DORDRECHT – Is there a cheap fuel source that has generated more debate and disappointments over the decades than hydrogen? Likely not! Yet, these days, hydrogen is again on many lips and touted as a panacea for all the ills and angst of climate change.
H2 is the universe’s most abundant, cleanest, and simplest chemical element. Its use does not generate harmful emissions but one massive practical hassle. Safe storage and transport require it to be cooled to -253C, so it becomes liquid and can be pumped into high-pressure tanks on trucks and trains.
The other day, H2CircularFuel, a Dutch startup, won the Netherlands’ Maritime Innovation Platform Award. Its first-place finish reflects the acute interest Dutch ship and yacht builders have in climate change-driven technologies.
But why H2CircularFuel? Its technology makes hydrogen manageable by storing it in sodium borohydride (NaBH4), an inorganic compound in powder form. It cannot explode and, says H2CircularFuel, can be stored in a dry state “for an unlimited period under normal atmospheric conditions.”
The practical issues that have blocked the broad use of hydrogen have had a significant impact. In its technology presentations, H2CircularFuel asserts that hydrogen can meet 40% of the world’s energy needs by 2050. Today, it accounts for less than 2% of Europe’s energy use.
H2CircularFuel Director Hans te Siepe calls hydrogen “one of the best solutions. It’s a CO2-free substitute for fossil fuels, and hydrogen’s energy density is comparable to those fossil fuels.”
Peering over H2CircularFuel’s shoulders are three dozen private and public entities in the Netherlands, including Royal Dutch Shell, ship and yacht builders, universities, and port authorities.
The startup’s technology will be evaluated in mid-2023 on the Neo-Orbis, a fancy boat the Port of Amsterdam uses to show clients around the harbor and Amsterdam’s canal-laced city center to highlight its commitment to embracing emission-free fuels.