Even before T. Boone Pickens announced his plan for the U. S. to switch over to wind energy and CNG-powered cars, I have been contemplating how compressed natural gas could be used to transition over to the hydrogen economy. In fact, in March 2008 I had written that in California alone there were eight times as many CNG stations as there were hydrogen fueling stations and these could be used for the transitional efforts.
But, recently I’ve had a few thoughts about how hydrogen and CNG can be “companion” fuels for a while occupying the same vehicles at the same time, but in two different ways. The first scenario is a dual fuel (or flex fuel) vehicle and the second scenario is in a mixture of these two gases running the same vehicle.
In regard to the flex fuel scenario, Tai Robinson of Intergalactic Hydrogen talks in this video about his vehicle that is powered by both hydrogen and CNG using separate tanks in the rear of the truck. Robinson speaks about how he can refuel his vehicle in Utah with natural gas drive it to Las Vegas where he can fuel up the other tank on hydrogen and drive on to California where he can choose either hydrogen or CNG or both to fuel up the vehicle depending upon the needs of the truck and price at the pumps.
The dual fuel hydrogen and CNG scenario offers the consumers choice and flexibility along with the ability to scout for the lowest prices at the refueling stations. In addition, if this nation were divided on which alternative fuel to build the infrastructure for and decided on a minimal infrastructure for both hydrogen and CNG, then drivers could still travel long distances knowing that either fuel (or both) will be available to them.
In regard to the second scenario of mixing both hydrogen and CNG gases in a blend, this is the game plan for India right now. In September 2006, I had talked about how New Delhi was opening a refueling station that dispenses pure hydrogen, CNG and a mixture of both called HCNG. A mixture of just 10-percent pure hydrogen with CNG will require no engine modifications to CNG-powered vehicles and will reduce emissions by 30 to 40-percent from vehicles running CNG only.
Right now over 90-percent of the hydrogen produced in the U. S. is from steam reforming of natural gas because of the high H2 content in this fossil fuel. The Standing Committee on Emission Regulation in India has just approved the mixture of CNG with 20-percent pure hydrogen. When this is ratified, shortly, India will be the first country in the world running an H2 and CNG blend commercially.