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Linc Energy Coal Gasification Produces Clean Hydrogen Fuel

I’ve talked about domestic clean coal technology before and now, like then, I’m not sure that this is the answer to our upcoming hydrogen fuel needs. But, as I don’t want to throw any idea for creating hydrogen off the table at this point, I will proceed.

A company called Linc Energy has discovered an Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) method that has been successfully trialed at their Chinchilla Demonstration Facility just outside of Queensland, Australia.

Linc Energy was able to use their proprietary method to reach coal seams underground that are too deep for traditional mining, meaning a new source of fuel is being tapped into. The result of UCG is called syngas (synthesis gas), which is composed mainly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

The carbon monoxide is then sequestered at the source and stored underground while the hydrogen is run through a fuel cell. In this case the hydrogen was run through an AFC Energy low-cost alkaline fuel cell which is 60-percent efficient in producing utility scale electricity compared to less than 40-percent at traditional coal-burning power plants.

Today, the most popular method for producing hydrogen is steam-reforming of natural gas, which also produces syngas. The hydrogen is separated and carbon sequestered and the hydrogen is used in the oil refinery business and in some in hydrogen cars.

The syngas used in the Linc Energy experiment is intended to be used for clean, hydrogen fueled power plants running off high temperature alkaline fuel cells. But, there is another market for this hydrogen as well including hydrogen cars.

Not all UCG mines will be located in places appropriate for power plants. In this case the hydrogen can be piped or trucked to fueling stations for use in cars. This also brings up the point that as the hydrogen economy revs up there will be more competition for this hydrogen among power plants that run off fuel cell or clean steam generators, stationary fuel cells for home and business and hydrogen cars.

This is one reason that more than one source for hydrogen fuel will be needed in the foreseeable future. We will need to produce hydrogen from coal, natural gas, water, ammonia and other hydrogen rich chemical compounds for some time to come.

The clean capture of the carbon and disposal of it may be trickier with some hydrogen production methods than with others. For instance, if we produce hydrogen from water using renewable resources such as wind and solar then we won’t have to worry about sequestering carbon. And this is the ideal.

But, to get the ball rolling in regard to producing hydrogen for cars and power plants we will need to use all available domestic resources to tide us over until renewable hydrogen fuel is able to take over the marketplace. And, this transition, like all large-scale disruptive technologies may take some time.

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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One comment

  1. Hi, As a shareholder of AFC Energy for 18 months and of Linc Energy for 4 months, I think I should correct a couple of points in your article.

    “The carbon monoxide is then sequestered at the source and stored underground while the hydrogen is run through a fuel cell”
    Not correct. The Hydrogen is run through the fuel cell, but using water-gas shift the carbon monoxide becomes more hydrogen and carbon-dioxide(CO2), the extra hydrogen is also passed to the fuel cells whilst the carbon-dioxide is sequestered(CCS) back into the burnt-out coal seam. You can see the water-gas shift process described here:

    “The syngas used in the Linc Energy experiment is intended to be used for clean, hydrogen fueled power plants running off high temperature alkaline fuel cells.”
    Not correct. The AFC Energy fuel cells are low temperature alkaline type, they run at about 70c. This is one reason they are so low cost, because low temperature and low pressure means they can use plastic molded casings instead of stainless steel and less expesive seals. They also use proprietry non-Platinum electrodes, so the cost of an AFC fuel cell is less than 10% of the cost of other fuel cells.
    http://www.afcenergy.com/

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