Mention hydrogen fuel cell [HFC] vehicles and two opposites immediately spring to my mind. First, HFC vehicles are, in themselves, emissions-free. On the other hand, hydrogen generation is far from emissions-free.
If generating hydrogen also generates carbon dioxide, then what’s the point of driving an HFC vehicle, especially when they cost upwards of $50,000? At least with an electric vehicle or even some hybrid electric vehicles, you can significantly reduce your carbon dioxide generation. One major source of hydrogen is via methane [natural gas] reformation, which results in hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Don’t forget the massive amounts of methane [a major greenhouse gas] released during the extraction process!
BASF, a global chemical company, believes it’s developed method to generate hydrogen via methane reformation that is at least 50% cleaner, but I’m not seeing the point.
First, BASF’s catalyst [they’re remaining tight-lipped on this part of the plan] still requires a lot of heat [read: carbon dioxide emissions] to reform methane into hydrogen and carbon. The new process makes more use of internal heat recycling to reduce heat requirements for the reformation process, reducing the carbon dioxide emissions by half.
Second, the resulting elements are recycled. Carbon will go into steel, while the hydrogen and carbon dioxide will go into chemical manufacturing. For example, syngas, a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, can be used to manufacture synthetic fuels.
According to BASF Project Coordinator Andreas Bode, “The hydrogen production will be cost-competitive, while at the same time having the added advantage of having a reduced carbon footprint.” Sure, it works, but is is greener? Sorry, still not seeing it.
The only way to produce hydrogen without a carbon footprint is to look into renewable energy as a source, such as recent developments involving solar energy or super-efficient catalysts that do not require the addition of a carbon dioxide-generating energy source.