The Norwegian-British company Gasplas claims to have made a decisive breakthrough in environmentally friendly production of hydrogen.
By using plasma technology that was developed for the management of waste, Gasplas will use a column of natural gas or methane to allow the hydrogen, heat and carbon powder without CO2 emissions.
This could be the start of an environmentally friendly and energy efficient way to present fuel on to tomorrow’s hydrogen cars. Waste gas from the hydrogen cars is pure water vapor and completely CO2-free.
But the traditional production of hydrogen is either too expensive and not very energy efficient, or not environmentally friendly because it leads to huge CO2 emissions. The method Gasplas uses is confirmed by experiments that ended in June.
This is no hocus pocus or something completely new. There has been research on the use of plasma to the cleavage of many different molecules for many years. But we are the first to create a reactor that can be as large or as small as we wish by combining existing technology in new ways, says chairman Per Espen Stoknes NTB.
It is essential that the reactor will be produced in a size ranging from small desktop to large industrial plants.
We can build small devices that fit in a basement, or at a gas station and connect us to existing natural gas network or biogas plants that extract methane from waste or manure, “said Stoknes.
He describes the process as “blowing natural gas through a microwave oven.”It is pure hydrogen gas, hot and dry carbon without CO2. The company is also working to find constructive ways to use carbon powder formed in the plasma process.
We want to use it for industrial uses as substitutes for CO production. Whether as an industrial “black carbon” or fertilizer, “said Stoknes.
Transport and storage
So Gasplas thinks they have the solution to three of the biggest challenges of hydrogen – environmentally friendly production, storage and transport.
Gasplas will not produce plants, but license the technology. Stoknes suggests that the first commercial prototype of carbon can be ready in 2010, and for pure hydrogen in early 2011.
The company also hopes to unveil mobile devices for hydrogen production well before 2015. This is the year the world’s seven leading automobile manufacturers are aiming to start mass production of hydrogen cars.
For the optimistic
Jon Samseth, Professor of Energy Physics at Akershus University College, believes the company is probably optimistic in their belief to provide hydrogen for fuel cells for cars.
It is quite obvious that they have to things in the laboratory. But they have a long long way to go in to have developed a prototype on an industrial scale. It is a classic mistake many scholars make, that optimism is too large, “says Samseth.
He does not rule out that the method may have something special in the production of hydrogen on a larger scale and for industrial use, but said there is too much left to accomplish in order the get to the point of using it to make fuel cells running on hydrogen.
I think personally that hydrogen is never an energy carrier in the private sector. Gasplas is too late. Hydrogen train has gone, even though Bush maintained that U.S. hydrogen program for a long time. I’m not sure about what a CO2-free production of hydrogen will mean that much for the automotive industry, which is now gearing up towards hybrids and electric vehicles. I expect that U.S. automakers will not live up to their hydrogen promises.