Hydrogen Opportunities II

In our December 2007/January 2008 issue, Joe Lewis outlined the use of hydrogen at the airports. This article focuses on the benefits of blending hydrogen with traditional fuels.

Presently, there are several companies that commercially specialize in the blending of hydrogen with natural gas for fleet operation. These companies traditionally strip the hydrogen from natural gas and then blend it with still more gas. The process consumes vast amounts of power and significantly increases the cost of the blended fuel. Once the fuel is blended, it is then stored under high-pressure storage tanks until needed.
Another way to more efficiently produce and blend hydrogen is to use an onboard electrolyzer. This process uses direct current produced by a high-output alternator and through the battery to operate an electrolyzer. The electrolyzer uses electrolysis to unbind water molecules into their base elements of hydrogen and oxygen. Until recently, electrolyzer efficiency has made this process impractical. HPW, a Houston based electrolyzer manufacturer is currently developing an advanced electrolyzer capable of producing all the hydrogen necessary to conduct onboard blending at ratios up to 50 percent. This electrolyzer will then be fitted into a piece of mobile ground support equipment using a 4.9L natural gas fueled engine.

Like any new technology, the electrolyzer concept will face hurdles. In order to apply this concept to past, present and future engines models, there must be an ability for the electrolyzer to interface with the engines control system. The ability to adjust hydrogen fuel volume based on engine RPM, load and environmental conditions is paramount to the future success of this system.

The use of hydrogen as the energy carrier of the future has already been predetermined. Presently, there exist federal and state incentives, for early adaptors to take advantage of, that are aimed at lowering the carbon footprint of everything from homes to cities. These early adaptors will reap the rewards of gained experience as well as their financial incentives.

Additional data regarding the use of hydrogen-blended fuel with ground support equipment will be published in the third quarter of this year.

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