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Combined Gasoline/Hydrogen Fuel Station Opens 551

Posted by michael
from the energy-milestones dept.
98neon writes "This story from Yahoo! News tells of a Shell hydrogen refilling station that has opened in Washington D.C. Six minivans will be the only vehicles refuelling anytime soon. Apparently some of the neighbors are concerned about having a large tank of hydrogen near their homes. Oh come on, what is there to worry about?"
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Combined Gasoline/Hydrogen Fuel Station Opens

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  • Pah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hypergreatthing (254983) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:13PM (#10789828)
    Like a tank of gasoline isn't anymore explosive than hydrogen?
    • Re:Pah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Leroy_Brown242 (683141) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:15PM (#10789864) Homepage Journal
      People are used to gasoline though. They have been programmed to not worry about it. Hydrogen on the other hand is not something your average person has much knowledge of. So, being unknown, it's deathly scary.
      • Re:Pah (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nolife (233813)
        Same with nuclear power. Imagine the public outcry if someone planned to build a nuclear power plant in Honolulu or any where on the island of Oahu. Take a trip to the naval base and you can see probably 10 of them tied right next to the pier. The Puget sound area in Washington is even better. They have the multiple reactor compartments and various leftovers from defueled submarines scattered thorough out the shipyard in Bremerton. The submarine base about 15 miles north is home to multiple nuclear sub
    • Re:Pah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rei (128717) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:17PM (#10789900) Homepage
      It's not anywhere near as explosive as hydrogen at STP. You not only have to get it vaporized, but you have to have it vaporized and mixed with oxygen at just the right ratios. And even still, an optimal gasoline/air mix isn't nearly as explosive as an optimal gasoline hydrogen mix.

      Not only is hydrogen more readily combustible in air, but it's already in gasseous form *and* under high pressure.
      • by Rei (128717)
        er, "as an optimal hydrogen/air mix". Sorry, I was typing too quickly.

        I shloud porfraed mroe craefully.
      • Re:Pah (Score:5, Insightful)

        by codeguy007 (179016) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:28PM (#10790070)
        1) Hydrogen isn't explosive, it's combustable.
        2) Hydrogen is the lightest substance so if a leak occurs it dispates quickly. You will not get build up like you will with gas vapor, propane or natural gas which is heavier than air.
        • Re:Pah (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Rei (128717) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:42PM (#10790224) Homepage
          1) It is a lot more explosive than gasoline (hence its use in early scramjets, pulse detonation engines, etc). Whether something is a detonation or a deflagration is largely due to mixing, pressure, and a number of other factors, of course (things much more applicable to compressed hydrogen).

          2) Tell that to people who work in oil refineries. At one refinery my father used to work at, before he got there, to track down hydrogen leaks in the equipment, they would wave a broomstick along the sides of the pipes (hydrogen burns with a clear flame). Where the broomstick suddenly got cut in half, that was their hydrogen leak.

          Hydrogen has this nasty habit of igniting easily when suddenly released from pressure. It gets well mixed instantly, and is already in a completely gasseous form (instead of small droplets for gasoline's optimal combustion). It takes a lot of work to get gasoline to explode (if you don't believe it, watch the mythbusters' episode where they try to recreate the "cell phone gas explosion" myth, and end up having trouble trying to get the gas ignited even with a spark gap). Hydrogen? Not so at all.
          • Re:Pah (Score:3, Informative)

            In regards to 1. That does not jibe with what I have read, but I do not have my research materials with me, so I cannot address this statement at this time with any confidence.

            In regards to 2, from my days in chem labs, hydrogen burned with a pale blue flame, not a "clear" flame, whatever that is. The use of dowel rods and broom handles to find leaks in high preasure lines has nothing to do with flames. It has to do with the fact that a pin hole leak in a very high preasure line cuts the soft wood. They
      • Re:Pah (Score:5, Interesting)

        by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:42PM (#10790222) Homepage

        where is the uproar over propane??

        A quick google for comparative explosive propane hydrogen yields:this html conversion of original pdf [66.102.7.104]:
        • Hydrogen leaks are dangerous in that they pose a risk of fire where they mix with air (Section 1.3.1). However, the small molecule size that increases the likelihood of a leak also results in very high buoyancy and diffusivity, so leaked hy- drogen rises and becomes diluted quickly, especially out- doors. This results in a very localized region of flammability that disperses quickly. As the hydrogen dilutes with distance from the leakage site, the buoyancy declines and the ten- dency for the hydrogen to continue to rise decreases. Very cold hydrogen, resulting from a liquid hydrogen leak, be- comes buoyant soon after is evaporates.

          In contrast, leaking gasoline or diesel spreads laterally and evaporates slowly resulting in a widespread, lingering fire hazard. Propane gas is denser than air so it accumulates in low spots and disperses slowly, resulting in a protracted fire or explosion hazard. Heavy vapors can also form vapor clouds or plumes that travel as they are pushed by breezes. Methane gas is lighter than air, but not nearly as buoyant as hydrogen, so it disperses rapidly, but not as rapidly as hy- drogen.
        • by Rei (128717)
          I wouldn't want a propane fueling station next to my house, either. :) Leaking gasoline and diesel don't pose an explosion hazard; they form a fire hazard. However, propane does pose a fast conflagration or even detonation hazard. It is harder to ignite and requires a more optimal mixture with air than hydrogen, and is less likely to detonate, but poses a risk nonetheless.
        • There is (Score:3, Informative)

          by tacokill (531275)
          There is uproar over propane -- its just not as explosive as Hydrogen.

          The way you "protect" against Propane (or any hydrocarbon) is the same as you protect against Hydrogen. Yes, there are minor differences but both substances are in Group B according to the hazardous locations setforth by the National Electric Code. (fyi, this is Class 1, Div 1 stuff that we all know if you have ever stepped foot in a plant of anykind).

          A good reference for this is a book published by Magnetrol International [magnetrol.com] called
      • Re:Pah (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hazzey (679052) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @03:13PM (#10790555)
        Also, burning hydrogen is mostly invisable. I have heard stories of truckers who haul hydrogen carry a straw broom with them so that they can wave it in from of them. The idea is that they will see the broom burning before they walk into the burning hydrogen.
        • Re:Pah (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jherico (39763)
          Since enough people have already discredited your broomstick argument as having anything to do with hydrogen, I'll approach the 'invisible flame' argument.

          First off, even if the flame is almost completely invisible in daylight, any flamejet that is big enough to be a serious concern is probably going to cause the air the start to incandece. Second, companies are perfectly capable of adding adulterants to make the flame any color they want. For instance, the reason you can smell natural gas leak is beca

      • Right but (Score:4, Insightful)

        by einhverfr (238914) <chris.traversNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @03:15PM (#10790566) Homepage Journal
        The Hydrogen is lighter than air, so you get a huge explosion in mid air. Yes, this is dangerous, but nowhere near as dangerous as being *in* a Fuel-Air explosion by, say, Gasolene (which is heavier than air and so it hugs the ground, where, coincidentally, we tend to be).

        My question, however, is how do you detect a leak? Do they add bad-smelling chemicals to the hydrogen (like, say, hygrogen sulfide)? It seems that this is somewhat important when you are dealing with hazardous gasses.

        Also, I should mention that we do have a much more dangerous pressurized gas-- propane-- available at a variety of locations. Propane is also heavier than air, but it is also a gas and pressurized.
      • Re:Pah (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chagrin (128939)
        The hydrogen at this station is contained in a dual wall stainless steel pressure vessel (which is then contained in a fiberglass shell). If anything breaches the first cylinder it is vented to the atmosphere via a specially designed vent.

        Assuredly there are numerous valves designed to shut things down if any rapid pressure changes are encountered ... it's just such a non-issue.

    • Like a tank of gasoline isn't anymore explosive than hydrogen?

      Liquid gasoline/petrol is indeed less explosive than hydrogen: the gasoline must evaporate before it becomes explosive. Liquid gasoline will burn but IIRC only the gasoline vapors will explode. In most cases hydrogen is already gaseous and thus more ready to explode/burn.

      Because of this a partially-empty gasoline tank is more dangerous than a completely full tank: the full tank has no air space to support evaporation (assuming the ta
    • Like a tank of gasoline isn't anymore explosive than hydrogen?

      Tell me about it. Just the other day, we had a major explosion at a propane plant [canada.com] just outside of Toronto. Scary stuff.

  • Hindenburg (Score:5, Informative)

    by krog (25663) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:14PM (#10789834) Homepage
    The Hindenburg didn't go down because it was filled with hydrogen; it burned because its skin was basically made of thermite. The hydrogen didn't explode.
    • It's skin was basically made of thermite?

      WHAT?

      I find that rather hard to believe.

      How about the aluminium internal frame?

    • Re:Hindenburg (Score:2, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) *
      Actually, the hydrogren DID explode. It just wasn't the ignition or the cause of the continuing fires. If you watch the video, you can see it start to catch fire, followed by a massive blowout. The blowout was most likely the hydrogen. As the Hindenburg sank, however, it continued to burn furiously. Since there was no hydrogen left, it couldn't be the hydrogen that's continued burning. Rather the SKIN of the ship (which also shouldn't burn) was on fire. That was most likely caused by the sealant.
      • Re:Hindenburg (Score:3, Informative)

        by codeguy007 (179016)
        I've seen the video. A flair out is not an explosion. What you saw was the burning of rapidly escaping hydrogen. Not an explosion.

        If the blimp had exploded no one would have survived.
    • Re:Hindenburg (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Metzli (184903)
      Very true, the skin was the main culprit. Check this link [about.com] for info.
  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:14PM (#10789837) Homepage
    ... wait for it ...
    -1 Flamebait

    --
  • Oh so scary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Microlith (54737) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:15PM (#10789853)
    I'm sure having a volatile, quickly burning, quickly dissipating gas is lots more dangerous than a huge tank of a volatile, slow burning, slowly dissipating petrochemcial.

    Something tells me that it'd be a lot easier to prevent a fire with hydrogen than with gasoline (seeing as how hydrogen doesn't stick around once released.)
    • Re:Oh so scary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mikeee (137160) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:23PM (#10789988)
      Heck, the most serious danger of either isn't fire; it's that the underground gasoline tanks will leak and contaminate local water supplies.

    • Re:Oh so scary (Score:5, Informative)

      by demachina (71715) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:34PM (#10790125)
      The nearby resident should be somewhat more concerned about the health hazards of the gas fumes. They should also contemplate the consequences of spillage and underground gas tanks leaking toxic gasoline to the soil and ground water, the additives in particular being historicly nasty.

      The additive MTBE is a classic example of gasoline additive gone bad. It is designed to oxygenate gasoline and make it burn cleaner to improve air quality. Unfortunately its been classified as a carcinogen and its started showing up in ground water and drinking water across the country (drinking water for 15 million in one study I saw). In very small quantities it makes water undrinkable due to its nasty turpentine odor and taste and of course it may cause cancer. It was a key reason the Bush administration's energy bill lost because it was going to exempt the oil companies from liability for the clean up and apparently in New England in particular there is a massive cleanup problem, so moderate Republican senators from New England voted against it over MTBE liability alone. Of course I think Congress mandated it in the first place, to improve air quality, so they are equally to blame.
    • Actually I am surprised they are not designing H2-powered airplanes after 9/11. If one hits a tall building, the stuff is not going to stick around and melt the supports. Most of it will be probably just blown away by a small explosion, since hydrogen can not burn until pre-mixed with oxygen.

      This could even be cost-effective, because a regular airplane must burn a lot of fuel to lift it's fuel. A plant that generates hydrogen from natural gas will not have this waste.
  • by LegendOfLink (574790) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:15PM (#10789854) Homepage
    Getting a Mr. Fusion to power a vehicle? I mean, they did it back in 1985!

    And that was with a DeLorean.
    • Re:What about... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pi42 (190576)
      Actually, I believe the Mr. Fusion only powered the time circuits.

      The fuel to move the vehicle was still regular gasoline.
    • Hollywood != reality. And they don't control reality either for proof see the last election!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    this is downright uninformed.

    The hindenburg only went up because of it's coating of paint that was pretty much rocket fuel, not because of the hydrogen itself.

    Someone mod it down.
    • Why did this get modded informative? It's not true. The skin was soaked in many chemicals, which certainly contributed, but there is absolutely no way the relatively tiny volume of the skin could have produced such massive flames. The majority of the fire from the Hindenburg *was* from the hydrogen. The skin just acted as a fire starter.

      Secondly, the skin wasn't coated in "rocket fuel" persay, unless you've ever heard of a rocket that runs on cellulose acetate or cellulose nitrate. Although, to be fai
      • Hydrogen doesn't have a visible flame.

        Only the skin could have produced that visible flame.
        • Small hydrogen flames are invisible in daylight. It burns a faint blue in darkness or when the flame is quite large; a large, hot flame in the air can produce other colors.

          Look for example, at a launching shuttle. Ignore the big flame from the boosters, and look at the fainter flame from around the SSMEs. You'll notice that it's not only visible, but that it contains both the faint blue and brigher red/orange, especially downstream after the mach triangle.

          http://www.epower-propulsion.com/epower/gallery
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <<akaimbatman> <at> <gmail.com>> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:15PM (#10789863) Homepage Journal
    When nuclear energy first came on to the scene, many people were afraid that contamination could happen from one person to another. Anyone who'd handled nuclear materials or was exposed to such materials, was treat as a lepor.

    Now we have people worried about Hydrogen (which floats UP while it explodes) instead of the far more energy dense gasoline that will continue burning everything after it explodes. Ah, progress. :-)
  • by qi3ber (144534) * on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:15PM (#10789865)
    I mean, they've already got a giant tank of explosive gasoline near their house, can a little hydrogen really be that much worse?
  • Apparently some of the neighbors are concerned about having a large tank of hydrogen near their homes

    Do they think gasoline can't explode?

  • Hydrogen Power. (Score:5, Informative)

    by musingmelpomene (703985) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:16PM (#10789881) Homepage
    Hydrogen isn't an "energy source," it's a (somewhat inefficient) way of storing energy. You can't just "get" hydrogen with no electrical expenditure to begin with. It must be produced by getting it from water at considerable energetic expense. So that electricity comes from power plants - in the US, that means mostly coal and oil. So congratulations to the "green" consumers choosing their hydrogen - I mean coal - powered cars!
    • Re:Hydrogen Power. (Score:2, Informative)

      by thpr (786837)
      Actually, hydrogen is most commonly produced from steam reforming methane. Something like CH4 + 2-H20 = CO2 + 4-H2, if my ancient chemistry classes are serving me.
    • Hydrogen isn't an "energy source," it's a (somewhat inefficient) way of storing energy.

      The technical term is "fuel". :-)
    • Step one: Hydrogen buring cars don't polute. Next step: make the hydrogen in a green way. Or is it better to just do nothing.
    • Re:Hydrogen Power. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Billy the Mountain (225541) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:28PM (#10790072) Journal
      Hydrogen isn't an "energy source," it's a (somewhat inefficient) way of storing energy.

      Gasoline isn't an "energy source" either, it's an extremely inefficient way of storing what was ultimately energy from the sun. That's why we call fossil fuels non-renewable.

      Hydrogen IS an efficient way of storing energy derived from solar, nuclear, wind, hydro or other sources. It's efficient because it can be moved around using existing natural gas infrastructures.

      BTM
      • Re:Hydrogen Power. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WindBourne (631190)
        Actually, I do not believe that it can. The pipeing and the joints were never designed to deal with H2. While the pipes will not allow the H2 to leak, weld seams and fittings may allow H2 to leak.
      • Re:Hydrogen Power. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pavon (30274)
        I agree with you that the only "primary" sources of energy available on earth are nuclear and gravitational, but where are you getting your info on the comparative effeciency of those two fuels? As far as I know:
        • Hydrocarbons are far more energy dense than any other way of storing hydrogen.
        • Plants are far more efficient at turning sunlight into hydrocarbons than any method we have for generating hydrogen.
        • Hydrocarbons are much easier to handle and transport as their natural state is liquid, not gas.

        If

    • Re:Hydrogen Power. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Suidae (162977) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:32PM (#10790106)
      So congratulations to the "green" consumers choosing their hydrogen - I mean coal - powered cars!

      Absolutely. At least coal (which is far more abundant and cheaper than oil) can be burned to produce power in large power stations which are easier to keep efficent and clean (clean relative to the smog-plants we currently put in cars, it can still be pretty dirty stuff).

      Now, would a commercial system end up being cleaner and more efficent than what we've already got? Good question. I know of only one way to find out for sure.
    • IIRC, electricity isn't required. You can get hydrogen from several hydrocarbons. The hydrocarbon conversion to hydrogen is probably cleaner than burning it.
    • Re:Hydrogen Power. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sonicattack (554038) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:36PM (#10790141) Homepage
      So that electricity comes from power plants - in the US, that means mostly coal and oil.

      Yes, but that can change, and electricity can be produced from alternatives, giving hydrogen fuel from "green" electricity.

      Try doing something similar with oil-based fuel. Not as easy.
    • Not Me Man (Score:4, Funny)

      by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:42PM (#10790219) Homepage Journal
      My local electric company has an option you can pick for alternate energy sources. So I get all MY power from burning orphans!
    • According to The Guardian (a UK paper, which had an interesting article today on the same topic), "green" hydrogen (hydrogen produced from bio-mass etc, instead of fossil fuels), would be between $10 - $20 per gallon of petrol equivalent...

      • Studies show that living fast and dirty is cheaper overall. Living to be 80 or 90 will cost much much more than burning out in your 20's. Consequently, the wisest course of action is for people to think only about their immediate pleasure and have no concern for the future. The cost of foresight is just too damn high.
    • Re:Hydrogen Power. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:45PM (#10790253)
      You can't just "get" gasoline or diesel with no electrical expenditure to begin with, either, FYI.

      Actually, most hydrogen is extracted from fossil fuels at this point, and that's likely to be the main method in the future when the Bush Administration's proposed energy plan is put in place (which now seems assured). There are other hydrogen production methods on the horizon that may eventually replace both methods, but they likely won't be scalable for decades. (I'm referring to using nanotubes and/or bioengineering here.)

      Either way, whether the fuel is hydrogen, or gas/diesel, a fuel for vehicles will always be less efficient than electricity coming from a modern power plant. The _point_ however, is to have a fuel _for vehicles_. Until battery technology becomes vastly better than what we have now, that's what we're left with.

      Also, the advantage of hydrogen over gas/diesel that you're leaving out is that either way, with the less efficient fuel of hydrogen or gas/diesel, with hydrogen, at least, the exhaust of a hydrogen fuel cell (as opposed to burning hydrogen in an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) is _water vapour_. That changes the equation somewhat.

      The big problem? Efficiency. Hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen ICEs aren't anywhere near as efficient as gas/diesel engines at this point. When you read articles on these things (I do, and I sometimes write about them for an energy industry publication), you'll often see things like "will eventually be up to x% more efficient than". Lots of phrases like "is hoped to be," and "could be" are generally used. _Noone_ has yet produced a hydrogen fuel cell or hydrogen ICE that produces both the same amount of power, or has the same range, as an equivalent gas or diesel engine. Mazda's hydrogen-burning (not fuel cell) version of their Renesis rotary engine produces about half the power of its gasoline version. Ugh. I've yet to get any real information on the exhaust of a hydrogen ICE; writers always seem to assume it's the same exhaust as a fuel cell (which is just water vapour), but I've gotten some vague information recently that leads me to believe otherwise. Noone's talking, though, even when I ask. It seems obvious to me that the Hydrogen Economy being pushed by Bush is a smokescreen to sell more fossil fuels, while trying to look good to the greens.

      I see the "Hydrogen Economy" for vehicles as a stepping stone to an electric vehicle era. Unfortunately for us, hydrogen vehicles won't be practical for awhile yet (10 years, or more, due to both technology and _infrastructure_), so until then, I'm a big proponent of biodiesel, where appropriate. Combine that with the lower-sulfur diesel that's mandated by 2006 or 2007, and you'll be reducing emissions enormously. Now we just need some automaker other than VW to make decent diesel engines for passenger vehicles. Pretty rare, still, and many of VW's best engines aren't even available in the US, apparently due to the crappy qualify of diesel sold here. I'd love to have a Jetta with the Passat's 2.0L TDI engine. Too bad the Jetta is about to become boring with the new body style coming next year. *sigh*
    • Actually, most of the federal research is going into stripping h2 from hydrocarbons. In particular, from oil. Surprise.

      But the good news is that if we move to H2, then H2 can come from a number of sources, many of which generate electricity. That includes not just coal, but nuclear, wind, hydro, solar, etc.

      In fact, with the ups and down of energy demand, this will allow the nucs and hydro power to generate fuel during the night or during fall/spring.

    • Re:Hydrogen Power. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Richthofen80 (412488)
      Yes, but in retrieving the energy from Hydrogen, we let a lot less bad crap out into the air. Also, It takes a lot of resources and power to retrieve and transport oil. Hydrogen can be produced locally and requires less energy overhead to transport.

      There are real reasons to move from gasoline to hydrogen even if we make hydrogen using conventional fuels. Its a better storage medium. Then coal can be phased out by nuclear and other energy mediums.

      Its a step in the right direction. The key is to make it cos
  • Using the Hindenburg as a comparison isn't fair. Recent studies have shown that the paint used is a near chemical relative to rocket fuel. Hydrogen is no longer blamed for the accident. See this video [hydrogenus.com] for more information. (requires realplayer)
  • Who would want to live next to a gasoline station when this [google.com] happens all too often? Hydrogen is much less volatile than one would think.
  • Also covered by the NY Times here [nytimes.com].
  • Wha? wha? what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fizban (58094) <fizban@umich.edu> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:17PM (#10789899) Homepage
    Apparently some of the neighbors are concerned about having a large tank of hydrogen near their homes.

    As opposed to what, a large tank of GASOLINE near their homes? Or maybe that large tank of heating oil sitting right outside their home? Or perhaps the direct natural gas feed right INTO their home?

    Christ, some people are stupid.
  • Hindenburg reference (Score:5, Informative)

    by FiReaNGeL (312636) <fireang3l@hotma i l .com> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:18PM (#10789916) Homepage
    If the poster took the time to read his wiki link, he would have realized that the Hinderburg didn't not explode because of the hydrogen, but because of a new highly flammable fabric used for the skin of the zeppelin.

    From the wiki link :
    "Most current analysis of the accident assumes that the static spark theory is correct. There is still a debate, however, as to whether the fabric itself or the hydrogen used for bouyancy was the fuel for the initial fire.


    Proponents (http://www.dwv-info.de/pm/hindbg/hbe.htm) of the "flammable fabric" theory point out that the coatings on the fabric contained both iron oxide and aluminium-impregnated cellulose acetate butyrate. Cellulose acetate butyrate is known to be flammable and iron oxide is well-known to react with aluminium powder. In fact, iron oxide and aluminium are sometimes used as components of solid rocket fuel or thermite. (However, the oft-cited claim that the ship was "coated in rocket fuel" is a significant overstatement.) While the coating components were potentially reactive, they were separated by a layer of material that should have prevented the reaction from starting.

    After the disaster, the Zeppelin company's engineers determined this skin material, used only on the Hindenburg, was more flammable than the skin used on previous craft and changed the composition for future designs. Nonetheless, the Hindenburg had flown for over a year (and through several lightning storms) with no reports of adverse chemical reactions, much less fires on the fabric.

    The proponents of the "flammable fabric" theory also point to fact that the naturally odorless hydrogen gas in the Hindenburg was 'odorised' with garlic so that any leaks could be detected, and that there were no reports of garlic odors during the flight or prior to the fire."
    I'm tired of seeing this example used by "hydrogen is dangerous" folks...
    • There is still a debate, however, as to whether the fabric itself or the hydrogen used for bouyancy was the fuel for the initial fire... "flammable fabric" theory

      So it's still a theory, one of three plausible ones that I could see at the wikipedia article. Also from the wikipedia article:

      Others (http://spot.colorado.edu/~dziadeck/zf/LZ129fire. h tm) suggest that present-day proponents of hydrogen as a transportation fuel have forwarded a revisionist "flammable fabric" analysis of the fire in order
    • I'm tired of seeing this example used by "hydrogen is dangerous" folks...

      What I find interesting is that most people seem to overlook the fact that most of the passengers and crew survived: "Of the 97 people on board, 13 passengers and 22 crew-members were killed. One member of the ground crew also died, bringing the death toll to 36". That compares very favourably to modern air disasters. Yet most people would only be able to name a few modern air disasters (e.g. flight TWA 800, Lockerby, Concorde, an

  • From the article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frankthechicken (607647) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:19PM (#10789923) Journal
    1. Step One - Stand-alone projects with restricted access (like depots for hydrogen-fueled buses)

    2. Step Two - Second generation sites, with public access, but separate from existing gasoline stations (e.g. the facility Shell opened in Iceland in April, 2003 which supplies hydrogen made from water to three city buses)

    3. Step Three - Fully integrated fuel stations (traditional fuels and hydrogen)

    4. Step Four - Within the next five years, mini-network "Lighthouse Projects" (semi-commercial, public-private partnerships involving multiple energy companies, governments, and fleets of 100 or more vehicles)

    5. Step 5 - 2010-2020 connecting the mini-networks with corridors and filling in the white spaces


    So does this mean that Shell believes hydrogen will begin to reach the mass market by 2020?

    If so I kind of think they're being a bit optimisitc in their estimates. I just cannot see a public push towards the new energy, without government intervention (i.e. higher fuel taxes etc.) which I feel would be highly unpopular.
    • Tax breaks for hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles would be a nice step in the right direction.

      Imagine writing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle off on your taxes. That would do it for me.
  • Blah. (Score:2, Funny)

    by rackhamh (217889)
    Let me know when they start stocking helium... heeheeheeheehee!
  • Gasoline (Score:3, Interesting)

    by macdaddy (38372) * on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:20PM (#10789940) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone know if Hydrogen is more volatile that Gasoline vapor [wikipedia.org]? I wouldn't think that Hydrogen would be any more volatile than that. The article says that the Hydrogen tanks are underground, like most gasoline or diesel tanks, and are under 24/7 monitoring, also like gasoline or diesel tanks. I'm sure the have the required amount of insurance as well. Are peoples' fears justified?
  • I love the informative Wikipedia link to the Hindenburg disaster [wikipedia.org]. As always, leave it to Wikipedia to inform!
  • *Waits for the halt to this energy "source" because none of the NIMBYs want a nuke plant nearby*
  • Ok, who's the troll who defaced the wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] by replacing it with some stupid shit? This place has hit a new low.

  • by FerretFrottage (714136) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:24PM (#10790010)
    1. Put the tank(s) in a giant vacuum (just be careful when entering and leaving and NO marshmellows allowed within 100m of the tanks)

    2. Remove all the O2 from the DC area (mostly likely already in progress based on things we've seen coming from congress and the house...they are breathing something, but I doubt it's just air)

  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:25PM (#10790031) Homepage
    MANY people have noted that the potential in a tank (or set of tanks) of gasoline is much worse than the potential in a tank of hydrogen. You're missing the point.

    The average Joe has never heard of a "gasoline bomb" but she/he has certain heard of a "hydrogen bomb"

    ps: This also applies to the irrational fear of "nuclear power plants" and the comfort with the far-more-deadly "coal power plants"

    --
  • Looks like we've got a few bored people in the past few minutes making use of the ability to modify a wiki entry.

    Here's the last GOOD copy that I found in the history-- Hindenberg disaster [wikipedia.org], not that the majority of you don't know what it is anyways.
  • "Hindenburg disaster
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
    hey fu slashdot"

    Good job.
  • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:28PM (#10790077)
    Only 35 out of 97 people aboard died. Most crashes involving heavier-than-air aircraft kill everyone aboard.
  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:38PM (#10790165) Homepage
    What, is the hydrogen tank going to be painted with rocket fuel [clean-air.org] or something?

    It wasn't the hydrogen that started that fire, and it's nowhere near as dangerous as the article summary is implying it is.

    Of course, this is Slashdot. Learning from history isn't nearly as much fun as repeating its mistakes.

  • Just keep Keanu Reeves away from the station and it'll be fine [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115857/ [imdb.com]].
  • If my information is correct, most hydrogen is generated through breakdown of other substances (primarily water) by electricity.

    Why not just cut out the middle man and go direct to electric power? It seems like you're adding in so many steps (each with its own losses in energy due to inefficiencies in energy transformation) that are completely unnecessary. Electric energy could go directly from a Nuclear/Solar/Wind plant into a battery/capacitor bank, and then out the battery into the electric motor. Wit
    • OK, you miss the big reason.

      Go get a hydrogen bottle refilled. How long did that take you? How much energy is now stored in that bottle?

      Go recharge a battery. How long did that take you? How much energy is stored in that battery?

      I can't plug a battery into a charger, go inside, get a coffee, pay for the recharge, and take off and go any significant amount of distance. I can with gas, and I can with hydrogen, LNG, or any other alternative fuel.
    • Good replies everybody. I hadn't thought it through far enough. I have been reading about creating an electric car lately, and battery technology is _really_ crappy right now, but there are some things on the horizon that address each one of these issues. I guess I'm just wishing for more research into batteries than extending the use of conventional explosion+surface to push on = wheels go 'round.

      From what I understand, there are new sulfur-based batteries that can be recharged nearly as fast as you ca
  • kaboom (Score:2, Funny)

    by to_kallon (778547)
    where was the kaboom? there was sposed to be an earth shattering kaboom....

  • by t1nman33 (248342) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @02:53PM (#10790337) Homepage
    One of the big issues I think many people have with alternative fuels is the practicality. Sure, I might get 800 mpg with soy-o-line or whatever, but where am I gonna fill up at 2 a.m. on a Thursday?

    D.C. was probably picked because we're very politically visible here, and if Shell really wants to make a serious push into alternative energy, it makes sense to put a filling station where government lawmakers can see the technology at work. If it works one place, it'll slowly trickle out into other metro areas, and eventually the rural regions. But it has to work here first.

    As far as safety goes, I think there are more pressing issues in D.C. than one lousy hydrogen tank.
  • by ericdano (113424) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @03:24PM (#10790659) Homepage
    Hell, the other day we had a aviation fuel pipe blow up in an area where I usually drive through [contracostatimes.com]. Looked like something out of the Road Warrior or something. Huge flames, thick black smoke. And I hear the pipe runs along or underneath a trail I bike on frequently. Nice.

    I'd say that a Hydrogen tank is no more likely to explode than gas one. Leaking might be a little more likely, but it is just......hydrogen......

  • Hindenburg? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Harik (4023) <Harik@chaos.ao.net> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @03:35PM (#10790787)
    Let's propagate a few less urban legends. Hindenburg was NOT a hydrogen fire. It was a fire of the highly HIGHLY flammable coating on the baloon itself. The hydrogen was gone pretty quickly, and would have simply burned out of wherever it was escaping from.

    "It was skinned in cotton, doped with iron oxide and cellulose acetate butyrate impregnated with aluminium powder."

    Yes kids, the hindenburg was coated in THERMITE.

  • by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @05:20PM (#10792085) Homepage Journal
    I found a paper about the 20 hydrogen myths [rmi.org] (pdf format). It tells a lot about the Hindemburg, and other urban legends related to hydrogen.

    Anyway, having pressurized hydrogen in your car is _NOT_ what the latest technology advancements are about. It's about hydrogen cells [about.com]. And nanotechnology provides a way of storing hydrogen in solid media [fuelcellsworks.com] under low pressures.

    For more info, check out nanoapex news [nanoapex.com] and search the topic "nanoenergy".

    (Note to editors:
    Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, moderate this post as 'insightful'!)

It is impossible to travel faster than light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off. -- Woody Allen

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