FUELFORTHOUGHT

How INEOS could help drive the Hydrogen Economy

It has been talked about for decades. But finally, a hydrogen-fuelled economy is no longer seen as just a lot of hot air. Already, some buses in the UK, Germany, France and other countries run on hydrogen.

The big advantage of hydrogen is that when it is used as a fuel, it produces only water vapour. No CO2 or potentially harmful emissions are produced. This makes hydrogen vehicles much better for air quality in urban areas.

And the chemical industry, far from being side-lined in the development of a hydrogen economy, is very much involved. INEOS has a huge contribution to make. Today the company produces 250,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year. It is a co-product from producing chlorine and cracking gas and oil to make olefins and polymers. We currently use the hydrogen in a number of ways: to remove the sulphur from crude oil, as a raw material for other chemical processes, or as a fuel in our plants.

Once made, the hydrogen could be stored underground in the same way natural gas is stored today. For decades INOVYN has used salt cavities in Cheshire in the UK to store hydrocarbons and recently received government funding to continue with a feasibility study to look at new hydrogen generation and storage options, including a potential plan to build a 100MW power-to-gas energy storage facilities at Runcorn. 

We have the opportunity to develop a critical piece of national energy infrastructure at a huge cost reduction compared to above ground storage. Bespoke salt cavities could be created as part of our green economy.

The Grenadier, INEOS’ new 4 x 4, could be run on hydrogen.

Fuel cells are a bit like a cross between an internal-combustion engine and battery power.

Like an internal-combustion engine, they make power by using fuel from a tank (though the fuel is pressurized hydrogen gas rather than petrol or diesel). But, unlike an engine, a fuel cell doesn't burn the hydrogen. Instead, it's fused chemically with oxygen from the air to make water. In the process, which resembles what happens in a battery, electricity is released and this is used to power an electric motor (or motors) that can drive a vehicle. The only waste product is the water—and that's so pure you can drink it!

Think of fuel cells as batteries that never run flat. Instead of slowly depleting the chemicals inside them (as normal batteries do), fuel cells run on a steady supply of hydrogen and keep making electricity for as long as there's fuel in the tank.

The team behind the Grenadier have been given a £124,000 UK government grant to evaluate the use of hydrogen fuel cells as propulsion option.

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