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Carbon-free H2 Energy Production and Storage (CHEPS)


The roadblock to widespread use of hydrogen as energy fuel is that cheap hydrogen production technologies pollute the environment, while green production technologies are not feasible economically. Breakthroughs in science and engineering are necessary to invent, develop and deploy innovative production methods that will be both affordable and green.   

While “green hydrogen” production is currently achieved through electrolytic processes, these are more than three times as expensive as production through steam reforming of natural gas, which however emits more carbon dioxide than hydrogen produced. Research in new catalytic processes is needed to utilize low cost and abundant natural gas, while achieving zero carbon emissions and green hydrogen production standards. Recent advances in reaction engineering promise to produce pure hydrogen and solid carbon from methane and ethane gas (see Figure 1). The carbon produced in the process can be a value-added product, like graphene or carbon nanotubes, or a powder in solid state to be easily sequestered. Transportation of the produced hydrogen to the point of consumption can be facilitated by different approaches: either injection into depleted gas reservoirs and subsequent transportation through retrofitted, or by chemically transforming hydrogen into a different compound that can be readily transported to the point of consumption where hydrogen can be recovered on-site. Realization of such a plan requires investment in the solution of a series of scientific problems to produce hydrogen in a safe, cost-effective, and efficient manner. 

Production of pure H2 from methane in a molten metal reactor
Figure 1. Production of pure H2 from methane in a molten metal reactor (left) and carbon production of value-added products (center: single-walled carbon nanotubes; right: carbon nanotube forests on spheres.


The proposed natural gas-based approach will also ensure the maintenance of current oil and gas jobs (for example 55,000 jobs currently in Oklahoma), while avoiding the addition of vast amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (both methane and carbon dioxide are extreme greenhouse pollutants). Hydrogen-related job creation is estimated in the range of 700,000-1,000,000 new jobs over a decade  [1]. Developing a skilled work-force for hydrogen production, storage and transportation, and questions about the dynamics of the socio-environmental system that such technologies will create also need to be investigated. Research and development towards an integrated solution of the technical and social problems for carbon-zero production of hydrogen will bring transformative solutions to our State, will create jobs, and will prepare Oklahoma to be energy diversified and environmentally friendly in the future. 

[1] Bezdek, R.H., “The hydrogen economy and jobs of the future”, Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability, 4, Art 1, 2019.