This blog that I’m writing today is partly in reaction to a post that appeared in sustainablog titled, “Will Hydrogen Power Suck the Lakes Dry?” and partly because this is one of the most frequently asked questions I get. For some reason, people think that going to a hydrogen based economy will cause a water shortage.
According to the National Hydrogen Association, “Conversion of the current U.S. light-duty fleet (some 230 million vehicles) to fuel cell vehicles would require about 110 billion gallons of water / year to supply the needed hydrogen.
“For comparison, the U.S. uses about 300 billion gallons of water/year for the production of gasoline, about three times the amount needed for hydrogen. Domestic personal water use in the United States is about 4800 billion gallons/year.”
So, no, creating hydrogen for cars or using hydrogen in power plants will not suck the oceans, lakes and rivers dry. But, the estimates of water usage for hydrogen production could actually be lower than projected.
I’ve talked before about whether the steam emissions from hydrogen cars will contribute to greenhouse gases. In the same blog post I talked about how research was underway to recycle this steam back into the fuel cell.
There are also a number of patents such as this one that talks about water recycling in fuel cell systems. On a larger scale at hydrogen power plants, there are also patents for closed loop and semi closed loop systems for recycling water.
The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) also lists four different methods for high temperature steam recycling at hydrogen power plants. If hydrogen were created at the pump through electrolysis and fuel cell cars captured and stored extra water from the fuel cell reaction, this could be dispensed right back at the hydrogen stations for recreation of compressed H2 gas.
As people learn more about hydrogen, naturally questions and especially fears arise. Fears of hydrogen cars blowing up like atomic bombs or fears of either running out of water or water emitted from fuel cells contributing to greenhouse gases are common. But as these fears are dispelled many people come to see that hydrogen is the clean, green fuel of the future that will solve many environmental problems along with our dependence on foreign fossil fuels.