Hydrogen is an alternative source of energy for fossil fuels. Since the current energy is no predictable and reliable an alternative source of energy is preferred. The demand of energy is rapidly increasing. While the raw materials required producing fossil fuel energy is slow disappearing. The supply of oil, coal and natural gas is not reliable. This therefore justify that an alternative source of energy should be sought. The fossil fuels cause a lot of air pollution. This is because of the emissions that this energy produces. This has an impact in the world’s climate. The by-products of these types of fuel are in carbon form which has a great effect on the climatic condition. Carbon is toxin and hence pollutes the environment.
This is also dangerous to the health of the people. While hydrogen burns cleanly. It produces less emission and sometimes even none. It does not produce carbon (IV) oxide which is very harmful to the environment. Hydrogen is normally produced by a process of electrolysis. It involves losing energy and resulting in very high emission of greenhouse gases including hydrogen gas. Hydrogen carries energy which can be renewed. Fossil fuels are not renewable therefore we opt to use hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen is colorless and do not have any smell. Hydrogen cannot be found alone in the. It is normally combine with other elements like oxygen, nitrogen and even carbon. It therefore has to be separated from those compounds. The process of separation or extraction of hydrogen from its compound is identified as electrolysis. This is where an electric flow is made to go through water dividing into its apparatus such as hydrogen and oxygen. This is how hydrogen is extracted. When hydrogen is to be extracted from hydrocarbons some heat energy has to be applied. This process is known as reforming hydrogen. Some bacteria can also produce hydrogen through the use of solar energy (Winebrake, p. 156).
There are several uses of hydrogen as a source of energy. It is in the production of ammonia. Also used in petroleum refinement and synthesis. Hydrogen is also used in NASA space program. It is used to fuel space shuttles. Hydrogen is also used in fuel cells that give heat, electricity and clean water for astronauts. In future hydrogen will be used to even fuel vehicles and airplanes in that it will greatly reduce the cost of fuel currently incurred by the use of oil. It will also be used to as a source of power to several homes and offices. Hydrogen is used to power several electric systems. The by-product produced in the production of hydrogen fuel is water. This water is pure and clean and is drunk by the crew in the rockets that are powered by hydrogen energy. This therefore indicates that hydrogen as a source of energy does not pollute the environments as other sources of fossil fuel do. Hydrogen is a good storage of energy that acts like a common battery. It is replenished continuously and it never drops its charge. Therefore with the use of hydrogen fuel one is always sure of its availability. This form of energy is very reliable over others like fossil fuel (Morgan, p. 79).
The use of hydrogen as an alternate source of energy has several benefits. The use of hydrogen reduces pollution to a great extent. Since the only by-products are water and heat which are not harmful to the environment. It does not produce any greenhouse gases which are very pollutant. The raw materials needed in order to produce this source of energy are locally available. Water as a source of energy is readily available. Other sources of hydrogen energy are gasoline, coal and also biomass. Methane is also another readily available source. These sources have been seen to cost less money and are easily obtained. The electrolysis source of energy is easy to sustain. This is because renewable forms of energy can be used to power the process. It does not require too much energy. The hydrogen energy produce is renewable which makes it the most preferred source of energy.
Problems in involved with production of this form of energy are as follows: hydrogen is more seasonal than other sources of energy. Hydrogen also has been seen to contain a lot of moisture hence it requires a lot of energy to make it dry before it is being stored. Hydrogen is not plentiful and its supply is limited. Hydrogen production requires a large amount of biomass in order to be produced. This biomass is not always available in large quantities hence hydrogen is not suitable for large scale consumption of energy. Cultivation of biomass requires a large size of land to get more yields. This land is not readily available in most cases. Biomass causes soil erosion and decreases then fertility of soil. The cultivation of biomass requires other energy cost such as fertilizers to be used and the growing and harvesting labor costs.
The cost of delivering biomass to the respective production plants is also incurred therefore increasing the cost of producing hydrogen energy. The raw materials for producing this source of energy are scarce and relatively costly. Hydrogen also is very explosive and any leaks of this gas cause a lot of damage. When it mixes with air the rate of explosiveness becomes high. Hydrogen pipelines are also expensive (Christopher, p. 213).
Hydrogen production is growing globally. There are a number of companies so far that are venturing into the hydrogen power production business. It is estimated that around 50 million metrics tons were used in the power production companies in the year 2004. US were the leading production country in the Hydrogen production which was approximately 11million metric tons. In the year 2005 the worth of the energy that as produced by hydrogen was around $135 billion in a year. Hydrogen is useful in the production of ammonia which can be used in the manufacturing of fertilizers. Currently in US the hydrogen that is used in the hydro cracking is estimated to be around 11million metric tons every year. It has also been calculated that 37.7 million metric ton of hydrogen can be enough to change the domestic coal into liquid fuel that will enable US to be independent of other countries for oil. The dependence of Middle East for energy has been decreased.
At the moment the hydrogen production throughout the world is approximately 48% from the natural gas. Some part of hydrogen is also produced from oil which has been approximated to be 30% of the total hydrogen. Water is another source of hydrogen which produces an estimation of 4% of the total hydrogen. Hydrogen is produced from water through the process of electrolysis. This distribution of production reflects the economy of the country. The different types of hydrogen production include the natural gas combined cycle. The higher price of the focil fuels has also raised the interest of investing on the hydrogen power production. In the year 2002, the cost of the hydrogen that was generated was approximately 0.35 billion dollars and the cost of hydrogen is approximately I to 1.4 billion dollars (Manassah, p. 125).
The hydrogen gas when use in the vehicles should be put under pressure to liquefy it. Raising the pressure will increase the energy but will take low volume or space. The energy tanks or the pressure vessels should therefore be required for this type. However this will require high energy that will be used to compress the gas into liquid. The liquid hydrogen boils at a very low temperature and for this reason it has the cryogenic storage cuts. The hydrogen tank that is used to store should be insulated so that it cannot be corroded by the liquid hydrogen. The hydrogen can also be stored in a hydride form. This is where the hydrogen gas is reacted with other chemicals to form a compound. This compound will be easy to move as from one place to the other. The selection of the component that is used to react with hydrogen should be done seriously so that the resulting component will be one which can be easy to dehydrate.
Below are some diagrams on the usage of hydrogen energy.
- Christopher, Simon. Alternative energy: political, economic, and social feasibility. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007
- Manassah, Jamal. Alternative energy sources. Academic Press, 2010
- Morgan, Sally. Alternative Energy Sources. Heinemann Library, 2009
- Winebrake, James. Alternate energy: assessment and implementation reference book. The Fairmont Press, Inc., 2004