Tag archive for "hydrogen"

hydrogen filling station

Future Travel

Fracking hell! Why hydrogen isn’t happening.

No Comments 27 September 2011

Last week the UK’s first public hydrogen filling station opened in Swindon. This news item slipped through the net somewhat, as all the media attention seemed to be focused upon the discovery of a natural gas field beneath Blackpool. However I believe that our new hydrogen filling station is just as significant a development, if not quite as “sexy” as 200 trillion cubic feet of shale gas.

The hydrogen filling station looks like a conventional petrol station, and it takes a similar time to fill a hydrogen-powered vehicle as it does to fill a vehicle with petrol or diesel. Of course, Uma from The Human Race would have been delighted. Her father spent his lifetime decarbonising the Icelandic economy and hydrogen stations were the final piece of his jigsaw.

As a reluctant environmentalist, I love the idea of hydrogen filling stations. Compared to shale gas, hydrogen is a virtuous source of energy because it produces almost zero emissions. The process to “manufacture” pure hydrogen takes energy but, other than a small amount of nitrogen oxide, it does not produce any chemical by-products. So in theory, hydrogen allows us to drive around relatively unencumbered by green guilt.

So why hasn’t it caught on?

Well two reasons really.

Firstly, it takes as much energy (with attendant emissions) to synthesize Hydrogen as the use of the actual Hydrogen saves. Until the technology is developed to reduce this aspect of hydrogen production, then it will continue to be sidelined.

Even if this was not the case the distribution channels for this energy are simply not there for mass consumer take up – in say cars.

Take the USA. There are a few hydrogen filling stations there (such as the one pictured above), but there are more than 120,000 petrol stations. There is no way to replicate that sort of infrastructure overnight. It would take years to open enough hydrogen filling stations to produce a serious alternative to the gas filling station.  Although some are built or added to existing sites, I can’t imagine that the petrol companies will be bending over backwards to ensure that they are rolled out on a wider scale.

Any competitors would have to consider acquiring other outlets, making planning applications, building the structures and manning them. Even with significant resources, it would take years to roll them out.  Petrol already has that in place.

Electricity has an even greater advantage: it has an existing infrastructure everywhere. The clincher: it is in the home. That’s why electric cars are so attractive. The distribution network is in place. It doesn’t matter that electricity is a dirty fuel.

Which brings me back to the shale gas discovered in Lancashire last week. Now there’s another fuel with an established distribution infrastructure. Add in the benefit of thousands of jobs plus national fuel security and, leaving aside the high cost of extraction, isn’t it a no-brainer? No wonder politicians are tap dancing around the environmental issues.

So there you have it. Sadly hydrogen will never catch on in the UK – but expect fracking on a grand scale.

Image credit: ideowl.

This post was selected for Everything Home End of October Edition, hosted by My DIY Home Tips.

 

Future Earth

Why are we here & where do we come from?

11 Comments 23 March 2011

So begins Stardust, Brian Cox’s second instalment of the wonderful Wonders of the Universe on BBC One. I highly recommend it and if you have missed it, all three episodes are still available on iPlayer.

The premise of Stardust is that we are all born from the destruction of stars, which sounds far-fetched. But it’s not at all. Brian Cox’s starting point in Wonders of the Universe is also that of Uma Jakobsdóttir in The Human Race: that every atom in our bodies was once part of something else, be it a dinosaur, a dormouse or a tree. Everything is made from the same basic ingredients and chemical elements, which are the building blocks of everything on earth. When living things die, their physical elements are released back into the world so they can continue the cycle of creation, usually as something else. So far, so good?

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Future Travel

Electric cars: cutting or increasing emissions?

No Comments 04 March 2011

This big push towards electric cars has long puzzled me. On the face of it, the move looks like a great way to reduce emissions by replacing the internal combustion engine with batteries. However, what everyone seems to be forgetting is that in most countries electricity is generated by coal, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels around.

According to the World Coal Association, coal accounts for 41% of global electricity production. However, what is really worrying is that in some of the world’s largest countries, coal accounts for an even larger percentage of electricity production; namely the USA at 49% and China at 79%. Continue Reading


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Unputdownable. Yes, I know it's not a word, but it definitely applies here, anyway. That's the word I'm going with, to describe The Human Race by O.C. Heaton. - Hira N. Hasnain

An outstanding first novel from O.C. Heaton that catapults him into the Best Seller league… - Justine Bond

"This is an exciting, fast-paced read. The Human Race is a book that is very easy to forget to put down. Bring on part two!" - L. H. Bowers

"If you are looking for a well-plotted and well-written thriller to while away the hours of a long flight, this offering might suit you very well." - David Bryson, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer

For further reviews of The Human Race by O.C. Heaton click here.

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Charles Heaton British thriller writer O.C. Heaton, author of The Human Race, is fascinated by the past, present and future of human evolution. (Image credit: Ross Parry Agency) Read More>>

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O.C.'s bookshelf: read

The BeachThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeLife of PiOuter DarkThe FirmAlexander 3: The Ends of the Earth: A Novel

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