Role of Hydrogen in the Energy Sector
Fossil fuels, which include oil, natural gas, and coal, continue to be the primary energy source for electricity, transportation, and residential services. Formed from organic material over the course of millions of years, fossil fuels have significantly contributed to global development over the past century.Hydrogen in the Energy, According to recent figures published by the US Department of Energy and Energy Information Administration, the world energy consumption is projected to increase from 524 quadrillion British thermal unit (BTU) [1 quadrillion BTU = 1.055 × 1018 J] in 2010 to as high as 820 quadrillion BTU by 2040 (Energy Information Administration, 2013) . In other words, the world energy demand will grow by 56 % between 2010 and 2040. Owing to the economic growth and expanding population, the global energy consumption is mostly concentrated in the developing countries [non-organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)].
As can be seen in image below, the use of energy will grow by 90 % in non-OECD countries; in OECD countries, the increase is only 17 %
Although renewable energy and nuclear power are the world’s fastest growing energy sources, fossil fuels are expected to supply almost 80 % of world energy use through 2040. Natural gas is the fastest growing fossil fuel, increasing by 1.7 % per year. The growth in the contribution of natural gas is due to the increasing supply of tight gas, shale gas, and coal bed methane. The use of coal is assumed to grow faster than petroleum and other liquid fuel till 2030, primarily because of its growing demand in the developing countries.
Fossil fuels are attractive because of their relatively low cost compared with renewable sources such as biomass, wind, geothermal, and solar power. As fossil fuels have limited reserves, the crucial question is “how long these resources will last.” According to Edigera et al., the fossil fuel production for Turkey will be exhausted by 2038. Similarly, India, China, Russia, and USA will see their coal reserves depleted in 315, 83, 1,034, and 305 years, respectively . Countries such as the USA, India, and Ethiopia are already looking for new coal reserves and investing to innovate clean coal technologies.On the contrary, Lior et al. argued that despite the rise in consumption, more reserves are found or exploited, leading to a higher amount of fossil fuels available on the world market, and the ratio of resources to production has been nearly constant for decades, around 40, 60, and 150 for oil, gas, and coal, respectively. In 2009, Shafiee et al. modified the Klass model (the model calculates the ratio of reserves usage and helps to predict the depreciation time of fossil fuels and assumed a continuous compound rate. The work predicts that oil and gas will be exhausted earlier than coal. The depletion time for oil, gas, and coal is computed to be around 35, 37, and 107 years, respectively. Therefore, coal reserves will most likely be the only fossil fuel remaining after 2042 and will be exhausted by 2112.
Hydrogen in the Energy , There are so many factors affecting future projections that it can be difficult to prepare any model that can precisely show the future trends in natural resources. The factors affecting future predictions for fossil fuels include economic growth,production and consumption rate, total reserves, development of unconventional methods for extracting resources, and population growth. Despite the differences in time estimates, it is certain that these resources can only continue for a finite period. Another major concern in using fossil fuels is the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2). Natural greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, CFCs, HFCs, PFCs, SF6, and H2O) absorb a considerable fraction of solar thermal radiation. Further, these gases reradiate the solar energy to the surface of the earth in the form of visible light and thus prevent heat from escaping the earth’s atmosphere. Trapping this heat in the atmosphere raises the temperature of the earth to 33 °C, making it habitable.However, concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased significantly since the industrial revolution. CO2 is considered as the prime contributor to global warming and accounts for 64 % of the increased greenhouse effect. Recent studies do indicate that global warming is human induced. There is a growing belief that if such extensive use of fossil fuels continues for another 50 years, the CO2 concentration will rise to 580 ppm, which would trigger a severe climate change.
In essence, the vast depletion of fossil fuels, the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and the related environmental hazards represent a growing concern for the mankind. The enormity of global warming is daunting. Thus, one of the proposed solutions is to use an alternative fuel.