HTAP Panel Answers Questions at WHEC

by Robert L. Mauro, Executive Vice President, National Hydrogen Association

The Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel held an international public hearing on the afternoon of Monday, 22 June 1998, at the World Hydrogen Energy Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A panel of international participants was organized to provide information regarding the commercial introduction of hydrogen into the world energy mix. The individuals that composed the panel were: Juan Carlos Bolcich of Argentina, Bao Deyou of China, O. N. Shrinavasta of India, Carl-Jochen Winter of Germany, Kazukiyo Okano of Japan, and Sig Gronich and Nejat Veziroglu of United States.

The panel answered previously composed questions given aloud by HTAP Chairman Dave Nahmias. The floor was then open to questions from the audience. Some of the similarities and differences in the views expressed by each country regarding the introduction of hydrogen were surprising.

R&D Goals for Hydrogen Programs

The first question presented by the advisory panel was: “What are the most important R&D goals in your hydrogen program?” While the developed countries saw a move directly to hydrogen-powered fuel cells for both stationary power and transportation, Argentina, China, and India viewed the process differently.

China has coal reserves of more than 30 billion tons and has become an importer of petroleum. The Chinese seek underground coal gasification technology to produce either hydrogen directly or methanol, sequestering the CO2. Their population wants cleaner transportation in its cities. This means the promotion of two-, three-, and four-wheeled vehicles that run on fuel cell power.

India is looking to use hydrogen directly in internal combustion engines with fuel cells a second generation technology. Argentina sees development following the same path as India, and would like to create a center for each hydrogen technology. While developing countries want to use indigenous resources and current technology, the developed countries want to move in the near term directly to hydrogen in fuel cells.

Hydrogen Energy’s Most Promising Markets

Next, the panelists were asked what the most promising markets for hydrogen energy were. The Canadians said that the market was for fuel cells in transportation. The Canadians saw industry leading the effort in solving the need for refueling stations. In addition to transportation, the Canadians saw early opportunities in distributed power and urban transportation.

Germany saw the market opportunities in electrolytic production and remote power as well as the application mentioned by the Canadians. They viewed hydrogen-related technologies as possible exports of clean energy systems to the rest of the world.

The Japanese viewed the early hydrogen market as buses, taxis, and government fleets. They saw a need for development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. This vision included industry set-up of distribution and dispensing systems with the help of government subsidies with early markets using by-product hydrogen.

The United States position was the same as Japan’s regarding the early market. The only addition was the introduction of residential fuel cells. Germany indicated that they did not see coal used to produce hydrogen, but only used to produce electricity.

The Argentinians said that they had two isolated regions in the country that could use renewable energy and hydrogen. There are two million people in the country that could use remote power. They look to funding from the World Bank for wind/hydrogen projects. All of Latin America is a market. In urban areas, pollution is a problem and there is interest in hydrogen-powered buses.

China said clean energy is important. Electricity production in China is mostly from polluting sources. In addition, electric service is inadequate in cities. Fuel cells are necessary to strengthen electric infrastructure. The best gifts to the Chinese people are solar battery and fuel cell systems for areas without electricity.

India sees its early hydrogen market as hydrogen-powered buses. It requires fuel cells to cost US$500/kW in five years to enter widespread use on the electric grid. Storage and safety are large issues and there is interest in hydride and liquid hydrogen storage to reduce risks.

The Main Barriers for Hydrogen Energy Systems

The next question posed to the panel was, “What are the most pressing issues or barriers facing successful implementation of hydrogen energy systems?” Every panel member identified cost of both the devices and the hydrogen as a major barrier to commercial introduction of hydrogen. Lack of infrastructure was also mentioned by the majority of the panelists as a major barrier to commercialization.

Other points made by the panelists were: the lack of public awareness about hydrogen and, therefore, exaggerated fear of hydrogen; obtaining government support to view hydrogen as a form of environmental clean-up and buy down the price accordingly; the lack of codes and standards for hydrogen technologies; and the need to improve storage technology. In addition, both India and China mentioned the lack of good hydrogen distribution systems in their countries.

Finally, the panelists were asked to comment on their countries’ level of international collaboration and how it can be improved. Most panelists responded that the IEA, ISO TC197, and joint research activities were the principal methods of international collaboration. Collaboration can be improved through: South American Common Market participation in developing hydrogen priorities and World Bank financing; greater bilateral and multilateral agreements on hydrogen research between countries; greater communication between representatives of different countries at National Hydrogen Association meetings; and international forums like HYFORUM 2000, which brings together individuals in policy, business, and technology.

Individual Comments Worth Noting

Several individuals’ comments made at the end of the session are worth noting. Government demonstrations must be based on good business opportunities. The hydrogen community must attract high-level political leaders, such as energy ministers, to their meetings. Politicians can create markets through credits, taxes, or regulations. The cost of energy must include the consequences of the pollution it creates. A number of hydrogen associations have been formed recently, especially in Europe; these associations are supported by the European Union.

In conclusion, we know the markets and we know the barriers. What are we going to do about removing the barriers and demonstrating commercial products in the target markets? This is the task ahead. Over the next two years, each country will work to achieve research goals, develop markets, remove barriers, and cooperate with each other in pursuit of hydrogen commercialization. In Beijing, the hydrogen community will again measure its progress toward that goal.

©1998. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of the National Hydrogen Association.
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