Thursday, November 25, 2004

ChevronTexaco building Hydrogen fueling stations in China

The question we should aks is whether it makes sense to use the Natural Gas to Hydrogen Pathway as a transition strategy?
"'First and foremost, we're an energy company, so we're always going to be looking at, 'What's the energy the world needs and in what form?' ' said Greg Vesey, president of ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures. 'We look to natural gas as a product we're going to be producing for a long time, so this fits in with the natural gas strategy.'

The system isn't perfect. Extracting hydrogen from natural gas emits carbon dioxide, a greenhouse pollutant, as a waste product. Still, some environmentalists interested in hydrogen view natural gas as a useful stepping stone.

'That's probably one of the most economical ways to get the hydrogen infrastructure off the ground,' said Roland Hwang, vehicle policy director for the National Resources Defense Council. Like many environmentalists, he would rather see hydrogen produced from water using renewable energy sources such as solar power, once the technology for doing so in large quantities improves.

Natural gas 'has to be seen as a transition strategy, not the ultimate source of hydrogen,' he said."

Some might argue, quite legitimately, that currently there is no other viable alternative. The follow up question should be whether we will be able to develop a viable alternative in the coming decade or so to enable deployment of commercial fuel cell vehicles by 2020? A colleague working on solar power estimates that Solar PV deployment will grow about 20 times in the next fifteen years or so, mainly through rooftop installations. His estimates of about 83 GW solar production capacity by 2020 match quite closely with IIASA-WEC scenario 'B'. Many believe that a radical innovation in solar technology is needed to make even larger scale deployment of solar to hydrogen conversion, possibly through photoelectrochemical solar conversion devices or other options. Many challenges, and hence many opportunitities!


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