Refinery to show its plans for hydrogen fuels

The state petroleum monopoly said that it is ready to outline its project to produce and store hydrogen, a gas lauded as a potential clean fuel.

The presentation of the project by the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A. will take place at the Ad Astra Rocket Co. laboratories near Daniel Oduber airport Thursday.

Ad Astra, the creation of former U.S. astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz, is collaborating with the petroleum firm and other government agencies in developing techniques for producing and storing hydrogen.

The announcement by the refinery Tuesday said that it would be announcing plans for an experimental plant to produce and store the hydrogen. Also involved is EARTH University and the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

Last September Cummins Power Generation said an electrical generator performed successfully with a mixture of hydrogen and biogas in a pilot project test. That firm has been working with Ad Astra since 2011.

Costa Rica has sought to reduce its reliance on imported petroleum for a long time. The country also is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2021

Ad Astra also is experimenting with windmills that produce electricity to liberate hydrogen atoms from water or to extract it from methane gas. These can be costly processes.

There was a breakthrough announced Tuesday by researchers unrelated to the Costa Rica experiment. Scientists in Lyon, France, who are associated with the Deep Carbon Observatory project, said they found a way to quickly produce hydrogen on a very small scale.

The breakthrough suggests a better way of producing the hydrogen that propels rockets and energizes battery-like fuel cells, said a report on the news Web site. In a few decades, it could even help the world meet key energy needs — without carbon emissions contributing to the greenhouse effect and climate change, it said.

The research is being presented at American Geophysical Union’s annual fall meeting in San Francisco, California, this week.

The researchers found that including aluminum in the process to make hydrogen speeds up the chemical reaction from seven to 50 times faster than a natural process deep in the ocean under great pressure.

Researchers noted that the usual method of extracting hydrogen from methane gas results in the creation of carbon dioxide, the notorious greenhouse gas.

The scientists say that commercial versions of what they did in the lab on a very small scale might take 50 years, but that the use of hydrogen in fuel cells probably will give the technology a push.

Ad Astra says on its Web site that its alternative energy division is “focusing on the hydrogen cycle as a means to produce, store, and deliver clean renewable energy primarily from wind-driven power sources.

“The hydrogen cycle is considered to have strong potential for use in rural areas of the developing world with no access to low-cost fossil fuels or low cost electrical power from the grid. Moreover, the use of hydrogen in combination with a bio-digestor (methane) gas could have a strong impact on the energy economy of small farming communities and other niche markets.”

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