US20100089766A1 - Deep water generation of compressed hydrogen - Google Patents

Deep water generation of compressed hydrogen Download PDF

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US20100089766A1
US20100089766A1 US12381936 US38193609A US2010089766A1 US 20100089766 A1 US20100089766 A1 US 20100089766A1 US 12381936 US12381936 US 12381936 US 38193609 A US38193609 A US 38193609A US 2010089766 A1 US2010089766 A1 US 2010089766A1
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hydrogen
water
hollow container
current
apparatus
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John E. Menear
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Menear John E
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    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C25ELECTROLYTIC OR ELECTROPHORETIC PROCESSES; APPARATUS THEREFOR
    • C25BELECTROLYTIC OR ELECTROPHORETIC PROCESSES FOR THE PRODUCTION OF COMPOUNDS OR NON-METALS; APPARATUS THEREFOR
    • C25B1/00Electrolytic production of inorganic compounds or non-metals
    • C25B1/02Electrolytic production of inorganic compounds or non-metals of hydrogen or oxygen
    • C25B1/04Electrolytic production of inorganic compounds or non-metals of hydrogen or oxygen by electrolysis of water
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C25ELECTROLYTIC OR ELECTROPHORETIC PROCESSES; APPARATUS THEREFOR
    • C25BELECTROLYTIC OR ELECTROPHORETIC PROCESSES FOR THE PRODUCTION OF COMPOUNDS OR NON-METALS; APPARATUS THEREFOR
    • C25B1/00Electrolytic production of inorganic compounds or non-metals
    • C25B1/02Electrolytic production of inorganic compounds or non-metals of hydrogen or oxygen
    • C25B1/04Electrolytic production of inorganic compounds or non-metals of hydrogen or oxygen by electrolysis of water
    • C25B1/12Electrolytic production of inorganic compounds or non-metals of hydrogen or oxygen by electrolysis of water in pressure cells
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C25ELECTROLYTIC OR ELECTROPHORETIC PROCESSES; APPARATUS THEREFOR
    • C25BELECTROLYTIC OR ELECTROPHORETIC PROCESSES FOR THE PRODUCTION OF COMPOUNDS OR NON-METALS; APPARATUS THEREFOR
    • C25B15/00Operating or servicing of cells
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02EREDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GAS [GHG] EMISSIONS, RELATED TO ENERGY GENERATION, TRANSMISSION OR DISTRIBUTION
    • Y02E60/00Enabling technologies or technologies with a potential or indirect contribution to GHG emissions mitigation
    • Y02E60/30Hydrogen technology
    • Y02E60/36Hydrogen production from non-carbon containing sources
    • Y02E60/366Hydrogen production from non-carbon containing sources by electrolysis of water

Abstract

A hydrogen generation vessel within which a reduction plate generates hydrogen by electrolysis of sea water. The hydrogen generation vessel operates at deep ocean levels to provide unexpected advantages. The operating depth is not limited because the hydrogen generation vessel includes openings at or near the bottom, and no pressure differential exists across the vessel walls. Pressure inside and outside are the same, and are determined by the depth at which the hydrogen generation vessel is positioned. Electrolysis, collection, and storage (temporary) take place in the same container. Since the hydrogen pressure is the same as the water pressure at the same depth, the hydrogen is pumped by simply opening a valve.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This application claims priority to:
    • U.S. provisional application No. 61/195,786 entitled “Hydrogen Generation from Ocean Currents” filed by John E. Menear dated Oct. 10, 2008,
    • U.S. provisional application No. 61/197,501 entitled “Hydrogen from Ocean Currents Using Deep Level Electrolysis” filed by John E. Menear dated Oct. 27, 2008, and
    • U.S. provisional application No. 61/198,083 entitled “Deep Level Hydrogen Generation Vessel” filed by John E. Menear dated Nov. 3, 2008.
    STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH
  • Not Applicable
  • REFERENCE TO A MICROFICHE APPENDIX
  • Not Applicable
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • 1. Field of the Invention
  • This invention relates to renewable energy, and particularly extraction of hydrogen from ocean currents or from flowing conductive water with a predictable flow direction. The hydrogen is produced from water by electrolysis, and the energy required for electrolysis is derived from the kinetic energy of the flowing water or ocean current.
  • 2. Description Of Related Art
  • It is widely accepted that renewable energy sources are needed to supplement or replace fossil fuels. Air quality, global temperature concerns, oil shortages, political concerns, and economics combine to make fossil fuels less attractive.
  • Hydrogen is the ideal renewable energy source. A major advantage is that hydrogen is portable. For example, hydrogen fueled cars already exist.
  • From an environmental viewpoint, hydrogen produced by electrolysis of electrically conductive water has little impact. Hydrogen combustion recreates the water from which the hydrogen was extracted.
  • In a large circular view, (1) water in the ocean is converted to hydrogen, (2) the hydrogen is burned to create energy, which creates water vapor, (3) water vapor mixes with the atmosphere, and eventually falls as rain, (4) water from the rain enters streams, and (5) the streams return to the ocean. From a chemistry viewpoint, the initial state and the final states are the same.
  • From an energetic viewpoint, energy from an ocean current (or other flowing water) has been stored as chemical energy, and released by combustion to accomplish useful work. Energy is conserved.
  • Many renewable energy efforts have focused on solar and wind. This is appropriate. But both solar and wind are best applied to electrical power generation that is used at fixed locations (home, business, etc) or is added into a power grid.
  • Hydrogen can be used for automobiles, eliminating the need for batteries and recharging. That is, hydrogen is a mobile fuel that can replace gasoline.
  • Hydrogen is environmentally preferred over batteries because the batteries are typically charged with electricity generated from fossil fuel. So, carbon dioxide still accrues with battery use.
  • Most of today's commercial hydrogen is derived from fragmenting hydrocarbons, and hence, is tied to fossil fuels. So, even today's hydrogen cars indirectly depend on fossil fuel. Again, carbon dioxide still accrues. A source of hydrogen that is not based on fossil fuel adds to the appeal of hydrogen cars.
  • Electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen is known in the prior art. Also, the use of ocean currents for electrolysis of water has been described.
  • But prior art references to ocean currents have failed to enable a practical method or apparatus for hydrogen production. Normally, prior art embodiments are directed toward generating electricity, and hydrogen production is included as a secondary application. As a consequence hydrogen production ideas are overly complex, expensive to build, or cannot be scaled up to produce commercially useful quantities.
  • In short, the desirability of creating hydrogen from ocean currents has been recognized. But the solution remained unsolved prior to this instant invention.
  • There are six problems with prior art proposals to create hydrogen from ocean currents.
  • The first problem involves electrolysis current requirements. Practical electrolysis requires large current and energy input. It requires 2 Faradays of charge to create one gram molecular weight (one mole) of diatomic hydrogen gas. That one gram molecular weight equals 2 grams of hydrogen or roughly 22.4 liters (calculated as an ideal gas).
  • One Faraday of charge is 96,485 coulombs. It is equivalent to 1 ampere for 96,485 seconds.
  • The bottom line is that wind, solar, wave catchers, or commercially-available flow-through turbines could be used to generate hydrogen by electrolysis, but the quantities produced would be small.
  • Extremely large areas of ocean current must be harnessed to produce commercially useful quantities of hydrogen. Capturing an ocean current cross section of 25-50 square feet may work for individual or small scale use. But such a small area is grossly inadequate for commercial purposes.
  • The second problem is collection. If separate collection vessels are needed to store uncompressed hydrogen after generation, system complexity and cost become prohibitive. Costs are particularly high if those separate collection vessels are positioned at sea level, where small amounts of hydrogen occupy large volumes. Pressurized vessels (relative to atmospheric pressure at sea level) must be sealed, which drives costs upward.
  • Floating collection pods are examples of impractical hydrogen collection vessels. Each expensive pod holds very little hydrogen.
  • Compression of hydrogen gas is a third problem. At sea level, hydrogen is produced at 1 atmosphere, and is uncompressed. Compression at the time of generation would minimize hydrogen volume.
  • Two (2) grams of hydrogen occupy roughly 22.4 liters at atmospheric temperature and pressure (ideal gas calculation). Without compression at the time of generation, overly large (impractical) generation, collection and storage vessels would be needed. A separate apparatus for compression becomes necessary if hydrogen is produced at one atmosphere of pressure. Since volume is inversely proportional to pressure, generation, collection and storage at 8-10 atmospheres would be highly advantageous.
  • Transport of the produced hydrogen is a fourth problem. Ultimately, hydrogen from the ocean-based generating station has to be transported to a land-based distribution (or purification) terminal. Using hydrogen pressure to move hydrogen through piping should be available as a transportation option.
  • A fifth problem involves operating personnel. On-site operators are expensive. In a preferred generating station, operating personnel are only required for periodic maintenance. Unattended operation is desirable. To accomplish this, generation equipment should be uncomplicated and reliable. Many necessary steps could be accomplished with basic scientific principles, yet the prior art does not develop this.
  • A sixth problem with the prior art is that safety of marine life is not prioritized. For example, if a flow-through rotary turbine is utilized (assuming useful hydrogen production quantities), marine life can become trapped, hurt, or killed.
  • There is a need for an apparatus and associated method that extracts hydrogen from deep level seawater using ocean currents. Some embodiments should be capable of producing more than 1 billion standard cubic feet of hydrogen per year. With these volumes, the market for hydrogen fueled cars is supported.
  • The invention should overcome the six above-cited problems.
  • BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • Ocean currents move massive volumes of water continuously, and their global routes are known. The quantity of water in motion is so large that worldwide temperatures are affected by the currents.
  • Some ocean currents have a velocity between 2-6 meters/second. Water is heavy (1000 kilograms per cubic meter), and the kinetic energy of the moving water represents an large untapped energy source.
  • A unique situation exists with ocean currents. The moving water that supplies the energy for electrolysis is also the reactant for hydrogen production. No additional raw materials need to be transported to the generation site. For comparision, the volume of the earth's oceans is roughly 10,000,000 times larger than the volume of the earth's oil reserves. And the ocean water is renewed. Water used for electrolysis is returned to the oceans by rain.
  • There is a compelling environmental-economic-political argument to utilize this worldwide resource. With a readily available hydrogen source, market acceptance of hydrogen cars will be facilitated.
  • The invented hydrogen generating station operates unmanned for extended periods of time. This means that hydrogen costs are (1) modest fixed structural costs, (2) and periodic maintenance costs. This leads to a very low production cost.
  • Following is an estimated cost calculation. It is provided only as an index to the commercial utility of the instant invention. The inventive principle is not limited by these cost calculations, and it is understood that costs for a generation station will vary widely based on details (total output, location, details of construction, construction contractor selected, efficiencies, modifications, etc.)
  • In this calculation, the fixed structural cost is amortized across 20 years. Hence, a $10,000,000 structural cost contributes $400,000 per year. Periodic maintenance is projected at less than $600,000 per year. Estimating a hydrogen output of 1 billion cubic feet of hydrogen (at standard temperature and pressure) per year, the cost per cubic foot is 0.1 to 1 cent.
  • A low energy cost structure lays the foundation to solve several recognized economic-environmental-political problems simultaneously. For example, if hydrogen production from this invention were developed on a large scale, hydrogen-fueled cars become practical. In turn, (a) the auto industry could reinvent itself with a very profitable hydrogen business model, (b) trade imbalances from oil imports would drop as hydrogen replaces gasoline, and (c) carbon dioxide emission would drop.
  • Following is a condensed summary of the instant invention. By necessity, details are omitted in order to simply state the essence of the invention. Lack of detail, in order to yield summarized statements, is not intended to alter or limit the scope of the invention.
  • Approximate calculations are offered to clarify the scientific basis of the instant invention. The calculated values are not requirements, and ranges of operation for the instant invention are not determined by these calculations. Calculations are only designed as ballpark calculations, and, specifically should not be used in any effort to invalidate the broader concept.
  • An apparatus to generate hydrogen from ocean currents includes some or all of the following:
    • (a) support frame,
    • (b) an anchor or direct attachment to the ocean floor to prevent the frame from drifting,
    • (c) a series of rotating disks,
    • (d) large surface area current-catchers that moveably attach to the rotating disks,
    • (e) electrical generators that are turned by the rotating disks,
    • (f) electrolysis plates that receive power from the generators,
    • (g) deep water hydrogen generation vessels
      • (1) that include a hollow container which defines the shape and volume,
      • (2) that are positioned with at least 80% of their volume below the surface of the ocean (or flowing water), or have some portion of their volume more than 5 meters below the ocean surface,
      • (3) that include a reduction (negative) electrolysis surface,
      • (4) that include openings near the bottom that allow exchange of inside water and outside water,
      • (5) that generate hydrogen by electrolysis at a pressure greater than 1 atmosphere,
      • (6) that also serve as initial collection and storage vessels,
      • (7) that are held below the water surface by structural means,
      • (8) that may include an optional valve and piping, and
      • (9) that use depth pressure (greater than 1 atmosphere) plus a valve to drive the generated hydrogen to other locations (for example, to perform further storage, purification, or compression) without the need of a separate pump.
  • A central (and required) feature of this instant invention is that hydrogen generation occurs below the ocean surface, where hydrogen is generated under pressure. This feature employs two basic scientific principles to novel advantage. The first principle is that ocean pressure increases as depth increases. The second is that pressure inside a hydrogen generation vessel is the same as pressure outside the hydrogen generation vessel because inside water and outside water are not separated.
  • The invented hydrogen generation vessel has openings which allow the surrounding ocean water (or other flowing water) to move in and out. Because a pressure drop does not exist across the walls of the hollow container (part of the hydrogen generation vessel), the cost and complexity of the hollow container is minimal. Inexpensive materials and unsophisticated designs suffice. For example, a plastic cylinder that is open on the bottom could work.
  • The unanticipated advantages of deep level hydrogen generation are simplicity, fewer vessels, reduced construction costs, and minimal maintenance. Production is accomplished with fewer (and smaller) structural components than otherwise needed. Fewer components require less fixed cost and less maintenance.
  • These advantages enable a practical operation. Four vessels (for hydrogen generation, collection, pre-compression, and initial storage vessels) are combined into one easy-to-build vessel. Hydrogen is produced in a partially compressed state.
  • A separate pump is not needed to transfer hydrogen for alternate storage, purification, or further compression. The pressure of the generated hydrogen obviates the need for a pump. A simple open/closed valve can replace a pump since hydrogen will flow from a high pressure zone toward a low pressure zone. Unsophisticated controls suffice because communication between multiple vessels is not necessary.
  • Deep level generation is not recited by the prior art, and the practical advantages of deep level generation are not recognized by the prior art. This largely explains why ocean current generation of hydrogen has not been acted upon commercially.
  • In a typical embodiment, electrolysis is performed more than 5 meters below the surface of the ocean. Deeper levels (deeper than 5 meters) are even better since compression and pumping capability are both improved. Higher pressure inherently exists at deeper levels, and using the available higher pressure is a logical choice.
  • Ocean water yields hydrogen by reduction (electron gain) at the negative electrolysis plate. Dissolved cations at the negative electrolysis plate may also be reduced, which could lead to some conversion inefficiency. But the dissolved cations will not prohibit hydrogen creation.
  • The rotating disks are engineered to rotate in only one direction in response to ocean currents. In one example, current-catchers open and fold, based on their orientation to the ocean current and the placement of restraints. The restraints only hold the current catchers open on the energy-capture side of the rotating disks. The restraints allow the current catchers to fold on the non-energy-capture side of the rotating disk. In this way, energy is not wasted when the current catchers return to the energy-capture side.
  • In a useful configuration, the current catchers are implemented as large area paddles that extend outward from the rotating disks, and are attached to the rotating disks with moveable joints (such as a ball-and-socket or hinge). Locating the current catchers at a large distance from the central axis of the rotating disk creates a large mechanical advantage (torque=force times moment arm) on the shaft that turns the generator (or generators).
  • A large torque applied by a slow moving ocean current is used (with gearing) to spin a fast rotating generator.
  • A reduction in maintenance can be achieved by painting moving parts with polymers that slowly release copper or tin. Tin and copper (and other additives) tend to limit barnacle attachment, which would add to the drag of moving parts.
  • Objects of the invention include:
    • a. capture kinetic energy of an ocean current and convert it into current and voltage with electrical generators,
    • b. harness a sufficiently large current and energy source to generate commercially significant hydrogen quantities,
    • c. direct the current and voltage to a negative electrolysis (reduction) plate that is housed within a hydrogen generation vessel, where the hydrogen generation vessel (via openings) allows seawater exchange at the lower portion,
    • d. build a production facility wherein separate collection and storage vessels may be used, but are not needed to store hydrogen after generation,
    • e. submerge the hydrogen generation vessel under the ocean surface during operation such that hydrogen is produced at a pressure greater than 1 atmosphere,
    • f. produce hydrogen in a pre-compressed state, so that production vessels can be smaller than needed for production at 1 atmosphere,
    • g. as one option, use hydrogen pressure within a hydrogen generation vessel (based on ocean depth) to drive hydrogen through piping to land based terminals or alternate locations,
    • h. collect and store initial quantities of hydrogen inside the hydrogen generation vessel,
    • i. design a hydrogen production station that largely operates unattended, except for periodic maintenance, and
    • j. respect marine life.
    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 shows a basic hydrogen generating station. In a large scale system, multiple basic hydrogen generating stations may be combined. As shown, this generating station captures kinetic energy for flowing water at three depth levels. A hollow container surrounding the negative electrolysis plate is not shown in this view.
  • FIG. 2 shows a top view of a rotating disk with current catchers. Note that the current catchers capture kinetic energy from the ocean current when they move in the direction of the ocean current. The current catchers fold into the rotating disk when traveling against the current.
  • FIG. 3 shows a deep level hydrogen generation vessel as part of a hydrogen generating station. A deep level hydrogen generation vessel is a combination of a hollow container with openings at the bottom portion, a reduction plate for electrolysis, a conductive wire that originates at a generator and connects to the reduction plate, and a means (not shown) for holding the hydrogen generation vessel under water.
  • FIG. 4 shows an atmospheric hydrogen generating station. A separate pumping mechanism moves hydrogen at a pressure of one atmosphere for storage, purification, or compression.
  • FIG. 5 shows a torque canceling embodiment that captures the energy of the ocean current with two oppositely rotating disks. This arrangement has the advantage of canceled torque such that the overall structure has minimal tendency to rotate. A figure-eight belt and two-level gear combines the energy generated by the two rotating disks.
  • FIG. 6 shows a support frame that holds the system components together. The support frame is stationary, and the ocean current flows through it.
  • FIG. 7 describes the pressure advantage of deep level hydrogen generation.
  • FIG. 8 shows that a separate pumping mechanism isn't required for deep level hydrogen generation. Instead, compressed hydrogen moves by expansion when a valve is opened. Excess water removal is another unexpected advantage.
  • FIG. 9 shows the use of one or more anchors to hold a hollow container in place at deep levels.
  • FIG. 10 shows cables attached to ocean floor rock with secure connectors to hold the hydrogen generation vessel in place.
  • FIG. 11 shows a hollow container held at its predetermined depth by a spacing beam.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • FIG. 1 shows a basic hydrogen production station 1. It includes one or more rotating disks 2 that rotate due to current catchers 3. Open current catchers 3 are held open by restraints 4 that hold the current catchers open only in one direction. When the restraints 4 are on the downstream side of the current catchers 3, the current catchers open, and are pushed by the ocean current 5. When the restraints 4 are on the upstream side of the current-catchers, the current catchers fold. Current catchers are not pushed by the ocean current 5 when they are folded. The result is a counter-clockwise rotation 6 when viewed from the top. Note that the ocean current 5 itself opens and folds the current catchers. At the start of energy capture, the ocean current 5 pushes the current catcher 3 open. At the end of energy capture, the ocean current 5 folds the current catcher 3.
  • The restraints 4 shown in FIG. 1 are implemented as structural blocks with sufficient rigidity and size to stabilize the open current-catchers 3. The restraints 4 operate in conjunction with the moveable joints 7 that join the current-catchers 3 to the rotating disks 2. Note that forces on the restraint 4 can be very large. If an open current-catcher 3 has an area of 100 square meters, and the ocean current is flowing at 5 meters/second, the mass of water pushing the open current-catcher 3 is roughly 500,000 kilograms per second. Furthermore, the forces behind an open current-catcher 3 (as shown) exert a mechanical advantage relative to the restraint 4 due to a greater distance from the rotating shaft 11.
  • In practical applications, the current-catchers have a large cross sectional area. Forces pushing the current catchers are roughly proportional to the cross sectional area. (Force is the product of flowing water pressure and area.)
  • The current-catchers move at ocean current velocity. Hence, marine life is not threatened. Yet high torque allows a high gear ratio. The generator 12 rotates quickly, even though the current-catchers 3 move slowly.
  • The current catchers 3, restraints 4, and moveable joints 7 shown in FIG. 1 may be replaced with more complex mechanisms if desired without affecting the inventive concept. Greater complexity may be useful to control opening and folding times, or to increase structural strength. As shown, the rotating shaft 11 is vertical rather than horizontal. This has the advantage that the current-catchers remain supported by the weight of water displaced at all times. But other orientations may be functional.
  • Rotating disks 2 drive the rotating shaft 11 which turns the generator 12. Voltage and electrical current from the generator 12 are connected to the reduction plate 9 and the oxidation plate 10 through conductive wires 8. Hydrogen gas is created by reduction of hydrogen in water. This is the significant reaction.
  • Simultaneously, oxidation of dissolved organics or anions is expected at the oxidation plate 10. The species which is oxidized is not the significant reaction for this instant application.
  • As shown in FIG. 1, the generator 12 is rectified. Rectification is useful to assure that oxygen doesn't mix with the produced hydrogen. However, rectification isn't always required. Alternating current has application to electrolysis of water.
  • A hollow container, which surrounds the reduction plate 9, is not shown in FIG. 1.
  • The conductive wires 8 (and connectors 8A) are highly insulated and water-proofed to prevent electrolysis from occurring along the conductive wires 8 themselves and to prevent power losses due to shorting.
  • Connectors 8A to the electrolysis plates are also sealed. Without connector sealing, ocean pressure at the connectors 8A (that are disposed deep within the ocean) would push sea water upward through the insulated conductive wires 8 toward the ocean surface (where the generator is attached).
  • It should be noted that the inventive concept does not generate electricity with the intention of connecting to an electrical grid. So, filtering, noise control, amplitude control, or synchronizing to a 60 hertz grid are not required. Costs are reduced by omitting them. The generator's 12 output requirement is simply to produce high current above the electrolysis voltage threshold.
  • FIG. 2 shows a top view of a rotating disk 2 that is rotating in the counter-clockwise direction 6. The open current catchers 3 are held open by the restraints 4, capture energy from the ocean current 5, and force rotation in the counter-clockwise direction 6. The folded current catchers 3 assume a low profile as they move into the ocean current. In this way, the folded current catchers 3 contribute minimal counter-productive drag as they move toward the re-opening position.
  • As drawn in FIG. 2, the current catchers 3 have a curvature that approximates the outer circumference of the rotating disk 2. A curvature has advantages for both the open and folded current catcher 3 orientations. The folded current catchers 3 lie very close to the rotating disk 2, and offer minimal resistance to the ocean current 5. The open current catchers 3 effectively capture the ocean current 5.
  • FIG. 2 shows that the restraints 4 provide a force against the current catchers 3 when they are downstream of the open current catchers 3, but not when they are upstream of the folded current catchers 3. Opening and folding occur around the moveable joints 7, such as hinges, axial rods, ball-and-sockets. There are many options for a moveable joint 7.
  • FIG. 3 shows a hydrogen generation vessel 13 that is submerged. The hydrogen generation vessel 13 includes a reduction plate 9 that is immersed in seawater 14. The hollow container 13A has openings 15 in the lower portion. The entire bottom may be open. In this embodiment, the lower portion is defined as the bottom 50% of the hollow container 13A volume. Hydrogen gas collects at the non-porous top. Because the hydrogen generation vessel 13 is located below the ocean surface 14A, the pressure of generated hydrogen is the same as the depth pressure of the ocean.
  • FIG. 4 shows an atmospheric hydrogen generation station 41 with the hydrogen generation vessel 43 (and hollow container 43A) at or above the ocean surface 14A. Because the hydrogen is generated at roughly 1 atmosphere, it is not compressed. Very little hydrogen can be generated before hydrogen must be transferred out of the hydrogen generation vessel 43. In addition, a separate pumping mechanism 44 is used to perform the transfer. Separate storage modules 18, pre-compression modules 16, and pre-purification modules 17 are used.
  • Separate pumping mechanisms 44, separate storage modules 18, pre-compression modules 16, and pre-purification modules 17 can be avoided by deep level hydrogen generation. That is, deep level generation significantly reduces the cost of construction and the complexity of operation.
  • FIG. 7 shows generation of hydrogen more than 40 meters below the ocean surface. A reference scale on the right side of FIG. 7 is included to show ocean pressure versus depth. As a rule of thumb, pressure increases 1 atmosphere with each 10 meters of depth. As indicated by a dashed line, hydrogen is generated where ocean pressure is 5.3 atmospheres. As an added consideration, the temperature of the ocean at 40 meters will normally be lower than the temperature at the surface. Both factors decrease the volume of one gram-molecular-weight of hydrogen, relative to 25 degrees C. and 1 atmosphere of pressure. Pressure is the primary compressing factor.
  • At 5.3 atmospheres, roughly 5.3 times more hydrogen molecules can accumulate before the hydrogen has to be moved elsewhere. Hence, the hydrogen generating vessel 73 also acts as an intermediate storage container, leading to a more efficient (less complex) production flow.
  • In FIG. 7, the conductive wire 8 attaches to the reduction plate 79 through the bottom of the hollow container 73A. Bottom entry isn't required, but it is convenient because the bottom portion of the hollow container 73A is open.
  • At 100 meters below the ocean surface, the compression factor for generated hydrogen is roughly eleven. The size of the overall production station is significantly reduced, and the fixed cost of the station is dramatically reduced (compared to atmospheric production).
  • The walls of the hollow container 73A can be conductive or static dissipative to assure that static charges do not accumulate. This may not be necessary because the ocean is conductive. But it serves as an additional preventative safety feature.
  • FIG. 8 shows a deep level hydrogen generating vessel 83 that is producing hydrogen at 8.5 atmospheres. The hollow container 83A that defines the shape of the hydrogen generating vessel 83 is a domed cylinder. A conductive wire is not shown in this figure. As always, the bottom portion is porous so that ocean water flows in and out. The top portion is non-porous to prevent hydrogen escape. As shown, the reduction plate 89 and the oxidation plate 90 are exposed to each other, although the oxidation plate 90 lies outside the hydrogen generating vessel 83.
  • A release valve 84 at the top of the hydrogen generating vessel 83 eliminates the need for a separate pumping mechanism. Because the hydrogen is pressurized, relative to a land terminal at 1 atmosphere, opening the valve 84 moves the hydrogen to the land terminal. No separate pumping mechanism is needed.
  • As the hydrogen moves through the piping 85 it moves both horizontally and upward (the land terminal is higher than the hydrogen generation vessel 83). An opportunity to extract entrained seawater exists by ensuring that the piping 85 elevation rises continuously (no low spots). Twists, turns 86, rough spots, screens, or packing material 87 serve as locations for water coalescence. In addition, expansion cools and further aids in removing some of the entrained water. Agglomerated water moves backward (downward) in the piping 85.
  • The removed water (plus dissolved salt) returns to the hydrogen generating vessel 83, and, hence, back into the ocean. No separate drain is needed. This serves as an inherent pre-purification. Transport partially dries the hydrogen without extra effort or expense. Hence, final purification is simplified and less costly.
  • In this FIG. 8 embodiment, the shape of the hollow container 83A is cylindrical with a domed top. However, shape is not critical as long as hydrogen can accumulate without escape in the top portion, and the valve 84 is above the bulk of collected hydrogen.
  • In this embodiment, there is an orifice in the side of the hydrogen generation vessel 83 that allows line-of-sight movement of aqueous ions between the electrolysis plates. This is useful for high generation rates because aqueous ion movement between reduction and oxidation plates 90 is unobstructed. This is useful, but it is not a requirement of the inventive concept.
  • An optional level sensor 88 is shown in FIG. 8. In some embodiments, the sensor 88 automatically activates the valve 84. In other embodiments, the valve can be activated remotely. Wireless communication may be used to control the valve. Or, the level sensor 88 and valve 84 may be mechanically linked.
  • FIG. 5 shows a torque canceling system 50. This is useful to prevent a tendency for the entire structure to rotate. Two rotating disks 2 are combined to cancel torque forces. Note that the two rotating shafts 51 are rotating in opposite directions so that angular momentum is roughly equal and opposite. A figure-eight belt 55 and dual-level gear 54 add the rotational energy of the two rotating shafts 51, and sum the energy to the generator 52.
  • It is understood that more than one generator 52 may be used, and remain within the inventive concept. For large current-catchers 3, many generators may be employed to convert a large amount of kinetic energy of the ocean current 5 to electrical energy. One generator 52 in FIG. 5 is drawn only as an example embodiment.
  • As drawn, the generator(s) 52 are positioned near the ocean surface. This is convenient from a maintenance perspective, but isn't required. Regardless of depth, the generator 52 will be exposed to hostile conditions, and a protective box is appropriate.
  • The restraints 4 are positioned to open and fold the current-catchers 3 in opposite directions, and, hence, cause rotation in opposite directions.
  • FIG. 6 shows a support frame 60 that contains and stabilizes the components. Ocean current 5 flows through the porous walls 61. A skeletal frame has advantages in stormy seas since a skeletal frame allows turbulence and large waves to pass through without bending, twisting, or upsetting the hydrogen generating station.
  • The invented deep level hydrogen generation operates with minimal human interaction. Unless maintenance is needed, nobody has to be present.
  • The following energy estimates are included only as an aid to understanding the invention and positioning its importance. The estimates are not presented as specifications or requirements or invention limitations.
  • Refer back to FIG. 1. Consider an open current catcher 3 whose area is 100 square meters that captures the kinetic energy of an ocean current 5 moving at five meters per second. The available kinetic energy per second is approximately ½ mV2, which is theoretically 6.3 million joules per current catcher per second (or 6.3 million Watts per current catcher).
  • Scaling up, six current catchers 3 acting together create 38 million Watts.
  • Since the electrolysis of water (in concentrated electrolyte) begins at 1.2 volts, 38 million Watts can theoretically supply current to multiple electrolysis plates at up to 32 million amps (32 million coulombs per second).
  • 193,000 amps (two Faradays per second) will produce (at full efficiency) 1 gram-molecular-weight or 22.4 liters of diatomic hydrogen per second. By proportion, 32 million amps will produce 166 gram-molecular-weights or 3714 liters or 131 cubic feet of hydrogen per second (at standard temperature and pressure).
  • At continuous generation, this generates more than four billion cubic feet per year.
  • Employing 100 to 1000 hydrogen generating systems in the oceans would make hydrogen cars feasible worldwide.
  • Performing electrolysis at deep ocean levels simplifies the overall process, but requires structural means for holding hydrogen generating vessels at predetermined depths. Hydrogen gas weighs less than the seawater that it displaces. As hydrogen gas collects inside a hydrogen generating vessel, the hydrogen generating vessel becomes more buoyant. This has to be countered with a downward force.
  • It is also important to keep the top of the hydrogen generating vessels facing upward (toward the ocean surface) or hydrogen could be lost. This upward orientation is partially self-adjusting since the less dense hydrogen gas (relative to water) will seek the highest level.
  • FIG. 9 shows the use of one or more anchors 91 to hold a hydrogen generating vessel 93 in place. The weight of the anchor 91 is sufficient to overcome the upward buoyancy due to the hydrogen collected. In this embodiment, multiple anchors are used to further assure that the hydrogen generating vessel 93 maintains an upward orientation (top facing the surface).
  • In an effort to minimize the weight of the anchor 91, hydrogen could be transported from the hydrogen generating vessel 93 before large hydrogen quantities collect. That is, a release valve 94 can be activated more often.
  • The weight of the hydrogen generating vessel 93 itself acts as an anchor. Very heavy metal hollow containers 93A are possible, but from a cost viewpoint may not be the best choice. Wall strength is not a primary concern.
  • FIG. 10 shows cables 101 attached to the ocean floor 102 or to a heavy object on the ocean floor with secure attachments 104 that hold the hydrogen generating vessel 103 in place.
  • FIG. 11 shows a hydrogen generating vessel 113 held at its predetermined depth by a spacing beam 111 positioned between the support frame 110 and the hollow container 113A. The cross-sectional shape of the spacing beam 111 is not important. For example, it could be rectangular, square, polygon, elliptical, or equivalent.
  • The use of anchors, cables, and spacing beams does not comprise a comprehensive list of ways to hold a hydrogen generating vessel in place at a predetermined depth. They are examples only. Other equivalent methods are useful.
  • Much of the above discussion has focused on ocean currents. However, rivers, streams, and fast tidal flows can also apply this invention. For example, the San Francisco bay has deep channels and fast flows.

Claims (20)

  1. 1. A hydrogen generation vessel that is used to generate hydrogen gas from flowing conductive water at a pressure greater than one atmosphere and to collect said hydrogen gas comprising:
    a hollow container
    that includes a reduction plate which
    is disposed inside said hollow container, and
    produces hydrogen by electrolysis of said flowing conductive water;
    that includes one or more openings at predetermined locations in the lower 50% of said hollow container's volume
    such that water inside said hollow container and water outside said hollow container are in fluid contact, and
    pressure inside said hollow container and pressure outside said hollow container are equalized;
    a conductive wire that attaches to said reduction plate;
    a means for holding at least 80% of said hollow container's volume beneath the surface of said flowing conductive water.
  2. 2. The apparatus in claim 1 where said conductive wire is further attached to a negative terminal of an electrical generator.
  3. 3. The apparatus in claim 2 where said electrical generator is joined to an apparatus that captures kinetic energy from said flowing conductive water.
  4. 4. The apparatus in claim 3 where said apparatus includes rotating disks and current catchers that are moveably attached to said rotating disks.
  5. 5. The apparatus in claim 4 where said current catchers are held open by restraints when said current catchers move in the same direction as said flowing conductive water.
  6. 6. The apparatus in claim 5 where said current catchers are not held open by restraints when said current catchers move in the opposite direction as said flowing conductive water.
  7. 7. The apparatus in claim 1 where said flowing conductive water comprises an ocean current.
  8. 8. The apparatus in claim 1 where any portion of said hollow container is located more than 5 meters below the surface of said flowing conductive water.
  9. 9. The apparatus in claim 1 where said means for holding includes any one selected from anchors, cables attached to the ocean floor or heavy objects thereon, spacing beams, and said hollow container's weight.
  10. 10. The apparatus in claim 1 where said hydrogen generation vessel further includes a valve which can be opened to transport pressurized said hydrogen gas from said hydrogen generation vessel through piping.
  11. 11. The apparatus in claim 10 where said piping includes twists, turns, rough surfaces, screens, or packing material that remove entrained water from said hydrogen.
  12. 12. A method of generating and collecting hydrogen at a pressure of more than one atmosphere comprising:
    placing a hydrogen generating vessel below the surface of flowing conductive water,
    such that at least 80% of said hydrogen generating vessel is beneath the surface of said flowing conductive water;
    including a reduction plate inside said hydrogen generating vessel that produces said hydrogen by electrolysis of said flowing conductive water;
    connecting said reduction plate to the negative output of an electrical generator;
    capturing kinetic energy from said flowing conductive water;
    converting said kinetic energy into rotational energy; and
    turning said electrical generator with said rotational energy.
  13. 13. The method of claim 12 where said capturing and said converting are accomplished with rotating disks.
  14. 14. The method of claim 13 further comprising current catchers that are moveably attached to said rotating disks.
  15. 15. The method of claim 14 where said current catchers are open when moving in the same direction as said flowing conductive water and said kinetic energy is being captured.
  16. 16. The method of claim 14 where said current catchers are folded when moving in the opposite direction as said flowing conductive water and said kinetic energy is not being captured.
  17. 17. The method of claim 12 where any portion of a hollow container, which defines the volume of said hydrogen generating vessel, is located more than five meters below the surface of said flowing conductive water.
  18. 18. The method of claim 12 where said hydrogen generating vessel is held beneath said surface of said flowing conductive water with any one selected from anchors, cables attached to the ocean floor or heavy objects thereon, spacing beams, and inherent structural weight.
  19. 19. The method of claim 12 where said flowing conductive water comprises an ocean current.
  20. 20. The method of claim 12 where said hydrogen generation vessel includes a hollow container with one or more openings at predetermined locations in the lower 50% of said hollow container's volume such that
    water inside said hollow container and water outside said hollow container are in fluid contact, and
    pressure inside said hollow container and pressure outside said hollow container are equalized.
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WO2016153624A1 (en) 2015-03-24 2016-09-29 GTA, Inc. Electrolyzer
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US20110081250A1 (en) * 2009-10-02 2011-04-07 Jose Ramon Santana Hydro-kinetic transport wheel
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