Hydrogen has future potential Right now, production of ammonia used for fertilizer and oil refining are the two largest uses of hydrogen. However, many experts in the field believe that hydrogen can be used as a potential replacement for transportation fuels as a direct replacement or as a feed for fuel cells in electric vehicles. lectrical vehicles are a logical step,” states Michael Reese, Renewable Energy Director, University of Minnesota Renewable Energy Center in Morris, MN. “It will help the hydrogen economy. Because of the storage issues with hydrogen there is a national group looking at promoting and using hydrogen anhydrous ammonia (NH3) as a storage medium for hydrogen. Anhydrous ammonia is the second most transported available chemical in the world and is hydrogen-rich.”
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Michael Holmes, Deputy Associate Director for Research at the Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks, ND, says experts are looking at how to use hydrogen in wider applications. “Technology improvements are moving us toward the targets for economics and performances in the areas of production, infrastructure and end uses. There are a lot of successes being accomplished,” explains Holmes, who also manages the National Center for Hydrogen Technology. “Each time improvements are made that reduce costs and improve reliability, you increase the number of hydrogen uses that make sense commercially.” Holmes states there are growing numbers of markets that use hydrogen including stationary power, back-up power, and materials handling such as forklifts in warehouses because of noise and air quality issues. “Fuel cells are making great strides in these applications,” he states. “Instead of being completely powered by battery, it can be powered by a hydrogen fuel with or without a small battery system.” At the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, SD, members of the Center for Bioprocessing Research & Development (CBFD) are focusing on dark fermentation for biohydrogen production. “Dark fermentation appears to be an ideal method of choice to produce hydrogen at a high rate from renewable sources, including wastes,” says Dr. Lew Christopher, Director of CBRD. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology was recently awarded a grant to investigate the development of scalable and mobile technologies for biohydrogen, biodiesel, and hydrocarbons production from lignocellulosic waste biomass. “The overall objective of this program is to develop novel technologies for production of biomass-derived biofuels suitable for deployed ground power to help the Air Force achieve their target of 18 percent biofuel production of current fuel consumption,” Christopher states. “The biofuels technology would be utilized in the self sustaining, zero-host nation and environmentally friendly supply of fuels produced with increased use of renewable lignocellulosic biomass in a cost efficient and environmentally-friendly way.”