Fueling the future; British scientists refine synthetic petrol

Phil Boehmke
It wasn’t all that long ago that hydrogen was being touted as the fuel of the future, but even the most hard-core hydrogen backers seemingly lost interest as storage and delivery problems began to look insurmountable. With oil prices surging and uncertainty amid large scale political turmoil in the Middle East, any hope of economic recovery could be squashed by spiraling fuel prices. The various green energy boondoggles have not proven practical despite massive government spending and promotional schemes.
 
Meanwhile, scientists in Great Britain have continued their research on hydrogen-based fuel and now the UK Daily Mail reports that a new breakthrough has given new life to the project.
 
British scientists are refining the recipe for a hydrogen-based fuel that will run in existing cars and engines at the fraction of the cost of conventional petrol.
 
With hydrogen at its heart rather than carbon, it will not produce any harmful emissions when burnt, making it better for the environment, as well as easier on the wallet.
 
The first road tests are due next year and, if all goes well, the cut-price ‘petrol’ could be on sale in three to five years.
 
Professor Stephen Bennington, the project’s lead scientist, said: ‘In some senses, hydrogen is the perfect fuel. It has three times more energy than petrol per unit of weight, and when it burns, it produces nothing but water.
 
‘Our new hydrogen storage materials offer real potential for running cars, planes and other vehicles that currently use hydrocarbons.’
 
The problems with costly and unsafe hydrogen fuel storage methods have dogged researchers for years, but a breakthrough new process developed jointly at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxford University and University College London has overcome these barriers. The new process densely packs hydrogen into miniscule beads which can easily to pumped and stored like other liquids.
 
Stephen Volker, of Cellar Energy, which is developing the technology, told Gizmag: ‘We have developed micro-beads that can be used in an existing gasoline or petrol vehicle to replace oil-based fuels.
 
‘Early indications are that the micro-beads can be used in existing vehicles without engine modification.’
 
The estimated cost for a gallon of the as yet unnamed new fuel will be roughly $1.50 per gallon before taxes and initial mileage estimates look to be comparable with conventional fuel. If the new hydrogen fuel is successful it would provide much needed relief at the pumps and pave the way for the ‘holy grail’ of energy independence.
 
Of course once hydrogen fuel usage becomes widespread with businesses and consumers are reaping the benefits from the fuel savings, the government will doubtless find new ways to tax and regulate the new fuel and the companies to produce, transport and dispense the new life blood of our economy.
 
January 29, 2010
 
paboehmke@yahoo.com
It wasn’t all that long ago that hydrogen was being touted as the fuel of the future, but even the most hard-core hydrogen backers seemingly lost interest as storage and delivery problems began to look insurmountable. With oil prices surging and uncertainty amid large scale political turmoil in the Middle East, any hope of economic recovery could be squashed by spiraling fuel prices. The various green energy boondoggles have not proven practical despite massive government spending and promotional schemes.
 
Meanwhile, scientists in Great Britain have continued their research on hydrogen-based fuel and now the UK Daily Mail reports that a new breakthrough has given new life to the project.
 
British scientists are refining the recipe for a hydrogen-based fuel that will run in existing cars and engines at the fraction of the cost of conventional petrol.
 
With hydrogen at its heart rather than carbon, it will not produce any harmful emissions when burnt, making it better for the environment, as well as easier on the wallet.
 
The first road tests are due next year and, if all goes well, the cut-price ‘petrol’ could be on sale in three to five years.
 
Professor Stephen Bennington, the project’s lead scientist, said: ‘In some senses, hydrogen is the perfect fuel. It has three times more energy than petrol per unit of weight, and when it burns, it produces nothing but water.
 
‘Our new hydrogen storage materials offer real potential for running cars, planes and other vehicles that currently use hydrocarbons.’
 
The problems with costly and unsafe hydrogen fuel storage methods have dogged researchers for years, but a breakthrough new process developed jointly at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxford University and University College London has overcome these barriers. The new process densely packs hydrogen into miniscule beads which can easily to pumped and stored like other liquids.
 
Stephen Volker, of Cellar Energy, which is developing the technology, told Gizmag: ‘We have developed micro-beads that can be used in an existing gasoline or petrol vehicle to replace oil-based fuels.
 
‘Early indications are that the micro-beads can be used in existing vehicles without engine modification.’
 
The estimated cost for a gallon of the as yet unnamed new fuel will be roughly $1.50 per gallon before taxes and initial mileage estimates look to be comparable with conventional fuel. If the new hydrogen fuel is successful it would provide much needed relief at the pumps and pave the way for the ‘holy grail’ of energy independence.
 
Of course once hydrogen fuel usage becomes widespread with businesses and consumers are reaping the benefits from the fuel savings, the government will doubtless find new ways to tax and regulate the new fuel and the companies to produce, transport and dispense the new life blood of our economy.
 
January 29, 2010
 
paboehmke@yahoo.com