Hydrogen milestone could help lower fossil fuel refining costs

October 9, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Hydrogen researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory have reached a milestone on the road to reducing carbon emissions and protecting the nation against the effects of peaking world oil production.

Stephen Herring, laboratory fellow and technical director of the INL High Temperature team, today announced that the latest modification has set a new mark in endurance. The group's Integrated Laboratory Scale experiment has now operated continuously for 2,583 hours at higher efficiencies than previously attained.

"I'm very much encouraged that it will be able to operate for longer periods of time," said Herring. "It means that this research is closer to commercial viability."

The commercial viability that Herring spoke about is likely different than what many may think of when they hear about and fuel cells. Instead of working to create vehicles that use pure hydrogen as fuel, Herring and his team are focused on another application.
Currently, "gasoline and actually have a lot of hydrogen that has been added to them, and that's one thing many people don't recognize," said Herring. "Next to a refinery, there's often a plant that's making hydrogen used for upgrading."

If that hydrogen can be produced more efficiently, by decreasing the amount of electricity required by the electrolysis process that separates hydrogen from oxygen in water, there's the potential for large savings.

Perhaps even more motivating is that multiple government, corporate and other organizations have published reports pointing to severe world economic consequences when world oil production peaks sometime in the near future. Those same reports identify that one of the key parts of a solution is being able to upgrade lower quality petroleum, from sources like oil sands in Canada, into transportation-grade fuels.

"The production of liquid fuels, such as gasoline or diesel, is the primary use of this hydrogen. Refining poor-quality crude oils, upgrading the tar-like Canadian oil sands and removing sulfur from petroleum already require large amounts of hydrogen," said Herring.
By adding a special coating to the cells used in the latest test, the team achieved more than double the lifetime of previous cells and will immediately begin analysis of the experiment to try to improve the design further.

"It has been a lot of work by a number of people here, particularly Lisa Moore-McAteer, Keith Condie, Carl Stoots and Jim O'Brien," said Herring. "They've really worked hard in putting this all together over the last five or six years and then keeping it running, that's always a real challenge."

Provided by Idaho National Laboratory

Explore further: Major milestone in hydrogen research

Related Stories

Major milestone in hydrogen research

December 7, 2004

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory and Ceramatec, Inc. of Salt Lake City are reporting a significant development in their efforts to help the nation advance ...

Clemson research could help turn hydrogen hype into 'hy'ways

February 17, 2005

Americans will have a hard time driving on the future's highways if they don't have fuel. While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it's not readily available. Many researchers are working to develop fuel ...

Helping make hydrogen a staple for consumer vehicles

May 9, 2007

Carnegie Mellon University's David S. Sholl is working to identify new materials that would help make hydrogen more stable and cost-efficient than fossil fuels. Increased concern about global warming and a need to conserve ...

Recommended for you

The ethics of robot love

November 25, 2015

There was to have been a conference in Malaysia last week called Love and Sex with Robots but it was cancelled. Malaysian police branded it "illegal" and "ridiculous". "There is nothing scientific about sex with robots," ...

Tandem solar cells are more efficient

November 23, 2015

Stacking two solar cells one over the other has advantages: Because the energy is "harvested" in two stages, and overall the sunlight can be converted to electricity more efficiently. Empa researchers have come up with a ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 09, 2009

Concentrating solar easily gets hot enough to split water then have it run a steam turbo-generator to cool it off. That electricity can be used to run the plant or sell.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.