NETL Hosts Workshop on Hydrogen Production from Fossil Fuels

By Robert L. Mauro, Executive Vice President, National Hydrogen Association
In March of 1999, U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on hydrogen projects of mutual interest. To that end, on 19-20 September 2000 the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) hosted a workshop between the two DOE divisions. The purpose of the workshop was to explore areas of common activity between FE and EERE and identify projects of common interest.

The areas of hydrogen interest identified by FE included Ion Transport Membrane and a new membrane called Proton Transport, which can separate hydrogen at high temperatures and pressures. FE is active in storage technologies including nanotubes, metal hydrides, and microspheres. FE is also the lead organization in high temperature fuel cells (molten carbonate and solid oxide). The premise of the workshop was that hydrogen would be produced from abundant domestic fossil resources for the foreseeable future. Therefore, there is a need to sequester carbon dioxide to address climate change as we use coal and other fossil fuels to produce hydrogen.

A key theme of the workshop was the price of pressurized hydrogen delivered to the customer. EERE has a target price of US$12-$15/MMBtu by 2010 from natural gas and biomass. The recent increase in natural gas prices has driven up the 2010 target prices. A year ago natural gas was about $2.50/MMBtu and in September it was $5.10/MMBtu. The goal for 2020 is to deliver hydrogen to the vehicle untaxed at between $1.30 to $2.50 per gasoline gallon equivalent. The price of coal over the past year has remained the same or declined. Eastern coal is under $1/MMBtu and some western coal is under $.30/MMBtu. It is estimated that hydrogen from eastern coal could be produced for $4.30/MMBtu. This is cheaper than the price of natural gas today. CO2 recovery might add $.50/MMBtu to the cost of the hydrogen.

The reports of the breakout groups identified needs to be addressed, including improved gasification, gas separation, and gas clean-up. There are also needs to develop solid oxide fuel cells, identify financial hurdles for deployment of hydrogen, and to reduce the cost of carbon sequestration. The issue of sequestration split up into three parts, which were direct carbon sequestration, CO2 removal from the atmosphere, and advanced concepts. Direct carbon sequestration includes the capture and storage of CO2 in oil and gas reservoirs, unmineable coal seams, saline formations, and oceans. Removal of CO2 from the atmosphere includes forestation, agricultural practices, mineralization, and ocean fertilization. Advanced concepts include forming stable solids containing CO2, making useful products, and using CO2 in the formation of hydrocarbon fuels. Areas where the groups agreed to cooperate were promoting ongoing forums, defining stakeholder industry needs and strategies, and supporting larger budgets for NETL and EERE.

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