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Stephen Chu changes his mind on fuel cells - Fracking and oxyfuel
Fuel Cells, July 25 2012 (The Hydrogen Journal)
- Stephen Chu, US Secretary of State for Energy, has told US news service Autoline.tv that he is much more interested in hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles now than he was in 2009 when he first started in his role.
His difference in opinion is due to two reasons, he said.
Firstly there is a glut of natural gas in the US, due to fracking, which reduces the cost of gas and means that making hydrogen is much less expensive.
(Previously the plan was to generate hydrogen using electricity from renewable energy, but it is more efficient to use the electricity directly in vehicles using batteries).
Secondly because there is an emerging oxyfuel technology to burn natural gas in oxygen to make hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which generates heat which can be captured.
The standard method for creating hydrogen from natural gas is steam reforming, reacting the gas with steam at high temperatures to make carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This technology requires a lot of energy input as heat. But the new method is more efficient, he said.
"So now the economics are looking good, the carbon footprint looks much better," he said.
Mr Chu did not mention the specific oxyfuel technology in its interview, but we are guessing that it is the Clean Energy Systems technology, where natural gas is burned in oxygen in a computer controlled reaction, to create hydrogen and a pure stream of carbon dioxide, which can then be used for enhanced oil recovery without any additional separation.
The technology has been under development for 15 years, and the company received a $30m grant from the US Department of Energy to develop it.
Maersk Oil has purchased a license to sell the technology, because it offers a low capital cost route to converting a natural gas stream (which might already be high in CO2) to electricity, and pure CO2, which can be used for enhanced oil recovery.