Engineer: Abandon ‘affordable heating’ disaster, move on to hydrogen

By Greg Pierce

Upon reading Senate bill S.5, the so-called Affordable Heat Act, my reaction — in utter horror — is Vermont fuel  dealers voting with their feet en masse and choosing to leave the field of supplying fuel to their VT customers, neighbors and friends rather than face the bureaucratic nightmare that S.5  will create for them. This is particularly terrifying since no viable  fossil fuel replacement strategy currently exists. 

Instead of the S.5 folly of charging VT fuel dealers with the  nightmare bureaucratic responsibility of taking Vermont out of our  present atmosphere-polluting fossil fuel regime into an, as yet unknown, new non-polluting fuel regime, let’s do better legislation. Give VT fuel dealers a positive role in accomplishing this difficult but essential undertaking. 

First, some energy source background. There’s been much talk on getting rid of fossil fuel but little sane discussion of  replacements. As in: 

Geothermal, grossly inefficient in northern climes and enormously disruptive of our subsurface—imagine huge drilling rigs putting  down deep holes in the ground adjacent to each VT building  needing to be heated and using electric heat pumps to pull a few  BTUs of heat from 50˚F ground water as our electric meters spin wildly and our monthly power bills soar to unheard of new heights. 

Bio-Mass, the methane generated in bio-mass projects is an even  worse atmospheric pollution problem than carbon dioxide. 

New Concepts in Wood Fuel, a cruel joke, undeserving of further  discussion by serious-minded, intelligent citizens.

Hydroelectric from New River Dams, limited potential due to  seasonal undependability of small Vermont river flows. Also, most  likely, politically unfeasible. 

Nuclear Fission Power, extraordinarily expensive with minimum  twenty year time span from conceptual discussions to flipping the  power switch at a completed facility. Also a short—twenty year— safe operating life span plus a forty year shutdown and  decommissioning term. 

Wind, tried on a small scale in Vermont, but huge societal push back and hence politically unfeasible. 

Solar can be part of the solution when conjoined with a logical energy storage partner. 

Now, let’s discuss an existing viable replacement for fossil fuels. It’s hydrogen, folks. Handled properly it’s our environmentally  purest, safest, most cost effective, most logical replacement for  fossil fuels. 

First, brief hydrogen background. Hydrogen source—water— chemical formula H2O. Readily available, inexhaustible supplies, low cost. Each molecule of water has two hydrogen atoms, one  oxygen atom. A simplistic device called an electrolyzer separates the hydrogen from the oxygen in an environmentally acceptable  (green) manner. A low voltage electric current, such as that fed off  an array of solar panels causes the water molecules to separate  into hydrogen and oxygen. We easily, safely and cheaply collect  and store the hydrogen. The oxygen is a bonus extra released to  the atmosphere to augment (reportedly) declining natural stores. 

So where do Vermont fuel dealers come into the picture? Slowly,  painstakingly, augmented by state and federal grants, our fuel  dealers can be assisted by new Vermont legislative mandates (replacements for the failed concepts embodied in Senate S.5) in 

adding hydrogen storage, transport and dispensing facilities  alongside of their existing corresponding fossil fuel facilities. Over  time, a steady, undramatic transition of energy regimes occurs  with minimal upset to customary lifestyles of Vermont citizens. 

Background details. Hydrogen will soon be ready to play its role.  A large green hydrogen production facility is currently under  construction in the Town of Alabama, in Genesee County, in  upstate New York. That facility will produce green hydrogen using  hydroelectric power generated at existing Saint Lawrence River  facilities by the Power Authority of the State of New York (PASNY). Hydrogen should be available for sale by early 2025. 

But how do we get hydrogen from New York to Vermont fuel  dealers? In the same manner as most of our fossil fuels presently  come into Vermont—by ‘over-the-highway’ truck transport. 

But how do Vermont fuel dealers store hydrogen after transport into Vermont? In the same manner as most fossil fuels are  presently stored—in metal storage tanks. And here there is a  bonus. Hydrogen is very economical of storage space—for two  reasons. First, considered on a ‘per unit of mass’ basis, hydrogen  provides a third more energy than any of the fossil fuels. Second,  hydrogen, is customarily converted from a gas to a space saving  liquid for ease and safety of transport and storage. 

But surely there will be disturbing lifestyle changes if we adopt  hydrogen to replace fossil fuels! Very few. Minor. Read on. 

If you currently heat with natural gas, received via underground  pipeline, the gas company, after re-lining pipeline interiors with a  hydride shield coating will continue to supply your heating needs,  but with green hydrogen, not natural gas.

If you currently heat with propane, trucked to your home and  stored in tanks, your fuel supplier will switch out your propane  tank for a new hydride protected hydrogen storage tank. 

In either of the above cases, your existing furnace and/or gas  cook stove will need only minor interior retrofits, again for hydride  shielding. 

If you are currently ‘off the grid’, heating, lighting, powering  appliances, etc. via solar or wind, you can add an onsite hydrogen  storage tank and fuel cell to convert hydrogen to a reliable  electricity source. In a single summer you can store a year’s supply of hydrogen. 

Personal transportation? Are you among the many Vermonters appalled at the idea of battery powered electric automobiles with  all their attendant downsides? Consider switching to a hydrogen  auto. Toyota has been making them since 2017. Honda and  Hyundai are following Toyota’s lead. Go online and check it out.  No ‘hours-long-wait’ for a battery charge, just a five minute fill-up, same as always, at your regular filling station. 

Finally, go online. Check on the following hydrogen info:

  • Mike Strizki’s NJ personal home and his Hydrogen House California’s progress in hydrogen 
  • Safety of hydrogen on several YouTube videos 
  • The Green Hydrogen Coalition’s ‘Green Hydrogen Guidebook  

The author, a Saint Albans resident, is a retired Professional Engineer.

Categories: Commentary

9 replies »

  1. Not to be a gloomy gus but the combustion dangers of hydrogen are not trivial…think Hindenberg and space shuttle Challenger, but as with any energy source, the fuel must contain a lot of energy to be useful. We currently drive around in 15 gallon gasoline bombs and rarely experience car fires due to the care in engineering.
    Unfortunately, so far we have jumped right into standardizing battery powered electric cars without seriously considering hydrogen, either as an internal combustion motor fuel or as a source of electricity via hydrogen/oxygen fuel cells to run electric motor drive. Both currently exist but not on a practical level. As mentioned in the article, hydrogen can be fueled into a car just as quickly as gasoline, whereas the biggest deterrent to our battery storage electric vehicles is the long charge time. NASA figured out that hydrogen/oxygen fuel cells were much more practical than battery storage way back in the 1960s and a spacecraft has to carry along it’s own oxygen. A vehicle on Earth only needs to carry the hydrogen as the other half of the equation makes up 21% of the air. In any case, we need to set up the fueling infrastructure before there will be any mass appeal and changeover. Henry Ford made darn sure that the fuel infrastructure was well established before he mass produced affordable gasoline cars.

  2. Wow…..I’m betting no one in Montpelier could have ever predicted this!
    STOP electing people from NY, NJ, Chicago, Il., & California to “represent” you perhaps, Vermonters???
    People are sheeple. Especially in blue states. Utterly clueless electorate.

    • You nailed it with “utterly clueless electorate”…liberals in VT are so self-compelled to virtue signal that they do it even in the privacy and anonymity of the voting booth…

  3. Solar is a joke. The panels last maybe 15 years before they have to be replaced. And what about snow? Rain? Clouds? Last I checked Vermont has more of these in total than most other states, and most all northern tier states are similar.

    So what’s the answer? Zero-point energy… sometimes called energy from the vacuum. One coffee cup of zero point energy holds enough power to boil off all the world’s oceans. And a small zero-point unit can be attached easily to any dwelling or business. Oh, but zero-point energy is a conspiracy! Then why are all zero-point experiments and devices “classified”? How do you think a space traveler covers such vast distances without a “conventional” fuel load?. Zero-point. Energy from the vacuum, along with other rotating field technologies.

    The second choice, proven available and technically viable in the late 1980s, is cold fusion. Like nuclear, but not dangerous as in meltdowns or pollution. But it’s been “classified” and “gaslighted” by the government as well.

    With either of these technologies there is no pollution. None. Fake climate change narrative goes out the window. But we wouldn’t need oil or any fossil fuels, so big oil goes away too, along with all their associated infrastructure, and that’s why it hasn’t happened yet. People complain about windmills… perhaps rightfully so… as looking ugly, among other things. Can’t say I disagree. But have you ever noticed all the telephone poles, cell phone towers, and anything else that’s mostly above ground? Look closely. They’re just as ugly and view-defacing as windmills.

    But first, we need to escape the old ways of thinking. It can’t be done? Some scientists say it most definitely can be done. What would we lose if we let them try? Or is the government afraid they’ll succeed?

  4. I too am interested in hydrogen. As the owner of a welding supply company, I would be interested in hydrogen-powered delivery trucks and I already have a market for oxygen. Electric trucks do not currently have enough range to do my daily routes.

  5. Hydrogen is not an option anywhere near today’s energy costs. Most estimates put it at 4-5X more $$$ /net KWh. The costs to produce the green hydrogen must include energy required. This will be renewables investment with added capacity (4x the nameplate rating) to achieve rated demand, battery or other back-up for continuous operation (think 5 days without wind or sun), added capacity to charge/maintain said batteries.
    The handling of hydrogen is critical and hazard due to the very nature of the H molecule.
    If hydrogen becomes financially attractive, we are in deep trouble.

  6. Isn’t this great, people with knowledge talking and informing. This is why Vtgravedigger is a pathetic site. Over there people are kept in the dark, not allowed to speak or comment and served up only what the ideology allows. That’s why coming here each day is exciting and liberals are so miserably uninformed. The pulse of a state is in what the people do and know, not what some progressive moonbat thinks we should know.

  7. Worth a look but: hydrogen mines do not exist in nature. Hydrogen must be separated from methane gas at high temperature (produced by what?), or produced by electrolysis (using electricity produced from what?) Since we won’t put hydrogen through pipelines, it has to go into tankers – liquified at -320 F. (What powers the compressors?) Putting it into the heavy cryotank in your car would be pretty dicey., as would having a hydrogen tank in your yard. It takes a LOT of electricity to produce usable hydrogen. Not the answer. The best answer is modular Gen IV nuclear (or possibly integrated fast breeder), that has been strangled by regulation urged on by its light water nuclear competitors, including GE, where I worked in the Atomic Power Equipment Division as an atomic physicist 60 years ago.

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