning inside the vehicle, how it is produced will not be so clean.
Now, it just so happens that the Department of Energy (DOE) is giving out grant money to develop novel hydrogen production technologies using clean coal. According to the Hydrogen and Clean Fuels program, “The goal of the Hydrogen and Clean Fuels program is to develop advanced and novel energy technologies which will facilitate the use of our nation’s abundant coal resources to produce, deliver, store, and utilize affordable hydrogen in an environmentally clean manner.
“The program helps to reduce environmental concerns associated with energy use in automotive and stationary power applications through clean production of hydrogen from coal in tandem with carbon sequestration, and will ensure availability of hydrogen in sufficient volumes for fuel cell-powered vehicles expected to enter the transportation market sector in the future.”
Now, the Hydrogen and Clean Fuels program may not make any impact at the beginning of the Charleston, WV project. But, it does address the overall issue of creating hydrogen from coal cleanly and may one day impact West Virginia hydrogen fueling stations.
I’m not advocating for using either coal or nuclear energy to create hydrogen, but I’m also willing to keep an open mind to consider alternatives to create H2 in a clean and green manner on a massive scale, no matter what the methods may look like at first glance.