Letter to the editor: Hydrogen project seems to be ahead of itself


I attended the presentation at Centralia College about the potential hydrogen fuel production plant at the Centralia mine site. The first thing that comes to mind was the lack of detail in the presentation. The most interesting part came when members of the audience were allowed to ask questions. Even those answers were limited on details of how the production would actually work and where the hydrogen would be used.

Presenters were excited about the potential for jobs and the need for training, but no details on the skills needed for those jobs or how many might be created.

My understanding is that using electricity to produce hydrogen fuel has an energy efficiency of about 50%. There was no explanation of the energy efficiency of using hydrogen to fuel an engine. Gas and diesel engines are not very energy efficient, but the handling and use is much simpler. I am curious what a hydrogen tank to fuel my hydrogen tractor would look like.  Although the bigger problem is there are no hydrogen tractors of consequence to the best of my knowledge.

I also understand efforts to develop a hydrogen fuel highway freight truck are unsuccessful so far. At the meeting, Fortesque admitted they will use hybrid engines in their mining trucks. At this point, hybrid engines are the best way of reducing fuel use.

I watched a video of a gentleman showing what it is like to fuel up a hydrogen-powered car. It was relatively simple and timely considering one is dealing with very high pressures in the pump and tank. Two problems.The per mile cost was about 2.5 times my gasoline powered car. The other is I have read some fuel companies in California are closing their hydrogen fuel stations.  Cost?

Another giant question that was not fully addressed at the presentation is the source of “green” energy that Lewis County PUD will be required to provide. The Centralia Steam Plant will soon be decommissioned. The green energy advocates also want to remove hydro plants that don’t directly provide inexpensive power to them. In this state, by law, hydro is not considered renewable. But apparently it is still green. Without the loss of any generating capacity, the Northwest is on the edge of not having enough electricity for the current demand.

I am sure I will be called a number of uncomplimentary names by some folks for questioning this potential project. This is a potential project as there are no details yet. I am not saying it will not happen, but reading various pieces of information, it is obvious there is a great deal of development yet to happen to make it efficient. It will take years to develop the infrastructure to use and produce significant volumes of “green” hydrogen.

I fully understand there are consequences to our current system. There are also serious consequences to production of electricity and all other forms of energy. Mining, transportation, and refining have consequences. Disposal or recycling of wind turbine blades is another example. Serious conservation of energy would help.

Finally, it appears this project is way ahead of itself. The engines and efficient production are not there yet. I am not opposed to the rational development of hydrogen so as to benefit the earth.  But thinking we can just declare it will work is questionable now. Money spent on research is needed.

To really stir the pot, remember CO2 is not a pollutant. Without CO2, there would be no plant life as we know it. How much is too much? A good question.


David Fenn