Saturday, September 5, 2015

Evolution towards a hydrogen economy

The hydrogen economy, once a visionary idea is slowly becoming a reality. It may not be obvious, but our economy is slowly evolving. It's a slow evolution not a revolutionary change. One of the telltale signs in the Netherlands where I live are government plans to change our natural gas law. They are changing the specifications of natural gas.

Why is this so important for a hydrogen economy? Natural gas is the main source of hydrogen today. Since hydrogen storage and distribution is so inconvenient and therefore expensive, we make hydrogen on-site using natural gas. If you say hydrogen, then that's a gas made from natural gas by steam reforming.

The changes to our law include the possibility to add more hydrogen to the natural gas grid. That means that it is now also possible to transport hydrogen by mixing it in the grid. That makes our gas grid the easiest an cheapest way to transport and store hydrogen, irrespective of how the hydrogen is produced.
The government is already looking forward to raising the allowed hydrogen concentration even further in the future even though that will mean that all our gas equipment will need to be modified. In the Netherlands natural gas is our main source of energy. This change is a critical step towards a hydrogen economy.

Once you add hydrogen to the gas grid that you can take it out again, either by steam reforming, or by separating it from the natural gas using a membrane. That means we can now hookup smaller local hydrogen networks as well.

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