Before we enthusiastically invest in hydrogen as part of the “decarbonization” strategy suggested by Rich Powell,several mitigating factors should be considered (“Hydrogen investments may be key to global energy competitiveness for U.S.,” Web, Nov. 23).

Hydrogen is not a primary fuel like methane, oil or coal, and it is expensive to produce, transport and store. Hydrogen must be manufactured by one of several methods, each of which is highly energy-intensive. If by electrolysis, then hydrogen production results in carbon dioxide as a byproduct, unless the electricity comes from something other than “fossil” fuels. The enormous amounts of electricity required would compete with electric vehicles for resources.

Because electrolysis is so impractical, hydrogen is produced commercially for industrial applications via an energy-intensive, methane-steam process using nickel as a catalyst. Again, carbon dioxide is a byproduct. It would make no sense to use the resultant hydrogen for combustion since it would have less energy than the original methane. Regardless, even more energy would be needed for capture and sequestration of the carbon dioxide.

Something else to consider: Unlike natural gas (i.e., methane) there is no existing nationwide pipeline distribution system for hydrogen. Nor is there likely to be such a pipeline since long exposure to hydrogen makes steel brittle and vulnerable to rupture. For this reason, compressed hydrogen is currently distributed by specially equipped trucks, many more of which would be needed to transport the amounts being discussed.

For these and several other reasons, hydrogen may not be such a good investment.



ROGER JOHNSON

Kensington, Md.

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