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Petrol station to offer hydrogen by month's end

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    Posted: 05 June 2008 at 5:58pm
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Petrol station to offer hydrogen by month's end

Shell is preparing to open a station in west Los Angeles later this month that will dispense petrol or, if you're one of the few to have a fuel-cell car, hydrogen.

Two, limited release, fuel-cell cars available in America: Chevy Equinox (top) and Honda FCX Clarity (bottom)

Duncan Macleod [of the clan Macleod...sorry i couldnt resist], vice president of Shell Hydrogen, gave the keynote talk on Tuesday at the CTSI Clean Technology conference in Boston, where he said that the Santa Monica Boulevard station will be followed by a few more in the coming months.

The Los Angeles station will use an electrolyser to manufacture hydrogen from electricity on site. This station is part of a U.S. Department of Energy hydrogen research program with Shell and General Motors. Shell, however, will build a few more stations in Los Angeles area on its own in coming months, Macleod said.

In his talk, Macleod argued that fuel-cell vehicles will be mass-produced by 2020. To make that happen, "mini networks" of hydrogen filling stations in densely populated cities need to take root now. He added that fuel-cell vehicles are at a pivotal point in their development: with the proper government incentives and technology investments now, hydrogen can be produced in cleaner ways.

Options for making hydrogen
Hydrogen has been touted as the successor to petrol and diesel for many years. On the one hand, auto makers believe that they could make money from fuel-cell cars because they contain fewer parts. Environmentally, the big advantage of fuel-cell cars, compared to the conventional internal combustion variety, is that they emit only water. Making hydrogen, though, requires an energy source and, this, ironically, can be climate changing fossil fuels.

The electrolyser used in hydrogen stations can run on electricity from renewable sources, as Shell is doing with wind power in the Netherlands and geothermal power in Iceland. Electrolysers cannot scale to serve thousands of customers, Macleod said. That means that hydrogen for fuel-cell vehicles in the medium term will be made at petrochemical plants that make hydrogen as part of their industrial process.

"We can make hydrogen from anything," he said, but the input into a petrochemical plant or refinery is either oil or gas. "That means you are making hydrogen from hydrocarbons, which isn't a long-term sensible way of doing things."

There are also several technical challenges, not the least of which is making hydrogen cost-effectively. To get to cleaner sources, Shell Hydrogen envisions the manufacture of hydrogen from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage. That would mean natural gas would have its hydrogen component split off from it to be used as a fuel (or generate power with a turbine), while the carbon dioxide would be pumped underground.

Farther out, Shell is doing research on making hydrogen from renewable bio-feedstocks or even municipal solid waste. Macleod said he anticipates that hydrogen will become one option among several power sources, including electricity, biofuel, and gasoline.

"I don't now think that hydrogen is the ultimate fuel, but it is part of the answer," he said. "It's not the energy companies that decide. It's the governments and the consumers."

Edited by rami - 05 June 2008 at 5:58pm
Rasul Allah (sallah llahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord" and whoever knows his Lord has been given His gnosis and nearness.
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