and centralized plants using technologies that can be made available in the short and long term. Even though hydrogen has been somewhat de-emphasized by the Obama administration, there are still three technical teams addressing these issues: the fuel pathway integration technical team, the hydrogen production technical team, and the hydrogen delivery technical team.
The hydrogen fuel and vehicle pathway integration effort looks across the supply chain from well (source) to tank. The goals of this effort are to (1) analyze issues associated with production, distribution, and dispensing pathways; (2) provide input on methodologies for setting targets for integrated pathways and pathway components; (3) identify needs and gaps in the hydrogen analysis effort; and (4) enhance communication of analysis parameters and results to improve consistency and transparency. Technology is available to produce and distribute hydrogen commercially, but not as a competitively priced transportation fuel. Research efforts are focused on (1) broadening the options available to produce hydrogen with low GHGs and (2) reducing the cost of distribution and dispensing.
The hydrogen production program embodies hydrogen generation from a wide range of energy sources, including natural gas, coal, biological systems, nuclear heat, wind, solar heat, and grid-based electricity; grid-based electricity employs several of these sources to varying extents, depending on geographical area. In the short term, when a hydrogen pipeline system is not in place, distributed generation in relatively small plants will be required to supplement truck-delivered hydrogen available from existing, large-scale commercial plants.
Approaches to hydrogen generation using processes based on commercial experience include coal and biomass gasification and water electrolysis. The DOE had a program, completed in 2009, to improve natural gas reforming. Commercial options now exist to generate hydrogen either in distributed or centralized plants using natural gas.
The production of hydrogen from coal and/or biomass offers a relatively mature technology. Reasonable estimates of the timing of vehicular hydrogen demand suggest that hydrogen production from new, large-scale coal and/or biomass facilities will not be needed before 2020 (NRC, 2008b). Capital cost is a critical issue with either gasification process. In addition, the cost and availability of carbon sequestration are critical with regard to the use of coal, and feedstock cost and availability are critical with regard to the use of biomass.
The Partnership recognizes that water electrolysis may play an important role in the hydrogen infrastructure and is supporting numerous promising electrolysis efforts to reduce capital and operating costs. In addition, DOE is pursuing the use of wind-generated energy for electrolysis to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear energy is also a possible source that would not produce significant amounts of GHGs. The DOE is also investigating several approaches to hydrogen production that are in an early stage of R&D and which have the potential to reduce energy requirements for hydrogen production. They include