Notions of a US hydrogen economy

Posted: March 23, 2020 by oldbrew in Emissions, Energy, ideology
Tags: , ,

The most optimistic estimate of the advocates is 14% of total US energy supply from (manufactured) hydrogen by 2050. But why would it be worth the cost and effort, even if it could be done? Claims it would ‘strengthen the economy’ seem hard to justify, as hydrogen production is more expensive than that of fuels in use now.

A coalition of major oil & gas, power, automotive, fuel cell, and hydrogen companies have developed and released the full new report, a “Road Map to a US Hydrogen Economy”, reports Green Car Congress.

The Road Map stresses the versatility of hydrogen as an enabler of the renewable energy system; an energy vector that can be transported and stored; and a fuel for the transportation sector, heating of buildings and providing heat and feedstock to industry.

It can reduce both carbon and local emissions, increase energy security and strengthen the economy, as well as support the deployment of renewable power generation such as wind, solar, nuclear and hydro.

This Road Map shows how critically important hydrogen is to achieve a lower-carbon energy mix, and with the right actions now, can reinforce US energy leadership and strengthen our economy by generating $140 billion per year in revenue and 700,000 jobs by 2030, and $750 billion per year in revenue and 3.4 million jobs by 2050. In addition, if the right actions are taken now a competitive hydrogen industry can meet 14 percent of US energy demand by 2050.

—Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) President Morry Markowitz

Fourteen percent of US final energy demand in 2050 is estimated to be the equivalent of more the 2,468 TWh or 8.4 billion MMBTU per year.

Full report here.

  1. JB says:

    More of this madness, seeking the Utopian panacea of energy, politics, social felicity, economic security. And if by a stroke of genius or insight, some stumble upon a more efficacious method of supplying these human needs, would it be handled wisely and liberally? The present world conditions of these matters are strongly reminiscent of what took place in central Europe a century ago. And very few remain who witnessed the resulting terror, destruction, and bloodshed. Repeatedly, we observe those least able to learn from the lessons of the Past are they who conceive themselves best endowed to improve the lot of Mankind.

  2. Gamecock says:

    ‘increase energy security, and make women more pregnant’

    Fixed it.

    We have energy security. Energy security can’t be increased, any more than someone could become more pregnant.

    ‘and strengthen the economy’

    In a breaking windows kinda way.

    They propose to vandalize the economy.

  3. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Insanity, unless we run out of oil and have fusion power.

  4. oldbrew says:

    GCC says:
    The report adduces a number of factors that it says positions the US to build a leading hydrogen economy:

    * Low-cost primary energy sources needed to produce low-carbon hydrogen, plus abundant low-cost natural gas and carbon storage capacity for hydrogen produced via natural gas reforming with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

    * The US is home to industrial sector leaders capable of scaling a hydrogen economy.

    * For US transport, hydrogen is a strong low-carbon alternative.
    – – –
    Turn natural gas into hydrogen+CO2 and pay to store the CO2. The economics of this at industrial scale would/will be disastrous, even if feasible (unlikely). Where are the measureable or noticeable benefits?

  5. oldbrew says:

    Free beer tomorrow? Or…

    Green Hydrogen Is About To Go Mainstream
    Mar 19, 2020

    The only issue is that we haven’t yet found an economically viable way to produce green hydrogen without using tons of cash or tons of energy inputs. But we’re getting close.

    But we’re getting close
    A bit like lightweight long-range non-flammable batteries and zero-subsidy renewables?

  6. Gamecock says:

    ‘For US transport, hydrogen is a strong low-carbon alternative.’

    No. It’s not.

    ‘Directing capital to hydrogen is key to enabling its growth in the US.’

    Hydrogen purveyors saying:

    ‘Investment is needed to lay the groundwork for hydrogen solutions. Capital is required to build foundational hydrogen infrastructure and companies need the right incentives to invest in low-carbon hydrogen solutions. Regulatory barriers and appropriate codes and standards need to be addressed to enable large-scale commercialization and a robust, reliable supply chain. Funding is required for more research, development, demonstration, and deployment for hydrogen technologies, to improve competitiveness and performance.’

    Doesn’t sound like it’s ready for prime time, does it?

    “Hydrogen is the solution!”

    “We just need a few billion to figure out how.”

    They have the answer; what was the question?

  7. pochas94 says:

    We’ll end up with a hydrogen economy some day, but let’s let economics drive it, no government subsidy programs, no handouts. And yes, it will be a long time coming, but we have lots of time.

  8. SpiritofTheWind says:

    Might as well just burn the Fossil fuel in the first place.

  9. Graeme No.3 says:

    I used to have a book about the Coming Hydrogen Economy.
    I threw it out last (donated to charity bookshop).
    From memory it was published in 1988.

  10. Curious George says:

    I prefer an ethylalcohol economy. It is less explosive.

  11. cognog2 says:

    I think the book was more about the Coming Hydrogen Austerity. Economy probably never got a look in.

  12. pochas94 we will never have an hydrogen economy but will have a nuclear economy. It makes no sense to cart hydrogen as a gas or liquid around. Maybe some hydrogen will be used from onsite production but it will be made from small scale nuclear energy. To discuss anything about hydrogen one needs to have knowledge of a) chemistry b) (chemical) engineering c) economics

  13. BoyfromTottenham says:

    The way things are going these (COVID-19) days, we will be lucky to have a future economy at all, and if we do, any investments that are made for the next few years will be to repair the massive damage caused by the ‘cure’ for COVID-19. Only after that can the world even start to think about investing in boondoggles like ‘green energy’, hydrogen, wind turbines, pumped hydro, etc. etc. Every cloud has a silver lining, eh? Keep safe, everyone, and wash your hands.

  14. stpaulchuck says:

    I got one word for you morons – Hindenburg. That didn’t work out very well for them. Highly pressurized H is an even bigger danger. Duh.

  15. BoyfromTottenham says:

    stpaulchuck – ‘But we have much better technology now than in the 1930s, so everything will work out fine!’ /sarc
    I’m sure that you are familiar with these facts, Chuck:
    H2 molecules are so small that they will migrate through almost any material, are flammable at an unusually wide (4-75%) range of concentration in air, and require very little (>20 microjoules) of spark energy to cause an explosion. In short, we are gonna need a shed load of ‘better technology’ to make hydrogen safe for use, other than in say space rockets. BTW I have no need for a space rocket, my petrol Suzuki Sierra does me fine.

  16. oldbrew says:

    The largest application of H2 is for the processing (“upgrading”) of fossil fuels, and in the production of ammonia.
    – – –
    Ahlhorn airship disaster

    On 5 January 1918 an accident happened: due to a fire a hydrogen-filled airship (LZ-87, Marine L47) exploded, reducing it and the surrounding area to rubble within 40 seconds. The blast was so enormous fragments fell as far as Wildeshausen, and the resulting pressure wave was said to have been felt in Bremen, 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) away. When it was all over the hydrogen plant and hangars III (Alrun) and IV (Alix) were fully destroyed, hangars I (Aladin) and II (Albrecht) were severely damaged, while hangars 5 and 6 had received minor damage. Altogether the Marine had lost airships L46, L47, L51, L58 and SL20 and suffered 15 killed, 30 severely wounded and 104 lightly wounded. [bold added]

  17. pochas94 says:

    We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Hydrogen containment is a workable engineering problem. Hydrogen fueled cars are on the road in California, even as we speak. These cars bear no resemblance to the Hindenburg gas bag.

  18. oldbrew says:

    Inefficiency of hydrogen power for transport…

    The oversized air intakes on the Toyota Mirai (below) are needed due to the amount of heat generated by the hydrogen fuel cell.

    We want our cars to move, not waste heat.

  19. pochas94 says:


    Now tell us how efficient a gas buggy is in delivering power to the road.

    Burn the hydrocarbon fuel in a power plant to make electricity to make hydrogen to power a fuel cell to make electricity to power a motor to drive the car. You’ll have to gross up that 100 kwh figure to account for the 30 percent efficiency of a generating plant.


    Refine the hydrocarbon and use it to fuel an internal combustion engine to drive the car. Please use current technology and not dreamland hybrids.

    By the way, a fuel cell car can use regenerative braking.

    Anyway, the argument is not about energy efficiency, its about societal costs. Once you have your nuclear plant and your hydrogen generating plant and distribution system, you no longer have to drill for petroleum and transport it to refineries, which is an ongoing activity since petroleum is a depleting resource. And you no longer have the political brouhaha of who has control of the depleting resource, and IMHO that is the long term biggie.

  20. stpaulchuck says:

    pochas94, your scenario is badly flawed. There are huge areas that have little or no water. Your miracle H2 will have to be transported there just like refined petroleum.

    A hydrogen generating plant is an order of magnitude more dangerous than a petroleum refinery so they’ll have to be located at least as far out of town as the refineries are so the product will have to be transported, just like petroleum.

    Then there’s the pipelines. A gasoline pipeline rupture generally makes a huge flame. Great for TV but generally not very dangerous to the general public. A hydrogen rupture will go off like a MOAB.


  21. pochas94 says:

    @ stpaulchuck

    Please note the picture of the Hindenburg above. MOAB? No. Hydrogen disburses very rapidly. An unconfined flame just burns. A leak into a confined space would be dangerous, as for natural gas.

  22. Gamecock says:

    “We’ll end up with a hydrogen economy some day”

    “We,” kemo sabe?

  23. Gamecock says:

    “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

    And yahoos wasting money chasing rainbows.

  24. Gamecock says:

    “since petroleum is a depleting resource”

    We have more now than we did 50 years ago.

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