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The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs
mercial fuel. Chapter 4 explains the barriers to be overcome in establishing an economic and reliable infrastructure for the transmission and storage of hydrogen, including on-board vehicle storage in the discussion.
Chapter 5 presents the committee’s analysis of the total supply chain costs of hydrogen involved in the methods for producing hydrogen using various feedstocks at different scales. From a baseline of the cost to produce hydrogen using currently available technology, the analysis postulates future cases for the various technologies on the basis of the committee’s judgment about possible cost reduction. Chapter 6 builds on the results presented in the previous chapter to consider potential scenarios for the penetration of hydrogen technologies into the economy and associated impacts on oil imports and CO2 gas emissions. Chapter 7 addresses the issue of capture and storage of CO2 from fossil-fuel-based hydrogen production processes.
Chapter 8 discusses the supply side—treating in greater detail the hydrogen feedstock technologies that were analyzed in Chapters 5 and 6. (Appendix G presents extensive additional discussion of these technologies.) Chapter 9 discusses several crosscutting issues, such as systems analysis, hydrogen safety, and environmental issues. Lastly, Chapter 10 includes the committee’s major findings and recommendations on the programs of the DOE applied energy offices (EERE, FE, NE) on hydrogen.
Sources of Information
The committee held four meetings with sessions that were open to the public, hearing presentations from more than 30 outside speakers—including persons from industry (involved with both hydrogen production and use), nongovernmental organizations, and academia. Appendix D provides a listing of all of the committee’s meetings and the speakers and topics at the open sessions.
The committee reviewed several documents in connection with this study. First (see item 4 of the statement of task, above) was the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s “Hydrogen, Fuel Cells & Infrastructure Technologies Program: Multi-Year Research, Development and Demonstration Plan” (DOE, 2003b), or multi-year program plan (MYPP). This plan identifies “critical path” barriers that the DOE believes must be overcome if a hydrogen economy is to be realized. The MYPP includes milestones and measures of progress with respect to these barriers, all leading to a commercialization decision in 2015. Most of the focus of the MYPP is on replacing gasoline use in light-duty vehicles (automobiles and light trucks) with hydrogen; some attention is directed to stationary applications of hydrogen.
The committee also reviewed the Office of Fossil Energy’s Hydrogen Program Plan, Hydrogen from Natural Gas and Coal: The Road to a Sustainable Energy Future (DOE, 2003c), which concentrates on stationary applications of hydrogen (e.g., distributed power, industry, buildings). (The Office of Fossil Energy does not necessarily address the use of fuel cells for industry or building applications. These applications are mostly addressed in EERE.)
Other documents reviewed by the committee include the Hydrogen Posture Plan: An Integrated Research, Development, and Demonstration Plan (DOE, 2003a). This plan integrates program activities across EERE, FE, NE, and SC that relate to hydrogen, in accordance with the National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap (DOE, 2002a), also reviewed.
Two strategic goals common to the DOE plans referred to above are energy security and environmental quality—the latter including reduction of CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels with the implications of such reductions for climate change. This report includes discussion and analysis of these two strategic goals, in particular in Chapters 5 and 6, in which the results of the committee’s analysis of current and future hydrogen technologies are presented.
Focus of This Report
This report does not offer a prediction of whether the transition to a hydrogen-fueled transportation system will be attempted or whether the hydrogen economy will be realized. Instead, the committee offers an assessment of the current status of technologies for the production, storage, distribution, and use of hydrogen and, with that as a baseline, posits potential future cases for the cost of the hydrogen supply chain and its implications for oil dependence, CO2 emissions, and market penetration of fuel cell vehicles. In presenting these future cost reductions, the committee also estimates what might be achieved with concerted research and development. The committee is not predicting that this research will occur, nor is it predicting that such research would necessarily bring the posited cost reductions. Finally, liquid carriers of hydrogen such as methanol and ethanol were not considered in this study.