You are on page 1of 10

Chapter15: Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production

Nuclear heat for hydrogen production is another advanced application of nuclear energy. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and the third most abundant on Earth. Hydrogen gas does not exist on the earth or in our atmosphere in significant quantities. Instead, it reacts quickly with other elements to form more stable compounds. Hydrogen compounds are abundant in water and fossil fuels; its supply is effectively limitless. Because pure hydrogen is not as readily available as fossil fuels, hydrogen is not considered to be a source of energy but an energy carrier. Like electricity, hydrogen is Manufactured . Energy carriers are a convenient medium to store, transport, and use energy. But the convenience comes at a price, that is, efficiency. There are several methods for producing hydrogen. All involve splitting compounds that contain hydrogen and capturing the hydrogen gas that results. To split water directly with heat (Thermolysis) requires temperatures in excess of 2500C for significant hydrogen generation. This method is not currently practical for industrial production, as those temperatures cannot be sustained. Instead, thermochemical cycles or electrical drivers allow the splitting to occur at lower temperatures Hydrogen has been researched as an energy transport medium since the 1960s. Two recent technological developments have piqued the interest in hydrogen: 1. Fuel cell technology to cleanly make electricity on location (or perhaps in vehicles); and 2. The direct use of hydrogen as a fuel, such as in rocket fuel or military aircraft. Currently, hydrogen production is a major area of research throughout the world, especially in the US, Europe, and Japan. Burning hydrogen with oxygen, as is done in the space shuttle, creates no pollution. The only by product of that combustion is water. Burning hydrogen with air does form some pollutants, such as NOX, but in much smaller quantities than when burning fossil fuels. Therefore, there are significant potential environmental benefits to the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. Here is a graph which illustrates the process of using nuclear heat for hydrogen production:

Edited by Dr. Mir F. Ali

Chapter15 Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production

Use of the high-temperature nuclear reactor as the heat source would eliminate carbon dioxide emissions and result in efficiencies approaching 80 percent. Areas of commercial interest in hydrogen include: oil refining, ammonia manufacturing (fertilizer), and methanol production. Hydrogen can be combined with gasoline, ethanol, methanol, or natural gas to increase engine performance and reduce pollution. This increasing demand for hydrogen in the refining sector is driven by the need to produce cleaner transportation fuel for meeting environmental regulations. Hydrogen can be added in the refining process to create a cleaner-burning fuel. A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device. A fuel cell converts the chemicals hydrogen and oxygen into water, and as a result, it produces electrical power

Chapter15 Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production

Number of thermo-chemical water splitting cycles have been identified in recent years. These cycles essentially split water into hydrogen and oxygen through a series of heatdriven chemical reactions. Early progress including bench-scale testing of the leading cycles best suited for the high temperature gas-cooled reactor is under development in the U.S., Japan, France and other countries. In the thermo-chemical processes, only water, heat and electricity (as a utility) are needed to produce hydrogen and oxygen. Although many of these cycles have been identified, most of the current development work is focused on the sulfur-iodine (SI) process.

efficiently, without producing any CO2. The by-products of an operating fuel cell are heat and water. In principle, a fuel cell operates like a battery. However, unlike a battery, a fuel cell does not run down or require recharging. With a fuel cell, chemicals constantly flow into the cell so it never goes dead as long as there is a flow of chemicals into the cell, the electricity flows out of the cell. Most fuel cells in use today use hydrogen and oxygen as the chemicals. Looking at the graph, there are six types of fuel cells, connected to two different types of applications Stationary and Transport. Here is a brief description of each type of fuel cell:


Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC):

This type also known as Poly Electrolyte Membrane. These fuel cells deliver high power density and offer the advantages of low weight and volume compared to other fuel cells. PEMFC are particularly suited to powering passenger cars and buses due to their fast start-up time, favourable power density, and power-to-weight ratio; Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cells (PAFC): Phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFC) use phosphoric acid as an electrolyte and porous carbon electrodes containing a platinum catalyst. They were the first fuel cells ever used commercially and over 200 units are currently in use. Primarily used in stationary power applications, as well as for powering buses;



Direct Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFC):

Most fuel cells are powered by hydrogen, which can be fed to the fuel cell system directly or can be generated within the fuel cell system by reforming hydrogen-rich fuels such as methanol, ethanol, and hydrocarbon fuels. DMFC, however, are powered by pure methanol. DMFC fuel cell technology is relatively new, compared to that of fuel cells powered by pure hydrogen, and research and development are roughly 3-4 years behind that of other fuel cell types;

Chapter15 Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production


Alkaline Fuel Cells (AFC):

Alkaline fuel cells (AFC) were the first fuel cell technology ever developed and used in the United States space programme. They use a potassium hydroxide solution as the electrolyte and a variety of non-precious metals as a catalyst at the anode and cathode. AFC typically operate at between 100250 C, but recent versions operate at between 23-70 C. AFC are highperformance devices that achieve an efficiency of 60 percent, but they are vulnerable to poisoning by even small amounts of carbon dioxide;


Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFC):

Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFC) are being developed to be fuelled by natural gas. These fuel cells cannot be fuelled by pure hydrogen. MCFC use a molten-carbonate-salt electrolyte suspended in a porous, inert ceramic matrix. They do not need an external reformer, because they operate at high

temperatures (>650 C). In addition, they do not use precious-metal catalysts, further reducing their cost; and


Solid Oxide (SOFC):

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) used a non-porous ceramic electrolyte and appeared to be the most promising technology for electricity generation. When combined with a gas turbine, SOFC, expected to achieve an electrical efficiency of 70 percent and up to 80-85 percent efficiency in cogeneration. High operating temperatures of 800-1000 C mean precious-metal catalysts and external reformers are unnecessary, helping to reduce the cost of SOFC.

The applications have been divided into the following two categories:



Here are some facts about the fuel cell stationary applications:

1. More than 11,000 small stationary fuel cells units have been deployed globally; 2. In 2008, the installed capacity of fuel cells in large scale stationary applications
reached 170MWe ; 3. Japan has 5,862 stationary fuel cells units under operation; 4. 6,000 fuel cell CHP units, commercially available today, rated at 400kWe (sufficient to power a supermarket or school) would deliver the same level of

Chapter15 Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production

carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions as the proposed Severn Barrage, and could be in place in 5 years at more than 3 times lower capital cost; 5. If 5.6 million homes had microCHP installed by 2020, the saved CO2 emissions would be equivalent to the emissions from eight new 750MW Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power stations; 6. A 2kW stationary fuel cell CHP unit can save up to 5 tonnes of CO2 per household per annum depending on the installation; and 7. Fuel cells enable wider uptake of combined heat and power generation at 80-90 percent overall efficiency. Here is a brief summary on each major stationary application, which is mainly based on 2009 Annual Report of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee:


Power Generation and Electric Support Applications:

Fuel cells generate power without combustion resulting in the generation of clean electricity. As a result, the fuel cell emits virtually zero pollutants such as NOx, SOx or particulate matter. The fuel cell electrical generation process is highly efficient, resulting in fuel savings for customers and lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to combustion based power sources. The Connecticut Public Utility Commission approved the installation of nine Fuel Cell Energy (FCE) molten carbonate fuel cell power plants, totaling 27.3 megawatts (MW), in five separate grid-connected projects. In Korea, POSCO Power ordered 68 MW of molten carbonate fuel cells from FCE, and Samsung installed 4.8 MW of UTC fuel cells at a power plant outside Seoul. As far as the Electric Grid Support applications are concerned, the Ohio utility, First Energy, announced that it would purchase a 1 MW, trailer-based polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell system from Ballard Power. The project will demonstrate fuel cell capabilities to provide feeder peak management, defer distribution system asset upgrades, deliver zero local CO2 emissions, and provide power conditioning for high quality power. The bottomline is that the demand for multi-megawatt fuel cell systems for power generation and electric grid support applications are on the increase.

Chapter15 Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production


Combined Heat and Power Applications:

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) or cogeneration is a system that involves the recovery of waste heat from power generation to form useful energy like useable steam. Combined heat and power is also the production of electricity and thermal energy in a single integrated structure. Whole Foods Market announced a second store to install a UTC 400 kW fuel cell system. UTC will also provide a 200 kW phosphoric acid fuel cell system to provide heat and power to a Coca Cola facility in New York State. In anticipation of the need for qualified

technicians to support CHP systems, Plug Power commissioned a 5 kW unit installed at Union College in New York to be used for educational purposes.

The bottomline is that retail and manufacturing companies are beginning to see the value in the combined heat and power (CHP) benefits provided by fuel cell systems. Wireless TT Info Services Ltd, an arm of a major telecom operator in India, contracted with Plug Power for the purchase, installation and maintenance of 200 GenSys fuel cell systems to provide continuous power for off-grid cell towers in India. Motorola announced that it would use Ballard fuel cells in back-up power systems for 123 base stations in Denmark s TETRA-standard public safety communication network. In the U.S., the Department of Energy (DOE) is working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense (DOD) to install 43 emergency back-up power systems. In late 2009, the Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, in collaboration with DOE, issued a solicitation for 36 PEM fuel cell systems, ranging in size from 1 to 28 kW, as emergency back-up power for buildings and operations at 16 federal facilities (including DOD, DOE, and NASA sites). The bottomline is that back-up and remote power applications provide an important and growing early market for fuel cell systems.
Chapter15 Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production


Back up and Remote Power Generation Applications:


Material Handling Equipment Applications:

Fuel cell developers and hydrogen refueling equipment manufacturers are targeting the multi-billion dollar North American market opportunity to supply hydrogen and fuel cell lift trucks to distribution centers and manufacturing plants. Compared with batterypowered forklifts, fuel cell forklifts have a greater range, take less time to recharge and cool before use, are not prone to voltage drops as power discharges, and do not suffer from downtime during battery change-outs. Fuel cell systems also require less space for refueling, and do not face concerns about battery life and disposal. Five new DOE projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help deploy more than 300 fuel cell forklifts at Fed Ex, Genco, Sysco, and East Penn Manufacturing. Other fuel cell forklift customers include Central Grocers, Nestle Water, Walmart, Whole Foods, Bridgestone, and Coca Cola. The bottomline is that the DOD has emerged as a key early adopter, and is establishing a clear business case for fuel cell forklifts and sales of fuel cell forklifts are rapidly expanding to commercial facilities. In spite of the growing popularity of fuel cell technologies, there are a limited number of companies that manufacturing fuel cells commercially for stationary applications for the commercial, residential, and industrial buildings. At the same time, there are a significant number of demonstration plants around the world, where fuel cell technologies are being tested and implemented to take advantage of the environmentally friendly, reliable, and decentralized electricity generation solutions of the future. Furthermore, according to various reports high efficiency building cogeneration systems using fuel cells will be one of the key technology options for improving building energy efficiency.

Chapter15 Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production


A hydrogen car defined to be an alternative fuel vehicle that uses hydrogen as its onboard fuel for motive power. The term may also refer to a personal transportation vehicle, such as an automobile, or any other vehicle that uses hydrogen in a similar fashion, such as an aircraft. The power plants of such vehicles convert the chemical energy of hydrogen to mechanical energy either by burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine, or by reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to run electric motors. The concept of hydrogen car is not new. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) used fuel cells to generate electricity aboard space missions during the 1960s, but Sir William Grove s invention found little use of hydrogen in any other setting. Geoffrey Ballard, founder of Ballard Power, a dual US-Canadian citizen who was educated in Harvard, turned the promise of a hydrogen-based economy powered by fuel cells into reality, a task that fell to several dozen scientists gathered on the outskirt of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

It is no secret that there are already many hydrogen cars on the road. Typically, these hydrogen cars are used as fleet vehicles in California, Japan, Canada, and the European Union.

The critical component of hydrogen cars is the infrastructure of hydrogen fuel stations on the hydrogen highways. The hydrogen fuelling stations of the future could very well be both, standalone ports or a complementary part of current gasoline stations. California s first hydrogen fuel station open to the public was on April 13, 2004 in Diamond Bar in the southern part of the state. Since then, California has 23 active hydrogen fuel stations across the state that is providing fuelling service to 158 fleet vehicles on a regular basis. Currently, there are 14 more fuel stations under construction.

Chapter15 Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production

It was indeed a great help when President Bush signed a $1.2 billion deal over five years in 2003 to help fund research into hydrogen power with the objective that in 2015, the Energy Hydrogen Program will make a decision on commercializing hydrogen powered fuels cells to power vehicles and make infrastructure to fuel them. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was pushing to get 200 hydrogen fuelling stations built by 2010 stretching from Vancouver all the way down to Baja, California.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) hosts the Stuart Energy SES-f hydrogen fuelling station, which has attracted international attention from the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Belize, Switzerland, Philippines, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, China, South Africa, Latvia, and the Republic of Georgia. The Stuart Energy Station was also chosen by Toyota to provide hydrogen-fuelling infrastructure to its headquarters in Torrance, California.

Chapter15 Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production

Other hydrogen fuelling stations across the world include those in Germany, Lisbon, Sweden, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Luxemburg, Portugal, Spain, Iceland, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, Italy, Belgium, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Here is the link to a comprehensive Worldwide Hydrogen Fuelling Stations that describes the availability of hundreds of hydrogen fuelling stations by the country and by the city. It is interesting to note that besides commercial fuelling stations, the future may hold that home hydrogen fuelling stations become commonplace. By the process of electrolysis, an electrical current can split tap water into hydrogen and oxygen, thus making it possible to fuel up your car at home before you hit the road. This chapter was published on Inuitech Intuitech Technologies for Sustainability on February 6, 2012:

1. Hydrogen Production by Nuclear Heat: 2. Thermochemical Water Splitting Cycles: 3. Hydrogen Fuel Cells: 4. Energy Efficiency Fuel Cells: 5. Hydrogen Fuel Cell: Stationary Applications: 6. Wikipedia: Internal Combustion Engine: 7. Wikipedia: Fuel Cell: 8. Ballard Power Systems Inc.: 9. Nuclear Energy: Hydrogen Cars: 10. Hydrogen Fueling Stations: 11. Fuel Cells 2000: 1.


Chapter15 Nuclear Heat for Hydrogen Production