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(E) Hydrogen As Fuel
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  01/29/2002 | Education | Unrated
(E) Hydrogen As Fuel
Neke brojke za one koje interesira ova tema 
R. M. Santilli 
Hydrogen International Conference, Munich 2000. 
We recall that the use of hydrogen as fuel does resolve the 
environmental problems of fossil fuels due to excessive emissions of 
carcinogenic substances and carbon dioxide. However, the combustion of 
hydrogen originating from regeneration processes (e.g., from natural 
gas) implies the permanent removal from our atmosphere of oxygen in a 
directly usable form, a serious environmental problem called oxygen 
depletion, since the combustion turns hydrogen and oxygen into water 
whose separation to restore the original oxygen balance is prohibitive 
due to cost. We then show that a conceivable global use of hydrogen from 
the indicated regeneration origin in complete replacement of fossil 
fuels would imply the permanent removal from our atmosphere of 
2.8875x107 metric tons of O2 /day, with consequential termination of all 
life forms in our planet in a few years. 
As is well known, gasoline combustion requires atmospheric oxygen, which 
is then turned into CO2 and various HydroCarbon (HC). In turn, CO2 is 
recycled by plants via the known reaction 
H2O + CO2 +(hv) -> O2 + (-(CH2O)-), which restores oxygen in the 
atmosphere. Essentially this was the scenario at the beginning of the 
20th century. The same scenario at the beginning of the 20th century is 
dramatically different, because forests have rapidly diminished while we 
have reached the following unreassuringly daily consumption of crude oil 
74.18 million of barrel per day = (1) 
 = (74.18 million barrels/24h)x(55 gallons/barrel) = 4.08x109 gallons/24h 
= 1.54x 1013 cc/24h (using 4 quarts/gallon and 946 cc/quart) = 
= (4.08 x 109 gallons)x(4 qrt./gallon)x(946 cc/qrt.)/day = 1.5438 x 
1013 cc/day 
= (1.5438 x 1013 cc/day)x(0.7028 grams/cc)= 1.0850 x 1013 grams octane/day 
= (1.0850 x 1013 grams)/(114.23 grams/mole) = 9.4984 x 1010 moles 
(see, e.g., where 
we have replaced, for simplicity, crude oil with a straight chain of 
n-octanes CH3-(CH2)6-CH3 with the known density of 0.7028 g/cc at 20o C. 
It should be indicated that data (1) do not include the additional large 
use of natural gas and coals, which would bring the daily combustion of 
all fossil fuel to the equivalent of about 120 million barrels of crude 
oil per day. 
 The primary environmental problems caused by the above disproportionate 
consumption of fossil fuel per day are the following: 
            1) Excessive emission of carcinogenic and other toxic 
substances in the combustion exhaust. It is well known by experts that 
gasoline combustion releases in our atmosphere the largest percentage of 
carcinogenic and other toxic substances as compared to any other source. 
The terms "atmospheric pollution" are an euphemism for very toxic breathing. 
            2) Excessive release of carbon dioxide. It is evident that, 
under the very large daily combustion (1), plants cannot recycle the 
entire production of CO2, thus resulting in an alarming increase of CO2 
in our atmosphere, an occurrence known as green house effect. In fact, 
by using the known reaction C8H18 + (25/2)O2 -> 8 CO2 + 9 H2O, we have 
the following alarming daily production of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion: 
(9.4984 x 1010 moles C8H18)x(8/1)/day = 7.5987 x 1011 moles CO2/day = 
= (7.5987 x 1011 moles) x (0.044 Kg/mole)/day= 3.3434 x 107 Kg/day 
= (2) 
= (3.3434 x 1010 Kg/day)/(1000 Kg/metric ton) = 3.3434x107 metric tons/day 
It is evident that plants cannot possibly recycle such a 
disproportionate amount of daily production of CO2. This has implied a 
considerable increase of CO2 in our atmosphere which can be measured by 
any person seriously interested in the environment via the mere purchase 
of a CO2 meter, and then compare current readings of CO2 with standard 
values on record, e.g., the percentage of CO2 in our atmosphere at sea 
level in 1950 was 0.033 % ± 0.01 % (see, e.g., Encyclopedia Britannica 
of that period). Along these lines, in our laboratory in Florida we 
measured a thirty fold increase of CO2 in our atmosphere over the 
indicated standard. We assume the reader is aware of recent TV reports 
of; an occurrence, which has never been observed before. Increasingly 
catastrophic climactic events are known to everybody. 
            3) Excessive removal of directly usable oxygen from our 
atmosphere, an environmental problem of fossil fuel combustion, which is 
lesser known than the green house effect, even among environmentalists, 
but potentially more serious. The problem is called oxygen depletion, 
and refers to the difference between the oxygen needed for the 
combustion less that expelled in the exhaust. By using again the 
reaction C8H18 + (25/2)O2 -> 8 CO2 + 9 H2O and data (2), it is easy to 
obtain the following additionally alarming daily use of oxygen for the 
combustion of fossil fuel 
(9.4984 x 1010 moles octane/day)x(12.5 moles O2/1 mole octane) = 
= 1.1873 x 1012 moles of O2/day = (1.1873 x 1012 moles of O2)x(0.032 
Kg/mole O2)= (3) 
= 3.7994 x 1010 kg O2/day = 3.7994 x 107 metric tons/day. 
            Again, this large volume of oxygen is turned by the 
combustion into CO2 of which only an unknown part is recycled by plants 
into usable oxygen. Thus, the actual and permanent oxygen depletion 
caused by fossil fuel combustion in our planet is currently unknown. 
However, it should be indicated that the very existence of the green 
house effect is unquestionable evidence of oxygen depletion, because we 
are dealing precisely with the quantity of CO2 which has not been 
re-converted into O2 by plants. 
            Oxygen depletion is today measurable by any person seriously 
interested in the environment via the mere purchase of an oxygen meter, 
measure the local percentage of oxygen, and then compare the result to 
standards on record, e.g., the oxygen percentage in our atmosphere at 
sea level in 1950 was 20.946% ± 002% (see, e.g., Encyclopedia Britannica 
of that period). Along these lines, in our laboratory in Florida we 
measure a local oxygen depletion of 3%-5%. Evidently, bigger oxygen 
depletions are expected for densely populated areas, such as Manhattan, 
London, and Tokyo, or at high elevation. We assume the reader is aware 
of the recent decision by U.S. airlines to lower the altitude of their 
flights despite the evident increase of cost. This decision has been 
apparently motivated by oxygen depletion, e.g., fainting spells due to 
insufficient oxygen suffered by passengers during flights at previous 
higher altitudes. 
            The purpose of this note is to indicate that, whether used 
for direct combustion or in fuel cells, hydrogen produced from 
regeneration methods (e.g., from natural gas) does avoid the release 
carcinogenic substances and carbon dioxide in the exhaust, but causes an 
alarming oxygen depletion which is considerably bigger than that caused 
by fossil fuel combustion under the same energy output. This depletion 
is due to to the fact that gasoline combustion turns atmospheric oxygen 
into CO2 part of which is recycled by plants into O2, while hydrogen 
combustion turns atmospheric oxygen into H2O. This process permanently 
removes oxygen from our atmosphere in a directly usable form due to the 
excessive cost of water separation to restore the original oxygen balance. 
            By assuming, for simplicity, that gasoline is solely 
composed of one octane C8H18, thus ignoring other isomers, the 
combustion of one mole of H2 gives 68.32 Kcal, while the combustion of 
one mole of octane produces 1,302.7 Kcal. Thus, we need 19.07 = 1302.7 / 
68.32 moles of H2 to produce the same energy of one mole of octane. 
            In turn, the combustion of 19.07 moles of H2 requires 9.535 
moles of O2, while the combustion of one mole of octane requires 12.5 
moles of O2. Therefore, on grounds of the same energy release, the 
combustion of hydrogen requires less oxygen than gasoline (about 76% of 
the oxygen consumed by the octane). 
            The alarming oxygen depletion occurs, again, because of the 
fact that the combustion of hydrogen turns oxygen into water, by 
therefore permanently removing usable oxygen from our planet. When used 
in modest amounts, the combustion of hydrogen constitutes no appreciable 
environmental problem. However, when used in large amounts, the 
combustion of hydrogen produced via regenerative methods is potentially 
catastrophic on environmental grounds, because oxygen is the foundation 
of life. 
            At the limit, a global combustion of hydrogen of 
regenerating origin in complete replacement of fossil fuels would render 
our planet uninhabitable in a short period of time. In fact, such a vast 
use would imply the permanent removal from our atmosphere of 76% of the 
oxygen currently consumed to burn fossil fuels, i.e., from Eqs. (2) and 
(3), we would have the following permanent oxygen depletion due to 
global hydrogen combustion: 
76% oxygen used for fossil fuel combustion = (4) 
= 2.8875 x 107 metric tons O2 depleted/day. 
In addition, one should take into account the quantitatively similar 
oxygen depletion caused by the production of electricity, resulting in a 
truly catastrophic oxygen depletion which would imply the termination of 
any life on Earth within a few years. 
             Predictably, the above feature of hydrogen combustion has 
alarmed environmental groups, labor unions, and other concerned people. 
As an illustration, calculations show that, in the event all fuels in 
Manhattan were replaced by hydrogen, the local oxygen depletion would 
cause heart failures, with evident large financial liabilities and legal 
implications for hydrogen suppliers. 
            In addition to the above catastrophic oxygen depletion, 
hydrogen produced via regenerating processes has additional, equally 
serious environmental problems of carcinogenic and CO2 emission pointed 
out by P. Spath and M. Mann of the U. S. National Renewable Energy 
Laboratory at the recent International Hydrogen Energy Forum 2000 [1]. 
            The combustion of hydrogen produced from the electrolytic 
separation of water via electricity originating from conventional power 
plants, has similar environmental problems. In fact, the original 
separation of the water, and its subsequent recombination in the 
combustion does indeed preserve the original oxygen balance. However, an 
oxygen depletion greater than that of Eq. (4) is caused by the 
combustion of fossil fuels to produce the electricity needed for the 
separation of water. Moreover, the combustion of fossil fuels in primary 
power plants implies the emission of large amounts of carcinogenic 
substances and carbon dioxide. As a result, the automotive use of 
hydrogen whose production requires electricity originating from 
conventional power plants is more polluting than gasoline. 
            The only environmentally acceptable use of hydrogen as fuel 
is that produced via the separation of water whose electricity 
originates from clean, renewable, primary sources of energy, such as 
wind and solar energies, as suggested by the BMW Group for their 
hydrogen powered car [2]. Unfortunately, the latter sources of primary 
energy have insufficient production capabilities for large scale 
automotive use of hydrogen. This scenario implies that the primary 
environmental problems currently rest with primary sources of energy, 
thus suggesting primary research efforts in the search of new clean 
energy for the production of electricity 
Tu cekamo i napredak na polju supravodljivosti. 
Zdravko Dokuzovic 
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  • Comment #1 (Posted by Carol)

    This article helped me to understand the other side of using Hydrogen as a solution for alternative fuel. Given the information I have just read, I now understand why this has not yet come LARGELY into existence. We depend highly upon Oxygen and Water. If we take the hydrogen from the water, we will further limit our water, food and as you have well stated, existence. I was pretty set on lets get hydrogen into our vehicles, until I read about the storage capacity required compared to gas, and the life cycle reaction it would have. We need a solution to alternative fuel and fast, but have to consider the long term consequences. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge. I truly care about recycling of the earth and that the earth is replenished of natural things, NOT depleted.
    Thanks for your wisdom.
  • Comment #2 (Posted by John)

    This article is sad in how little real science is understood by the author. I can accept fossil fuels changing O2 to CO2 with the plant life unable to keep up with the conversion back. I cannot accept the regenerative hydrogen from non-fossil fuel sources as "removing oxygen permanently." All the oxygen consumed by hydrogen generated by water (through electrolysis, for instance) was PRODUCED by the hydrogen generation in the first place. When our atmospheric percentages change from >20% oxygen and <0.04% CO2 to 15% O2 and 5% CO2, we still don't need to worry about oxygen depletion before the excessive CO2 kills us. IT JUST WON'T HAPPEN because our CO2 content is so low. The oxygen is here to stay. CO2 as a greenhouse gas is a concern, but is not a toxicity issue.
  • Comment #3 (Posted by Billy)

    After reading this work I was appalled at my previous thoughts of Hydrogen power replacing fossil fueled vehicles. Then I read it again. According to your writing, it is better for the retention of oxygen on our planet to continue with the use of fossil fuels than to remove hydrogen from water via electrolysis? I think not. Maybe you should remove the deposit slips from large energy companies from your wallet before you write. It would probably uncloud your minds opinion on this matter.
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