Research and Development
Hydrogen is produced from coal by first gasifying the coal to form synthesis
gas or syngas, a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide,
cleaning the syngas, then processing the syngas further to increase the hydrogen
content, and removing other components to produce a pure hydrogen stream. Once
the syngas is cleaned to remove ash, slag, and sulfur, it becomes a source of
useful and valuable clean fuels and chemicals. Alternatively, the syngas can be
burned directly in a gas turbine to make electricity either instead of, or in
addition to, other clean fuels production. Carbon dioxide from gasification can
be captured in a highly concentrated form that is amenable to sequestration or
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The Hydrogen and Clean Fuels program addresses hydrogen from coal pathways
and RD&D activities related to those pathways. From clean syngas, there are
many routes to clean energy, as shown schematically in the figure at right.
Pure hydrogen can be made from syngas for use in stationary fuel cells or
fuel cell vehicles, as shown on the lower right side of the figure. There are
two key steps in this process; increasing the percentage of hydrogen in the
syngas using the shift reaction, and separating the pure hydrogen from the other
gases. Carbon dioxide remaining in the syngas can be captured at this point and
transported for sequestration or storage. The option of producing hydrogen
directly is called the Central Production Pathway.
Alternatively, liquid hydrocarbon fuels such as diesel fuel or gasoline can
be made via Fischer-Tropsch chemistry, or, with different catalysts, methanol or
other alcohols can be produced for use as transportation fuels, or substitute
natural gas (SNG) can be produced. These options are shown on the left side of
the illustration above. Carbon dioxide can be captured for sequestration in
either case. Either liquid fuels or SNG could be used as hydrogen carriers for
fuel cell vehicles, by being produced in central plants, transported to local
facilities, and reformed into hydrogen. These options are collectively called
the Alternate Production Pathway.
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The figure at right shows the main R&D elements of the program. In the
Primary Production Pathway, as illustrated on the left side of the figure,
R&D needs to reduce costs of central station hydrogen production are
addressed. Key R&D topics include hydrogen separation, membrane reactors
that combine the shift reaction with other functions, and advanced concepts to
simplify processes. The Alternate Production Pathway, shown at right in the
figure, can enable use of the current infrastructure to move hydrogen-containing
fuels nearer to the markets. Key R&D topics for this pathway include
catalysts and reactor systems to improve efficiency and reduce cost of liquid
fuel and SNG production, and better systems to reform the carrier materials into
hydrogen near the site of utilization.
The program also supports R&D thrusts in the areas of hydrogen storage,
delivery, and utilization in advanced engines, as shown at the bottom of the
- Utilization R&D is addressing operation of advanced reciprocating
engines to efficiently use hydrogen and hydrogen-natural gas mixtures and to
- Activities in hydrogen storage addressing high-affinity advanced materials
such as metal-organic frameworks are scheduled for completion by 2009.
- Work on delivery of hydrogen, hydrogen-natural gas mixtures, and synthesis
is being concluded by 2009.
- Advanced computational sciences such as computational chemistry make
possible exploration of new concepts for processes, catalysts, and membranes at
Systems analyses are conducted to guide the program and assist in
prioritization of R&D efforts.
The Hydrogen & Clean Fuels Technology R&D program is subdivided into
four areas, shown below. Click the links for more information on each program