One of the lynchpins to the hydrogen economy and budding hydrogen transportation system is not so much the cars but the infrastructure. Producing massive amounts of hydrogen in an economically and environmentally-friendly way is the Holy Grail for kick starting this new energy economy.
Currently over 90-percent of the hydrogen in the U. S. is created by reforming natural gas. The hydrogen is then mostly used to purify petroleum into gasoline or diesel fuel. The problem with this method is that it is energy intensive, requiring pressures of up to 25-bar and temperatures of up to 850-degrees C.
Now, steps in researcher Mohamed Halabi of TU Eindhoven (a technical university) in The Netherlands who have designed a better mousetrap to reform natural gas, extract the hydrogen and absorb the CO2 in a much simpler process that is currently used commercially.
According to Tu/E, “TU Eindhoven has now developed a new and improved technology called ‘sorption enhanced catalytic reforming of methane,’ using novel catalyst/sorbent materials. Halabi, working in collaboration with the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), has demonstrated the feasibility of producing hydrogen through such a process at much lower temperatures (400 to 500 degrees Celsius).
“The process is performed in a packed bed reactor using a Rhodium-based catalyst and a Hydrotalcite-based sorbent as a new system of materials. Hydrogen is produced on the active catalyst and the cogenerated CO2 is effectively adsorbed on the sorbent, hence preventing any CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.”
Over the past decade researchers have been working furiously to discover a renewable method to produce hydrogen from water. And while this is a worthwhile long-term goal, then near term may involve designing a slightly better mousetrap with materials and methods that are readily available.
While the U. S. may not have enough oil to support the transportation sector, it does have huge natural gas reserves. And using natural gas for hydrogen in the short-term may help achieve energy independence before hydrogen renewably produced from water goes mainstream.