Due to the growing demand for energy resources, the exhaustion of fossil fuels and the increasing level of pollution many countries head for the development of hydrogen economy in order to provide environmentally friendly fuel and power supply.
Here are the main advantages of hydrogen technologies: they are eco-friendly, the required resource base is practically inexhaustible, they can be applied in different spheres - energy, transport, power supply for electronic devices, etc. However, at the moment hydrogen technologies are not quality and efficient enough to replace traditional energy sources and traditional fuels.
To achieve this purpose it is suggested for research institutions to collaborate under the aegis of National Academy of Sciences, and to create an effective plan of action involving both public and private investment for its implementation. Besides, it is suggested to use the deposits of zirconium ore and rare earth elements and to involve the related branches of industry for production of fuel cells and other components of hydrogen systems. It is suggested to provide these enterprises and scientific research institutions with initial tax relief and other support. It is also suggested to take every opportunity to produce hydrogen in Ukraine.
Using hydrogen fuel is very promising, and heading for hydrogen economy would enable to develop energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies. The research activities must start right away to keep up the pace of global energy revolution. This would allow Ukraine to take its place among the advanced countries in the distribution and usage of hydrogen technologies instead of using outdated and inefficient technologies.
The increasing level of pollution simultaneous with the growing demand for energy resources urges the international community to effectively search for new energy technologies able to provide economically efficient energy with an acceptable level of pollution. Most experts believe that hydrogen economy could be the solution to these problems - hydrogen production and its usage in industry, construction, energy supply, transport and other spheres with the help of fuel cells (FC) would be the key to sustainable energy future [ 1, 2, 3].
Experts consider hydrogen economy to be a means of achieving the goals of the global energy revolution, therefore many developed countries invest heavily in the development and implementation of hydrogen technologies. The most intensive R&D and commercialization activities are carried out in the U.S., Canada, Japan and EU countries. All over the world there are many energy installations based on fuel cells that are capable of producing watts and megawatts of energy, and can already compete with energy installations based on traditional technologies. Many countries allocate funds to intensive long-term hydrogen programs. For example in the U.S. about $1 billion a year is allocated for the implementation of hydrogen economy. In most European countries, including Russia, activity in the sphere of hydrogen technologies and fuel cell development is rapidly intensifying.
In these countries a lot of attention is paid to the development of political and social awareness, education and training, in order to prepare the society for the new (hydrogen) direction in energy policy. Mostly these activities are conducted by various environmental organizations, as they draw authorities' attention to these problems, spread information among the population, causing the growing interest and trust to the new technologies.
Concerning hydrogen production it has to be mentioned that hydrogen is an energy carrier (or secondary energy) and in nature it exists only in various compounds, elemental hydrogen is rare on Earth. But the resource base for its production is practically unlimited. The required resource base includes water for electrolysis and practically all kinds of fossil fuels, biomass, industrial waste, domestic waste, etc.
The most popular technologies of hydrogen production are based on chemical, thermotechnical processes and electrolysis of water. But these technologies have some major disadvantages such as: the usage of high potential energy and fossil fuels and therefore environmental pollution. The main disadvantage of electrolysis of water is high electric energy consumption. Electrolytic hydrogen is the easiest to obtain, but it is also more expensive. Today, the most popular technology of producing hydrogen or mixtures of hydrogen and other gases is steam conversion of natural gas - methane, but this way almost half the initial volume of natural gas is consumed during the endothermic process of steam conversion. Therefore, the scientific community worldwide is involved in the intensive search after the new technologies of hydrogen production able to meet the modern requirements of economic and energy efficiency and environmental safety.
For instance, using the heat and electricity generated on nuclear power plants at night, when the level of consumption decreases, for hydrogen production would be quite profitable . The combination of electrolysis of water and renewable energy sources (solar, wind power) is also very promising. The other advisable technology of hydrogen production is based on the use of high-temperature helium reactor (HTHR). These reactors are being developed while carrying out the international project of constructing a nuclear reactor GT-MHR (Russia, USA, France), and they are expected to be environmentally safe .
Besides complications with hydrogen production, there are some problems with creating an economic and reliable storage system. Gas-pressurized system, cryogenic and metal hydride storage systems are considered to be the most likely solutions to this problem. To make the final choice of the storage system additional research and expertise are required.
The most promising sphere to implement hydrogen technologies is transport - hydrogen could replace hydrocarbon fuels. Hydrogen or hydrogen-containing mixtures could be also implemented in other spheres, such as: petroleum industry, chemical industry, metallurgy, food industry, housing and communal services, etc. Fuel cells used for decentralized stationary power supply and for transport fueling are becoming quite widespread all over the world.
In Ukraine, the research into hydrogen technologies is still in its infancy, despite the fact that a lot of scientific institutions are engaged in these protracted studies. The main obstacles in implementation of hydrogen economy in Ukraine are the following:
- There is no strategy of development of hydrogen economy, no national program supporting R&D and manufacturing hydrogen fuel cells or energy installations based on HFC, and there is no relevant legislation on the matter;
- No special-purpose governmental funds are allocated to fundamental and applied research and development on hydrogen economy;
- Industry is not developed enough and therefore it isn't ready for production of HFC and energy installations based on HFC;
- Private investors are not willing to subsidize fundamental and applied research;
- There is neither real governmental support nor clear and distinct public policy concerning environmentally friendly and resource-saving technologies.
One of the obvious advantages of implementing hydrogen economy in Ukraine would be the opportunity to achieve relative energy independence through converting domestic energy resources (coal, peat, shale, biomass, industrial waste, etc.) into hydrogen and subsequently using it to meet the country's energy needs. In this regard, we consider coal gasification to be the most promising technology of hydrogen production in Ukraine as there are sufficient domestic deposits. The product of gasification (hydrogen) can be used in fuel cells to produce electricity and heat for both decentralized and centralized power supply. Subterranean coal gasification would enable to convert coal into combustible gas containing hydrogen directly at the bowels. It would be also efficient to develop hybrid power supply - a system combining fuel cells, gas turbines and steam turbines [5, 6].
In Ukraine, it is also possible to obtain hydrogen as a byproduct in chemical, coke and oil refining industries; waste gases and various organic compounds can also be used to obtain hydrogen gas. There is such a production at "Ekoantylid" enterprise (in Dneprodzerzhynsk, Dnipropetrovsk region) where hydrogen, heavy and light water are produced. Using byproducts gives certain environmental benefits as energy obtained this way replaces energy that would otherwise be produced from fossil fuels.
Concerning environmental reasons to implement hydrogen economy, it must be noted that fuel cells terminate the hydrogen cycle, and the purity of previous stages depends on technology of conversion of raw materials, technology of hydrogen production, usage, storage, transportation, etc. Environmental benefits are indubitable if hydrogen is obtained using clean technologies (wind or solar power, hot springs and other renewable energy sources). Moreover, hydrogen technologies can provide unceasing electricity generation on solar and wind power plants during adverse weather conditions. FC-powered vehicles would improve urban ecology significantly; it is a well known fact that large cities are suffering a great deal because of the local concentration of motor vehicle emissions (internal combustion engine vehicles).
Hydrogen production (conversion, electrolysis), its transformation (compression, liquefaction or binding in hydrides), transportation to the point of use and use in fuel cells - each stage of this cycle requires energy, and that eventually defines the relatively low overall efficiency . Cycle based on the use of alternative energy sources (AES) is more efficient, but renewable energy is still quite expensive, as are hydrogen technologies and fuel cells. When these technologies become widespread and therefore cheaper, they can become competitive. The main problems to be solved before it happens are:
- Energy conversion efficiency and environmental safety have to be improved at all stages of the cycle (hydrogen production, manufacturing the components of fuel cells, converting fuel into electricity);
- The overall cost of use of hydrogen technologies has to be reduced;
- The service life of fuel cells has to extend;
- Industrial safety has to be improved at all stages of production, conversion, storage, transportation and use of hydrogen.
Therefore, at the moment hydrogen technologies are not quality and efficient enough to replace traditional energy sources and traditional fuels. However, the potential of hydrogen economy allows us to predict its widespread use in future.
Hydrogen technologies in autonomous power systems and transport, especially those combined with coal or biomass gasification, solar and wind energy are the most likely to be implemented in Ukraine in the near future . Ukrainian scientists should find their niche in international R&D projects connected with developing high-temperature reactor installations like HTHR for combined production of hydrogen and electricity.
Successful development of hydrogen technologies in Ukraine would enable to rationally use domestic energy resources, to diversify energy sources, to stop environmental degradation. It is also a means to implement high-tech world-class innovations, to develop the corresponding sector of industry and to enter the market with environmentally friendly technologies and equipment. This requires support, organization and funding of the existing research and development activities conducted in several institutes of NASU. These institutes are: Pidhorny Institute for Problems of Mechanical Engineering (the development of hydrogen production technologies), Frantsevich Institute for Problems of Materials Science (obtaining materials for fuel cells manufacturing, development of hydrogen storage systems, fuel cell development), Paton Electric Welding Institute (work with thin films, sealing fuel cell batteries by welding, study of metallic materials in hydrogen medium, manufacturing tanks for hydrogen storage, etc.), Karpenko Physico-Mechanical Institute (examining the mechanical characteristics of materials in different medias and at different temperatures), Institute of Gas (deep hydrogen purification, storage systems, development of hybrid hydrogen-solar plants), Vernadsky Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry (theoretical research related to hydrogen economy, synthesis of powders for fuel cells manufacturing), Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry (development of polymeric fuel cells), Dоnetsk Institute for Physics and Engineering (manufacturing zirconium ceramics for fuel cells), etc. To concentrate efforts on the development of hydrogen technologies it is suggested for research institutions to collaborate under the aegis of National Academy of Sciences, and to create an effective plan of action involving both public and private investment for its implementation. Domestic deposits of zirconium ore and rare earth elements and the related branches of industry can be used for the production of fuel cells and other components of hydrogen systems. It is suggested to provide these enterprises and scientific research institutions with initial tax relief and other support. This would allow Ukraine to take its place among the advanced countries in the distribution and usage of hydrogen technologies and to create jobs for highly skilled workers both in industry and in scientific research.
At the same time, it is necessary to take every opportunity to implement hydrogen technologies in Ukraine today. That means preserving those enterprises which produce hydrogen as a byproduct, using industrial waste, developing biotechnologies to obtain hydrogen, using the heat and electricity generated on nuclear power plants at night, when the level of consumption decreases, for hydrogen production. New technologies of producing motor fuel from coal (using hydrogen) should also be implemented . This would allow to use more domestic coal and coal waste, and to reduce oil imports thus reducing energy dependence of Ukraine. Due to the use of our own cheaper energy resources the domestic products will become more competitive on both home and foreign markets.
Thus, we can draw the following conclusions:
- The increasing level of pollution simultaneous with the growing demand for energy resources urges us to effectively search for new energy technologies able to provide economically efficient energy with an acceptable level of pollution.
- Using hydrogen fuel is very promising, and heading for hydrogen economy would enable to develop energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies.
- hydrogen economy is a promising direction of economic and energy sector development for Ukraine. In future hydrogen would be able to replace hydrocarbon energy sources and to reduce energy dependence of the country. The research activities must start right away as this would probably be a long-term process.
- The main task is to develop efficient technologies of hydrogen production and storage, create competitive hydrogen energy installations.
The following can be done in order to intensify hydrogen economy implementation in Ukraine:
- It is suggested for research institutions to collaborate under the aegis of National Academy of Sciences, and to create an effective plan of action involving both public and private investment for its implementation;
- It is also suggested to take every opportunity to produce hydrogen in Ukraine (to use all the scientific, industrial, natural resources);
- It is suggested to use the deposits of zirconium ore and rare earth elements and to involve the related branches of industry for production of fuel cells and other components of hydrogen systems;
- It is suggested to provide these enterprises and scientific research institutions with initial tax relief and other support;
- It is suggested to carry out various activities to develop political and social awareness, to improve education and training, in order to prepare the society for the new (hydrogen) direction in energy policy;
- It is suggested for Presidential Administration to give relevant proposals and orders to the National Academy of Sciences and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.
Regional branch of NISS in Dnepropetrovsk
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Director of the DB NISS A.I. Shevtsov
Head of department M.G. Zemlyany
Senior research fellow V.V. Verbynskyy