News Wire: UK to test hydrogen-powered trainsets by 2020

2653 views
16 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
Moderator
  • Member since
    January, 2011
  • From: Wisconsin
  • 1,067 posts
Posted by Brian Schmidt on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 12:43 PM

LONDON — The United Kingdom's Rail Safety and Standards Board says hydrogen-powered trains in the U.K. are possible by 2020. The standards board's chief, Mark Phillips made the comment in response to a speech from U.K. Rail Minister Jo Johnson...

http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2018/02/14-uk-to-test-hydrogen-powered-trainsets-in-2019

Brian Schmidt, Associate Editor Trains Magazine

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,868 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, February 17, 2018 7:44 PM

The Germans tried hydrogen powered cars about ten or so years ago, and to my knowledge gave them up as a "dead end,"  it took so much energy to produce the hydrogen fuel there was no environmental benefit at all, to say nothing of the expense, or so I've heard.

Maybe frequent poster Volker Landwehr from Germany could tell us something about this?  He's closer to the site, after all.

  • Member since
    December, 2005
  • From: Cardiff, CA
  • 2,930 posts
Posted by erikem on Monday, February 19, 2018 10:14 PM

I got a ride in a Toyota fuel mini-van about 3 1/2 years ago, not too different of an experience than a battery electric. Not too many plaes to refuel, nearest one is about 6 miles south of here.

I suppose that making hydrogen is a good way of dealing with surplus "renewable" power, say when the wind is blowing at the same time there is barely a cloud in the sky.

  • Member since
    September, 2008
  • 1,039 posts
Posted by aegrotatio on Saturday, February 24, 2018 10:13 PM

One thing that lots of people get wrong is that Hydrogen is a clean fuel. It is not. Hydrogen fuel cells are merely glorified batteries. The fact that Hydrogen requires as much power as it consumes is the definition of Hydrogen as a fuel. It's just a delivery method for energy from another source.

 

It also happens to be one of the most efficient in terms of energy transmission but definitely is not in energy storage, i.e., it's not dense enough.

  • Member since
    December, 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 8,932 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Sunday, February 25, 2018 8:27 PM

Just an inefficient way energy wise to convert energy to HP. 

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 123 posts
Posted by IslandMan on Saturday, March 17, 2018 8:59 AM

'Hydrogen power' seems to be something of a fetish in certain circles, especially amongst environmentalists and politicians.  Since hydrogen per se does not exist in significant amounts in nature it has to be manufactured, either from fossil fuels or from electricity.  If it is manufactured from fossil fuels, this would actually result in more carbon dioxide produced than from using the fossil fuels directly, unless carbon capture and storage becomes practicable. Producing hydrogen by electrolysis merely converts one convenient energy vector inefficiently into another.

Hydrogen as a transport fuel either has to be compressed, or liquified, or converted to a metal hydride.  Although hydrogen is energy-dense by weight, by volume its energy density is poor.  The weight of the containment vessels for hydrogen as a compressed gas or as a liquid nullify the high energy content by mass of the hydrogen itself.  Metal hydride storage suffers from the same problem.

Electricity would best be used to charge batteries if conventional electrification were too expensive.  The ideal battery would probably be lithium-air as this system has the maximum theoretical energy density by mass.  

Using natural gas is probably the best 'intermediate' solution as natural gas is cheap, non-polluting and produces the lowest amount of carbon dioxide per unit of energy of any fossil fuel.

If non-carbon based sources of energy did become cheap and abundant and batteries and/or conventional electrification left a significant gap in the transport fuel market then a better candidate than hydrogen might be ammonia.  This gas can be easily liquified, rather like propane. Ammonia can be burned, but is not readily flammable. Unlike hydrogen it has a very strong smell so leaks would be easily detectable without scientific instruments. It is lighter than air so spillages and leaks would tend to disperse quickly. 

 

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 6,366 posts
Posted by Overmod on Saturday, March 17, 2018 10:17 AM

IslandMan
Electricity would best be used to charge batteries if conventional electrification were too expensive.  The ideal battery would probably be lithium-air as this system has the maximum theoretical energy density by mass.  

You need to start reading the actual reference in these stories before discussing technologies.  These railcars DO use obligate electrical charging, via fuel cells, and are not designed to support on-board reformation or other technology needed to run a fuel cell from a liquid carrier fuel.  (It might be added that the hydrogen fueling is subcontracted to Linde, perhaps with some fixed guarantees, so it represents little if any financial risk or 'gotcha' to potential operators.)

Lithium-air batteries pose their own accident hazards, and as I recall still have to be somewhat expensively remanufactured at the end of their 'discharge cycle'.  (They are an interesting alternative for some "BEV" applications, but do not assist with regenerative-braking recovery)

 No one but a moron would use large amounts of ammonia as a fuel in a road vehicle full of people operating anywhere it might be subject to wreck or collision.  Hydrided hydrogen might have invisible flare without markers, and a dubious range of explosive limit on gas released, but is not an acknowledged PIH at relatively low concentration (among other things).

  • Member since
    April, 2003
  • 302,135 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, March 17, 2018 11:07 AM

I've overlooked this thread till now.

The German state Lower Saxony has ordered 14 Alstom iLint for revenue commuter and regional service starting in 2021. https://futurism.com/hydrogen-powered-trains-are-coming-to-germany-in-2021/
Electric trains or cars are not per se less polutant than diesel trains. As long as electricity comes from fossil power plants there is no large difference in the ecobalance. Only with renewable energies like wind, sun, water there are no pollutants.

But with electric vehicles one can keep emissions out of the highest contaminated cities as power plants here have stacks between 600 ft and 1,000 ft high distributing the emissions over a wide area and diluting them this way.

Germany tries to convert to renewable energy as fast as possible. Currently we have days when wind power plants produce more electricity than the grid can take. The plants than are shut down because the lack of storage. Hydrogen is one possible way of storing surplus wind energy for times with apower need.

Not necessarily economic but much better than shutting down wind mills.

Compared to batteries hydrogen has the advantage of very fast refueling.

Natural gas is not the best solution for all countries. Germany has to import almost all of it while we could produce our own hydrogen.

We have have experience with cars with hydrogen internal combustion engine since about 20 years without problems I heard of. The technology isn't wide spread partly for the lack of refueling stations. It is similar with loading stations for electric cars. There are not enough loading station because there are not too many cars. And electric cars are not bought because of the lack of loading stations.

Currently one of Germany's largest utility Innogy tests a passenger vessel with a methanol fuel-cell on a water reservoir near Essen. The methanol is produced at the retaining dam using electricity from water power, CO2 filtered from the air, and water. http://serenergy.com/the-first-methanol-fuel-cell-powered-vessel-in-germany-is-now-sailing-the-waters-of-lake-baldeneysee/

All power storage systems are less efficient than the direct use of the energy but with the use of electricityproduction less predictable and controllable than fosill power plants we have to use every storage technology that is available now. Better one may be available later but till then you take what you have. Especially as pumped storage hydro power stations are almost impossilbe to build in our world of nimbys.
Regards, Volker

 

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 6,366 posts
Posted by Overmod on Saturday, March 17, 2018 11:40 AM

There is specific mention in at least one of the iLINT references that the Linde hydrogen-supply infrastructure will use 'surplus' power from the large German installed base of wind turbines.

Perhaps interesting: a couple of decades ago much of the discussion of carrier-hydrogen generation revolved around 'too cheap to meter' nuclear power -- not electricity, as in the French TGV power source, but relatively high-grade as well as 'waste' heat for thermal conversion.  Germany has intentionally foregone nuclear technology of either sort, but has a perfectly good alternate source of relatively-difficult-to-wheel electricity that can be 'captured' at least short-term in carrier form.

Methanol reforming is a relatively mature technology, although I confess the use of single-carbon alcohol with H2O2 in one of the direct-steam cycles is more fun than boring old PEM.  I think it is far more appropriate for shipboard packaging, though, than the relatively restricted space and weight and access requirements needed for railcar-scale use.  If the Linde outsourced fuel deal were not in play, reforming would probably make much more sense.

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 123 posts
Posted by IslandMan on Saturday, March 17, 2018 6:27 PM

[quote user="Overmod"

 

 No one but a moron would use large amounts of ammonia as a fuel in a road vehicle full of people operating anywhere it might be subject to wreck or collision.  Hydrided hydrogen might have invisible flare without markers, and a dubious range of explosive limit on gas released, but is not an acknowledged PIH at relatively low concentration (among other things).

 

[/quote]

 

It appears a few "morons" have been investigating ammonia as a transport fuel:

https://wcroc.cfans.umn.edu/displacing-diesel-fuel

http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/2017101810042/uwa-18-million-deal-china-research-ammonia-clean-fuel

 

https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.bing.com/&httpsredir=1&article=2119&context=etd

- Perhaps you'd like to contact the professors concerned, to put them right.

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 6,366 posts
Posted by Overmod on Saturday, March 17, 2018 9:33 PM

Academic interest makes it no less practically moronic.

Of course there are moronic aspects to using relatively high-concentration H2O2 in transportation applications, too, so I don't claim superior intellectual morality.  But an 'ammonia economy' of any particular diesel-displacing value is an awful price to pay for a nominal "carbon-free carrier fuel" when it is really fossil carbon, not carbon combustion per se, that is even an issue in legitimate AGW.

A large piece of the issue is that academics largely assume that all transfers will be perfect and fueling-system integrity will be maintained perfectly over time (compelled if necessary).  That is unlikely to be the case, and while a little #2 diesel stink and foaming is tolerable, the ammonia equivalent is not.  This before catastrophic accident, spillage, or diversion of the sort that has to be applied for H2O2 into TATP.

I have to chuckle a bit at the idea of catalytic dissociation of NH3 to feed a PEM fuel cell on a farm tractor as something that would sell as an economic proposal either to individual farmers or ag business.  On the other hand, looking at the use of hydrogen from hydride reservoirs for promotion of, say, biodiesel combustion, and then the use of SCR for NOx reduction, there may be a place for ammonia rather than urea as "DEF" in a combustion economy.

 

  • Member since
    December, 2005
  • From: Cardiff, CA
  • 2,930 posts
Posted by erikem on Saturday, March 17, 2018 11:34 PM

Overmod

There is specific mention in at least one of the iLINT references that the Linde hydrogen-supply infrastructure will use 'surplus' power from the large German installed base of wind turbines.

That does sound like a good use for surplus wind and solar electric energy, suspect that the cost of storing a MW-hr of hydrogen is probably cheaper than a MW-hr of battery. I also remember discussing this idea during my ride in the Toyota fuel cell car.

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • 627 posts
Posted by tdmidget on Sunday, March 18, 2018 2:16 AM

Since the effiency of providing hydrogen as a compressed fuel for internal combustion engines is less than 17%, it looks pretty bleak. Then you have to consider the efficiency of the "renewable" source, especially the manufacturing cost, both fiscal and environmental, to have any realistic value. It is a waste of time to even consider it

  • Member since
    April, 2003
  • 302,135 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, March 19, 2018 1:28 PM

tdmidget
Since the effiency of providing hydrogen as a compressed fuel for internal combustion engines is less than 17%, it looks pretty bleak.

The trains we talk about use hydrogen fuel cells with 40 to 60% efficiency.

Europe already has the wind power plants sometimes producing more electricity than the grid can take. Now you have two choices: shut the wind parks down or store the excessive energy.

We want to rid of fossil energy so we have to store renewable energy for time the wind is down. Hydrogen production is one way till there are more effective solutions.

It is not a question of efficiency but of feasability.
regards, Volker

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 6,366 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, March 19, 2018 7:32 PM

tdmidget

Since the effiency of providing hydrogen as a compressed fuel for internal combustion engines is less than 17%, it looks pretty bleak. Then you have to consider the efficiency of the "renewable" source, especially the manufacturing cost, both fiscal and environmental, to have any realistic value. It is a waste of time to even consider it.

It's as if he didn't read any of the material about iLINT, didn't bother with the discussion, pulled up a couple of straw arguments, but comments as if it were applicable.

These trainsets use PEM fuel cells directly to traction-battery charge.  You could do a well-to-wheel economy analysis for them on that basis, which I would be interested to read.

Most of the hydrogen-carrier energy costs, in this model, are either amortized by Linde (and factored into the price of fueling) or were underwritten by the German state or other entities replacing nuclear with renewable ... largely the wind turbines cited in the references.

The wind turbines themselves are subsidizedfor baseline grid power, so there is effectively zero marginal cost for the generating capital.  Even if you assign a pro-rata share of  the wind turbine maintenance to off-peak carrier fuel synthesis... you're not looking at very high monetizable marginal cost of energy, and this can be legitimately factored into the 'efficiency' of a given mass of carrier fuel.

  • Member since
    December, 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 8,932 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, March 24, 2018 3:45 AM

VOLKER LANDWEHR

Europe already has the wind power plants sometimes producing more electricity than the grid can take. Now you have two choices: shut the wind parks down or store the excessive energy.

. Hydrogen production is one way till there are more effective solutions.

It is not a question of efficiency but of feasability.
regards, Volker 

Now that is a good reason; how ever Hydrogen might be more effectively used in natural gas pipeline service.  That would decrease the reliance of Europe for Russian natural gas ?  

  • Member since
    April, 2003
  • 302,135 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, March 24, 2018 4:13 AM

I don't think so, as the ratio of hydrogen in a natural gas pipeline is limited to 5% for technical reason.

The techique is just evolving so we'll see what time brings. Currently we still shut down wind parks in times with oversupply. Energy storage is the still unsolved problem with renewable energies at least at a high volume rate.
Regards, Volker

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy