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Oil and Natural Gas Programs - Hydrogen

Hydrogen is the lightest, cleanest burning element, but does not occur free in nature. It must be produced from a source of hydrogen-containing compounds, such as fossil fuels (e.g., natural gas), water and hydrogen containing biomass. The technology to produce hydrogen from natural gas or coal is similar. Both processes convert the fossil fuel to synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, followed by the water-gas shift reaction and hydrogen separation. Because the byproduct of gas-to-hydrogen processes will likely be carbon dioxide, this effort will also include research on ways to capture this greenhouse gas. This work is closely coordinated with other efforts in the Office of Fossil Energy to capture and sequester carbon dioxide.

Natural gas provides an attractive near-term stepping stone to the hydrogen future. Office of Fossil Energy's program will develop new technologies that lower the cost of producing hydrogen from natural gas and allow capture of associated carbon dioxide. In keeping with the National Energy Policy and relevant climate change initiatives, research will develop those technologies that will provide a source of hydrogen in the near- to mid-term, allowing development of infrastructure and end-use applications that will transition the nation to a sustainable hydrogen economy. Hydrogen produced from natural gas, when used in fuel cell based vehicles and power generation, will have many benefits such as achieving energy security in the near term as well as the long term, reducing pollution compared to other alternatives, and potentially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The hydrogen needed to fuel vehicles and stationary power sources is domestically available in abundant quantities as a component of natural gas, coal, biomass and even water through electrolysis using renewable or nuclear power. The challenge is to economically produce, deliver, store, and distribute hydrogen for use as a consumer fuel in a cost-effective and environmentally-sound way, and to engage the broader oil, energy and power companies in this effort.

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Page Last Modified:   August 7, 2008