Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hydrogen- only alternative to Petrol

Our modern civilizatiztion has been shaped by oil or Hydrocarbons for several decades to such an extent that there is no immediate substitute for petrol, the world can count on. In fact the world has been complacent about the availability of Hydrocarbon, its applications and its future. Political leaders have been competing with each other to make sure that their supply of oil and gas is guaranteed as a matter of national security. Some countries even waged wars to secure oil fields. This situation is getting worse, as the supply of oil and gas are becoming uncertain and supplies dwindling. Each and every human being in the world is affected by oil and gas in one way or other, irrespective of the size, geography and rate of industrialization. The main reason for this situation is, the contribution of hydrocarbons made in the field of power generation and transportation. Currently more than 80% of power generation comes from fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. The entire transportation industry all over the world depends on oil and gas. The petrochemical industry’s contribution to our modern civilization is tremendous. It encompasses a whole range of industries whether it is fertilizers or plastics and resins or chemical industries or drugs and pharmaceuticals or cosmetic and toiletries and so on. These major industries determine the progress, civilization and industrialization of a nation. Countries who have vast resources of oil and gas are one of the richest countries in the world, even though these countries have no other resources. Countries with vast population and resources have to depend on oil and gas imports for their industries and transports. Countries with vast mineral resources cannot operate their mines without power or transportation. It is time we examine why oil and gas has become such a critical components in the progress of a nation and how this situation can be overcome. The two major technologies, which depend upon hydrocarbons, are power generation and transportation. Both these technologies use heat as a primary energy. In power generation, heat energy is converted into mechanical energy and then to electrical energy. In transport industry, the heat energy of the fuel is converted into mechanical energy. In petrochemical industry; oil and gas are converted into various chemical products by various chemical reactions and processes. If we closely examine the Hydrocarbon molecule, one thing is obvious. In a Hydrocarbon molecule, Hydrogen atoms are attached to carbon atoms. A simple example is, Natural gas or Methane gas, represented by chemical formula CH4. Four Hydrogen atoms are attached to a carbon atom, which actually imparts the heat energy (heat content) to the molecule. Without Hydrogen atoms, it is nothing but carbon. If we examine the heat value of Natural gas and Hydrogen, one will understand that Hydrogen has got a higher heating value. What is more interesting is there will be no greenhouse emission (carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide) by combusting Hydrogen. It is only water that is the byproduct of combustion of Hydrogen. If we can generate power or drive a car by combusting a Hydrocarbon, then why not combust Hydrogen to generate power or drive a car using the same combustion process? Even if one considers Hydrogen as too dangerous to handle, a mixture of a minor portion of biogas or natural gas with Hydrogen should solve the issue. It is certainly possible and only Hydrogen can replace oil and gas. We can use a combustion technology we knew for decades or use Fuel cell technology that we start using recently with Hydrogen. It is a clean technology and it does not emit smoke or make noise. Whichever way we looks at it, only hydrogen can replace Petrol. Sooner it does, better for the world.