Abstract

There is concern within some factions of the energy industry about an approaching energy crisis. In the case of hydrocarbons, eventually there will be a maximum peak in global production. The question is if it will occur sooner or later, and if it will happen because of depletion or because of substitution to other energy sources - perhaps unconventional or non-fossil. This does not preclude hydrocarbon shortages that might still occur due to temporary factors such as political instability and lack of investment.

Although the past is not always an indication of the future, an analysis of global market shares (i.e. the mix) for solids, liquids and gases from the year 1850 to 2005, leads to a model that permits a reasonable forecast of the global possibilities of future methane and hydrogen economies.

It is concluded that if there is a supply problem in the future it will not be the result of depletion, but rather the failure of society to invest in the research and development of technology needed to provide conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons, as well as alternatives such as hydrogen, on a timely basis.

Proper development of these resources will lead to sustainable and efficient global economic growth.

Introduction

Jules Verne (1828–1905), the father of science fiction, wrote several books using ideas that eventually became reality. Some examples include: "From the Earth to the Moon" in 1866, "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" in 1870 where he envisions submarines, "Robur the Conqueror" in 1886 where he describes the precursor of helicopters, and "The Mysterious Island" in 1875 where he wrote:

Yes, my friends, I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable."

Vaitheeswaran (2003) asks "could the man who forecast the development of such technological marvels as submarines, helicopters, and space travel have gotten energy right too?" We believe that the answer is most likely positive, as discussed in this paper.

Hydrogen accounts for approximately 75% of the universe's mass and is the most abundant of all elements. Stars are made mainly of hydrogen. However, hydrogen does not generally exist in a free state in earth. Consequently, it has to be extracted from different materials including, for example, biomass, fossil fuels and water. This means that it takes energy to free hydrogen for use, no matter how it is produced. As a result, hydrogen is not strictly an energy source but an energy carrier much in the same way as electricity.

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