Hydrogen fuel in the modern days is being used as an alternative source of energy in order to overcome the recent climatic changes and create sustainable sources of energy. People are being encouraged to use more hydrogen energy so as to reduce the use of fossil fuels which cause air pollution that cause hazardous health implications to human beings, animals and plants. Hydrogen is not an alternative source of energy since it is made from alternative sources. Hydrogen can also be generated from water electrolysis though, most of the hydrogen fuels are generated from natural gas which is a fossil fuel therefore, use of hydrogen fuel and fossil fuels apply hand in hand since one has first to obtain the fossil fuels to generate hydrogen fuel. The driving power for hydrogen fuel cell cars is much higher in energy units term compared with the driving power of cars using fossil fuel thus making hydrogen fuel cell cars ten times more expensive than cars using gasoline generated from fossil fuels but theoretically hydrogen fuel cell cars are better than gasoline cars as a form of advocating to maintain our green ecosystem.
Hydrogen is used for hydro cracking which involves the conversion of heavy sources of petroleum to their lighter portions which are used as fuels (Busby, p. 90).The amount of hydrogen production generated per year in the United States for hydro cracking is much less compared with the amount required to enable the conversion of domestic coal to liquid fuels in order to terminate United States dependence on Middle East oil and other foreign oil importation hence also eliminating economical and political problems presently experienced in importation of oil.
I do not support the use of hydrogen fuel as an alternative source of energy from the use of fossil fuels, since it is mainly obtained from reforming fossil fuels. Even if hydrogen fuel is generated from steam reforming it is rendered less efficient and a very expensive process. Hydrogen fuel generated from steam reforming as well as water electrolysis requires a lot of energy input while gasoline production requires less energy input for both production and mobility. Pure hydrogen is highly explosive especially if it comes into contact with air which contains oxygen thus rendered fatal in enclosed environs since it is odorless thus require hydrogen sensors to identify a hydrogen leakage. Leakage of an appropriate amount of hydrogen gas in the presence of ultra violet rays forms free radicals that are responsible for catalyzing the depletion of the ozone layer. Hydrogen fuel generated from reforming of fossil fuels emits larger amounts of carbon dioxide gas than amounts of carbon dioxide gas emitted from direct use of fossil fuels in industries and cars and this carbon dioxide gas is among the major contributors to the green house effect. Thou when hydrogen is used as fuel it instead emit water instead of green house gases.
Car internal combustion engines run by hydrogen at times emit nitrous oxides, nitrogenous toxic byproducts and other air pollutants. Therefore, the release of these nitrogen compounds leads to the formation of smog. Hydrogen codes and standards also create a blockade to institutions introducing hydrogen technologies thus inhibiting the development of a hydrogen economy. Practical research indicates that battery electrical vehicles are the most efficient cars while gasoline cars are more efficient compared to hydrogen fuel cell cars which are the least efficient cars. Setting up infrastructure for the production of hydrogen through various conversion stages from water electrolysis or steam reforming, its storage and distribution is quite expensive and requires a vast input of energy units as compared to fossil fuels which are naturally available, require much less energy units for extracting, refining and transportation as well as much low costs are incurred for the same (Romm, p. 23).
Implications of the First and Second Law of Thermodynamics
There are certain impediments in the production of hydrogen, the first and second laws of thermodynamics limit the energy that can be spent in order to receive hydrogen fuel. The discharge of chemical energy from water leads to the violation of both the first and second law of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics states orders that more energy will be used up in the derivation of hydrogen than the actual quantity that can be received from any utilization of hydrogen. There has been a common fallacy that hydrogen cells can be employed as an alternative supply of energy. The truth is that hydrogen cells act as reservoirs for energy receive from other sources. The laws of thermodynamics limit these cells as they will at all times contain an erroneous EROEI. This then limits usage of hydrogen as there will be no benefit as it will mean that we have to use Methane steam method as one of the techniques of deriving hydrogen. Another method could be through electrolysis, both methods mean that there will be alternative over using fossil fuels straightforwardly. Unless hydrogen is being derived in large scale is when we can say that hydrogen can be an alternative source of fuel and under this condition large scale expansion and investments into research and development (Sørensen, p. 78).
Extraction of Hydrogen
Hydrogen is a very combustible substance and methods of extraction require much quantities of energy to be utilized. For example in electrolysis, energy is necessary to split out a water molecule and in fact means that energy would be lost in the conversion of water to hydrogen.
Much has been said about the use of hydrogen as an alternative source of fuel but research into better extraction methods should be done in order to make it a viable option. The wide scale use of hydrogen is pegged on storage of hydrogen as this presents one of the biggest impediments to its transportation and usage. It has been found out that hydrogen in gaseous form requires that two hundred and thirty eight thousand liters are required to restore the capacity of about twenty gallons of fossil fuel energy such as gasoline. Liquefied hydrogen is icy such that it can ice over air. It has been shown in previous occasions that test cars are bound to have accidents due to pressure build up that resulted from plugged valves.
For us to enjoy the benefits of hydrogen fuel, we will have to invest more time, energy and economic resources so as to access the benefits without compensating so much. Despite the uphill task, the government and private sector should also come together in the exploration of other cheaper and easier ways of extracting and utilizing hydrogen fuel.
- Busby, Rebecca. Hydrogen and fuel cells: a comprehensive guide. Perth: PennWell Books, 2005
- Romm, Joseph. The hype about hydrogen: fact and fiction in the race to save the climate. London: Island Press, 2009.
- Sørensen, Bent. Hydrogen and fuel cells: emerging technologies and applications. New York: Academic Press, 2005.