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Another reputable source, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), refutes the idea hydrogen represents any kind of "green solution" - that it offers an alternative to storing electrical energy in batteries, whatever its source.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 27, 2020

A valuable article and well-worth a read. That said, I think it's important to note that this is a paper submitted by an ASME member to a scientific journal and not an official ASME position. Additionally, plenty has changed (both in favor of and arguing against hydrogen) since this was first published nearly 16 years ago. 

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Bob Meinetz on Oct 27, 2020

"Additionally, plenty has changed (both in favor of and arguing against hydrogen) since this was first published nearly 16 years ago."

Matt, glad you brought that up. None of the essentials about hydrogen production have changed, however, and never will change. The basics: it requires a minimum energy of 237 kilojoules/mole to obtain free hydrogen from water, given by the chemical formula:

H20 -> 2H + O kJ

That's in a hypothetical, 100%-efficient electrolysis system. There is no arguing that quantity of energy input - there are no shortcuts. The most efficient systems to date add ~30% in losses, and (if they haven't already) improvements in efficiency will soon bottom out.

That's just separating hydrogen from water. The best efficiency of a total system: pumping the hydrogen to a storage facility, compressing/liquefying it, pumping it to customers, oxidizing it in a fuel cell, is currently ~6%  (94% of energy is wasted as heat). 

The paper's conclusion:

"Dr. Joseph Romm in his testimony to the House Science Committee, 'Probably the biggest analytical mistake made in most hydrogen studies-including the recent National Academy Report is failing to consider whether the fuels that might be used to make hydrogen [such as natural gas or renewables] could be better used simply to make electricity.'"

Nothing has changed, or likely ever will change. It's almost as predictable as deceptive marketing from the oil industry.

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