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DOE Funds Six New Projects Aimed at Coal-to-Hydrogen Production and Hydrogen Combustion Engines

The Department of Energy announced funding for six cost-shared research and development projects investigating different aspects of coal-to-hydrogen production and the utilization of hydrogen or hydrogen/natural-gas mixtures in combustion engines.

The total value of the six projects is nearly $18 million dollars, with DOE providing $12.9 million and industry partners contributing more than $4.9 million.

The six projects are as follows:

  • Abengoa Bioenergy R&D will seek to improve the catalytic conversion of coal-derived syngas into ethanol and investigate ethanol reformability to hydrogen. The goal is to design new catalysts for higher alcohol synthesis, with the research aimed at accelerating the crucial steps that limit the selective conversion of synthesis gas to alcohols, especially ethanol. (DOE share: $2,965,899; industry share: $749,781; duration: 36 months)

  • Iowa State University is developing a process that will convert syngas from coal into ethanol and then transform the ethanol into hydrogen. Investigators will first synthesize, characterize, and evaluate mesoporous manganese silicate mixed oxide materials supports for rhodium nanocatalysts. They will then construct and demonstrate two reactor systems: one for producing synthetic liquid fuel from a simulated syngas stream and one for evaluating ethanol reformability. The data gathered will be used to analyze the process and provide a preliminary economic evaluation. (DOE share: $2,750,000; industry share: $690,614; project duration: 36 months)

  • Louisiana State University researchers will develop a coal-based process for the conversion of syngas to ethanol and higher alcohols using rhodium-based catalysts.

    Coal-derived syngas will be produced using Conoco-Phillips’ EGAS technology. Louisiana State University researchers will be joined by scientists from Clemson University, Conoco-Phillips, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (DOE share: $2,257,427; industry share: $1,346,913; project duration: 36 months)

  • Energy Conversion Devices will develop a low-cost method to convert small (less than 25 hp) gasoline internal combustion engines to run on hydrogen fuel, while maintaining performance and durability equivalent to the unmodified gasoline engine. (DOE share: $1,200,000; industry share: $514,288; project duration: 27 months)

  • Electric Transportation Engineering Corporation will partner with Roush Industries, Argonne National Laboratory, and Sacré-Davey Innovations, to evaluate the durability of a proven hydrogen internal combustion engine design using both accelerated aging tests under laboratory conditions (maximum power and torque for 300 hours) and field tests in diverse fleets (24,000 miles and 1,100 hours of operation per vehicle).

    Results of the durability evaluation will be compared to current gasoline internal combustion engine standards, and recommendations to reduce durability risk factors will be developed. (DOE share: $1,323,271; industry share: $567,117; project duration: 29 months)

  • Hythane Company, Hydrogen Components and the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory at Colorado State University will acquire three identical heavy-duty, spark-ignited natural gas engines and subject them to long-term (2,500-hour) stationary testing. Two of the engines will be modified, one for operation on Hythane (a hydrogen and natural gas mixture of 20 vol% or less hydrogen) and one for pure hydrogen operation. All three engines will undergo durability testing to demonstrate their long-term performance. (DOE share: $2,481,935; industry share: $1,068,309; project duration: 36 months)



Am I reading between the lines properly when it looks like the hydrogen aspect of this is just a green tinge to what is basic CTL research?

I am intrigued by the idea of running small motors on hydrogen. The gas lawnmowers arround here belch polution.

Sid Hoffman

For home lawn equipment, they should really be electric, but yeah for very large plains lawncare (golf courses?) electric wouldn't be as practical and hydrogen would be a great solution.


Hydrogen in the lawn mower sounds green, but if BMW's tanks can't hold hydrogen for 9 days, then what happens to my fuel between mowings? Would I have to drive my car to the Hydrogen source for a refill every time I want to cut the lawn? That does not seem productive.


The Hydrogen Economy has always been a front for Coal & Nuclear.


I'm not so sure the nuclear cares if hydrogen or electricity rules. They win regardless. CTL .. they lose.


Any new project that keeps us hooked on fossil fuel is a looser. Using coal just puts more carbon in the air and makes global warming that much worse.

Most Hydrogen is derived from Natural gas, another fossil fuel that will run out of eventually.

As for lawn equipment, I have an electric lawn mower made by Black and Decker. It does my 1/3 acre lot with no problems on a single charge. I then charge up the batteries with solar panels in the back yard.

On days that I do not mow, I use the solar panels to charge the E-max scooter, so I can ride it to work.

Oh and the grid power that I do buy is wind generated. We do not need and more nukes or hydrogen pie in the sky promises.

We do need more Solar and Wind projects.

Kyle Dansie

Ron Fischer

So we convert coal to ethanol and then to hydrogen... and then can't store it. The useful part of this appears to be reforming ethanol onboard a vehicle to H2 for fuel cells? The GHG emissions of this are going to be... er... *large*. Unstorable hydrogen: your non-fuel of the future. Ethanol: the 3% (replacement of existing sources) non-solution. Someone called the discussions here intellectual mastur... you know. What does that make this government funded research?


That's a hek'uv a lotta pork being handed to industry so they can figure out how to milk us for even more by making ethanol out of dirty coal, and then greenwashing it with hydrogen to boot! I hope most people can see through this round of BS.


You would be surprised at the things that go on in govt. & these type of fundings.

Good example:
The 96 telecom act was to expand the universal service charge to cover public schools as well. Expected cost was $2.02 billion. Therefore, govt. cut back costs and access fees on the telecom industry to save them $2.4 billion. This way no one loses right? Wrong! The telecoms increased the universal service charge to cover the $2 billion cost and pocketed the $2.4billion the govt. saved them while passing the costs onto consumers. [this is the same thing that happens with gas guzzler taxes put on vehicles or imposed on oil companies rather than just putting the taxes directly on the people].


Is there anything dumber than coal to hydrogen? If there is, I'm sure they will find a way to fund that too. If I saw any mention of including co2 sequestration in this project, then there might be some sort of rationale behind it.

Hydrogen is probably a loser regardless of the process used to produce it. However, let's restrict research to those methods that don't use fossil fuels. There still seems to be some potential in using hydrogen as a storage medium for electricity from sporadic sources like wind generation. The hydrogen could be used when the wind was not blowing. Presumably, the problems with escaping the hydrogen would be less of an issue because it would not have to stored for long.


The H content is quite low -- what are they going to do with all the carbon?

Roger Pham

While coal to hydrogen makes a lot of sense because this constitutes Clean Coal Technology, I just don't get the coal to ethanol and then ethanol to hydrogen bit. Coal gasification can deliver H2 and CO directly, without requiring the ethanol step. The CO can further be converted to H2 while producing CO2, which can be sequestered away.

Coal to Hydrogen is a good way to jump start the Hydrogen Economy until renewable H2 will arrive in the future, without having to again change the infrastructure.


I'll say it again ... The way to go - Right Now - is BioDiesel with 7% alcohol.

Anything else is just pissing into the wind.


I'm not a scientist, but the following is my understanding:

Over the course of millions of years, Mother Nature did us (current species inhabiting the earth lo these last few hundred thousand years) the great favor of removing huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and storing it underground in such a way that it can't get out on its own. That is to say, she created coal. Partly as a result, the atmosphere cooled to its present temperature, more or less, allowing our current biosphere, the one of which we are a part, to develop. Putting that carbon back in the atmosphere is the *one thing* we should not do, for obvious reasons.

As I see it, the logical order of priorities for saving our biosphere:

1. MAJOR conservation--reduce energy footprint (cheapest and fastest choice)
2. develop renewable energy (wind, sun, wave power, etc)
3. develop carbon-neutral fuels (biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol)
4. one can argue for nuclear but we all know the risks...
99. 'clean' coal with some kind of carbon sequestration (cross your fingers that it works)

I wouldn't support option 99 until we've actually tried the more promising approaches. With our priorities in order, I doubt we'd need to get that far down the list. Releasing the carbon from coal back into the atmosphere in any way should not even be considered.


I agree Nick. As for the lawnmover fans, I have a battery electric mower that is solar charged when not in use. Does not get much greener than that.

John McConnell


I agree with most of what you said except for option 99. I'd put it around option 5,000,232,345 -- at the high end!

hampden wireless

In the real world nuclear needs to be a part of our energy future. Not all of it, but part of it. Otherwise we are gonna have more of the above, coal, shale, oil, tar sands etc. We need nuclear to cover the base load of electricity and to replace oil and coal used to make electricity now. We could have tons of solar and wind but we will still need nuclear to stop global warming.

While hydrogen is not an option I think is worthwhile, nuclear can generate it in huge volumes.


I suggest we put a large nuclear waste dump next to the "hampden wireless" home.

People in Utah and Nevada do not like other states dumping their garbage on us.

Kyle Dansie
Salt Lake City, Utah


How long does your battery on the rechargeable lawn-mover last? & how long have you been using (life time)?. I have BD edger/trimmer for almost 2 years now & the battery is almost of no use nowadays. Does not run even for 5 mins. The replacement battery seems to cost almost as much as the new BD :-(


A push mower works for me.


I wonder how much energy is required to compress hydrogen into a tank at 10,000 lbs? When pumping up the tires on my bikes, the basic elbow grease measurement reaches 'considerable' at around 70 lbs. My girlfriend gets winded at around 5 lbs of elbow grease. She may be making a little show of aspiring to become a real tire-pumper. Such drama! Bravo! Encore! :-) Aaand 'Cut' to "Daisy, Daisy, Bicycle built for two" theme music...


Regarding lawn mowing. Better yet, get rid of your lawn and plant vegetables, at least the back yard.

Harvey D.

I agree Nick.

There are 1000+ known ways to reduce energy consumption. A new solid-state lamp transforms 90% of the energy into light instead of less than 9% for incadescents and about 25% for florescents. Multiply that by xxxx billions and the world-wide potential is enormous.

Changing our old 10 SEER air conditioners for up-to-date 22 SEER units would make a real difference.

Who needs a 3-T, 15 mpg, gas guzzler to go to work, drive to the shopping center or take the children to school. A 60+ mpg hybrid or 200+ mpg PHEV would do. Multiply that by 200+ million and you get a significant effect on energy consumption and GHG.

If airlines can reduce the energy consumed by 25+% with relatively minor operational changes, the rest of us could do much more (up to 50% and much more) if we really want to.

Coal should stay underground until we have learned to use it without creating polution.

Hydrogen is not an ideal fuel to extract, transport and use.

Clean electricity is a much better approach for most on-ground consumption.

Bio-fuels for aircraft may be a reasonable solution until we have found better energy sources.

Bike Commuter Dude

Here's a unique solution to the lawn mowing dilemma:
1)Find a regular gas powered mower.
2)Pull off the factory installed fuel line, and replace with a butyl rubber hose.
3)Remove carburateur, and find the fuel metering jet.
4)Measure it's orifice (some are cast with the size on them), multiply that number by 1.27, and enlarge with a drill bit to the corresponding size.
5)Re-install carb, and adjust the fuel float to raise the level of fuel in the bowl by about 10%.
6)If you are able, you should also attempt to advance the ignition timing between 3 and 5 degrees. You would most likely gain more power with a 8-10 degree increase, but to reduce the effect of variables on your mower, 3-5 is a safe bet.

You now have an E85 lawnmower. This is the best near term soloution for this particular problem. Unless you have the spunk to actually mow your lawn with a push mower... that's even better. For the rest of us lazy, unwashed masses, this is the next best thing (for now).


Actauly a h2 powered lawnmower wouldlikely have a low pressure tank onboard and be filled up with a tank on the trailer the lawncare people used . Much like how they do it now with gas mowers.

As for home mowers they likely will all go 24/48 volt battery packs.

It is mind you entirely possible that the professional mowers and such will all go it large scale lithium swapable battery packs. Thus the company would just have to carry extra packs in the trailer. But all this depends on what goes down in cost in time.

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