Fuel Cells and Hydrogen
Hydrogen is a widely-used industrial gas. Fuel cells are a ‘sister’ technology to batteries. Together they provide zero emission power on demand and have an important role to play in low-carbon, low-emissions transport and energy systems.
- Hydrogen is safely used in many industrial processes including glass-making, oil refining and electronics manufacture.
- Over 50 million tons of hydrogen are already produced every year, enough to propel every one of the estimated 1 billion cars on the world’s roads about 6,000km per year.
- Hydrogen can be produced without carbon emissions from renewable electricity through electrolysis of water, or by reforming natural gas with carbon capture and storage, or by reforming bio-gas.
- In transport applications, hydrogen gas is typically compressed to high pressure (350 or 700 bar) to increase energy density.
- Hydrogen can be distributed as compressed gas, as cryogenic liquid or combined in a synthetic ‘fuel’.
- Hydrogen can be produced on-site (e.g. at a refuelling station) by electrolysis of water.
- Stored energy in hydrogen can be released by combustion, or more cleanly, by a fuel cell.
- Fuel cells are a ‘sister’ technology to batteries – both are electrochemical devices which directly convert stored chemical energy in to electricity.
- The key difference is where the chemical energy is stored – in a battery it is stored inside, whereas in a fuel cell it is stored separately in a fuel tank.
- The most common fuel cells use hydrogen as a fuel. Others can run on natural gas or methanol.
- During operation fuel cells generate both electricity and heat. The heat can be harvested e.g. for heating the passenger compartment on vehicles, increasing overall system efficiency and maintaining full range in cold weather.
Arcola Energy has over a decade’s experience integrating and deploying fuel cell systems for applications ranging from portable lighting to stationary combined heat and power generation to cars and buses.