Hydrogen is a flexible energy carrier that can be produced from a variety of domestic energy resources and used in all sectors of the economy. An energy system based on domestic energy resources, using hydrogen as a carrier and deployed on a large scale, if accomplished, could improve energy security, air quality, and greenhouse gas management. Such a system will require development across a spectrum of complementary technologies for hydrogen production, transportation, storage, and use.
Today, hydrogen is generated for use in a variety of applications, the most significant of which are the refining of crude oil into commercial liquid fuels and the production of fertilizers and high-value chemicals. Accordingly, a great deal of practical commercial experience exists for producing, transporting, and using hydrogen.
The DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has created a new program office, the Office of Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, and Infrastructure Technologies. The committee applauds DOE for providing one office as the focus for the hydrogen-related programs conducted under different DOE organizations. The purpose of this office is to facilitate overall strategic program direction, coordinate individual hydrogen-related activities across various DOE organizations, promote outreach to the public and private sectors, and coordinate with stakeholder partners.3 An example of a coordination activity is the National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap (November 2002) .
The committee offers four recommendations based on its information gathering and deliberations thus far. Reflecting serious needs in DOE’s program identified in an initial assessment by the committee, these recommendations may be refined and expanded upon in the committee’s final report. They address a systems approach to hydrogen energy RD&D, exploratory research as the foundation for breakthroughs in technology, safety issues, and coordination of R&D strategy and programs.
In its program overview, DOE personnel presented various R&D targets for a variety of possible future hydrogen energy system components. From its collective experience, the committee deems it essential that the DOE treat hydrogen energy development as a system ranging from hydrogen creation and production to transportation, storage, and end use. It is important that all aspects of the various conceivable hydrogen system pathways be adequately modeled to understand the complex interactions between components, system costs, environmental impacts of individual components and the system as a whole, societal impacts (e.g., offsets of imported oil per year), and possible system trade-offs. Indeed, such an analysis function is an essential tool for DOE personnel to optimally prioritize areas for R&D as well as to understand the ramifications of future R&D successes and disappointments. A competent, independent systems