Hydrogen Unlikely to be 21st Century’s Chief Alternative Energy Source

Countries across the globe are desperately looking for alternate sources of power that are dense enough to accommodate consumption needs, while preserving the global ecosystem. Amongst the contenders for mainstream alternative energy production is hydrogen – an energy carrier which increasingly appears to be an unlikely candidate.

“The process to extract hydrogen from water – electrolysis – is a net-loss equation that consumes more energy than the hydrogen it extracts can generate,” said Frost & Sullivan Energy & Environmental Research Analyst Pramod Dibble. “It is very difficult to store hydrogen, as it leaks out from almost any containment vessel. Although compressed hydrogen leaks much less than at atmospheric pressure, the act of compression requires about 2 percent of the useable energy in the hydrogen, which is already less by volume than fossil fuel sources.”

The low energy conversion efficiency also weakens the case for hydrogen as a commercial fuel. Hydrogen requires one-too-many conversions to be as efficient as electricity (water to hydrogen to electricity), as opposed to a simple fuel to electricity conversion.

As battery technologies improve in quality and decrease in price, the viability of hydrogen as an energy carrier falls further. It would be both easier and cheaper to store energy as electricity in a battery than hydrogen in a compressed tank.

“All these reasons together constrain the use of hydrogen to niche applications such as a liquid in rocket fuel,” said Pramod. “Unless there is a dramatic scientific breakthrough, hydrogen will remain an ill-suited alternative energy source in the 21st century.”

Hydrogen as a Commercial Fuel is part of the Energy & Power (http://www.energy.frost.com) Growth Partnership Service program. Frost & Sullivan’s related studies include: Grid-scale Energy Storage in Europe—Lessons from Global Pilot Projects, Small-scale Distributed Generation Opportunities from Renewable Energy, Analysis and Outlook of the Global Biofuels Industry, and The Future of Building Energy Management Solutions. All studies included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.

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