Abstract

Hydrogen has been touted as a carbon-free energy source for the so-called hydrogen economy. It has been proposed as a fuel for fuel cell vehicles and as an enabler for carbon capture and sequestration technology for power generation and refineries (large stationary combustion sources). Realization of the hydrogen economy has been delayed due to high costs and performance challenges of fuel cells, on-board hydrogen storage and hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure. Moreover, large volumes of hydrogen are needed to upgrade increasingly heavy and sour hydrocarbon feedstocks to transportation fuels. This session will explore priorities for hydrogen research and development and hydrogen utilization along the energy value chain.

Introduction

There can be no argument that the global economy is tied to fossil fuels - primarily coal, oil and natural gas - and today, as we have done for hundreds of years, we live in the Hydrocarbon Economy, where currently 81% of the world primary energy supply of 5,413 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) comes from three hydrocarbon sources; petroleum (36.3%), coal (20.2%), and natural gas (24.5%) (IEA, 2011). Fortunately, future hydrocarbon reserves projections indicate that the Earth's energy resources are undoubtedly adequate to meet rising demand for many decades into the future. But the projections also raise serious concerns about the future of energy supplies, investment in energy infrastructure, the threat of environmental damage caused by energy production and use and unequal access of the world's population to modern energy

Historically this dependence on fossil fuels has created a series of challenges, locally, in terms of atmospheric pollution, and arguably, internationally in terms of impact on climate. What is evident in the global community is the growing recognition that action needs to be taken on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere. While there are on-going discussions on the mechanisms that will govern the process to reduce GHGs, there would seem to be clear intent that action should be taken. At the same time, there is increasing concern about the world's vulnerability to energy supply disruptions. As a result, energy supply security has moved to the top of many of the national energy policy agendas and with the world population expected to increase from the current seven billon to up to approximately ten billion by 2050, there will be significant demands for additional energy from:

  • Growing economies as they increase the affluence of their communities and industrialize creating a demand for increasing amounts of energy driven by increased development and population. The evidence shows a direct correlation between energy consumption and economic prosperity.

  • Industrialized countries are also motivated by economic growth objectives and while introduction of efficiencies and conservation efforts will have a mitigating impact, business-as-usual projections show an ever-increasing worldwide demand for energy.

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