Tuesday, July 5, 2005

'Clean energy' power plant?

There's a lot of hype that burning hydrogen is 'clean energy'. It's tempting, and there's a propoganda effort going on around moving to a hydrogen economy.

'Clean energy' power station move (BBC, June 30, 2005)

This concerns the "first" industrial scale hydrogen power plant. The scheme is to split natural gas to retrieve the hydrogen, burn that in a plant, liquify the remaining stuff (carbon primarily) and pump that liquid into an BP oil field.

It's supposed to produce 350 megawatts (a.k.a. 300,000 homes worth of electricity) and come online in 2009.

Part of the goaling is to increase the useful lifetime of an oil field, and another part is to capture the carbon helping the UK and Scotland meet their targets under the Kyoto accords.

My question in this is - to extract the hydrogen, it's going to require some energy. Where does that energy come from, and is it more than you get by burning the hydrogen?

e.g. if you get the energy to extract hydrogen from a regular power plant that's currently burning a fossil fuel, then you haven't truly improved the situation. You're just shifting the carbon production from one plant (the hydrogen burner) to another (burning an existing fossil fuel).

Maybe they see this as a "step in the right direction" just like the farce of the current hybrid-electric cars has people fooled into believing they're doing something useful for the environment by owning one. So far as I'm concerned it's not a step in the right direction if the vehicle or power plant is still dependant on a fossil fuel.

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