The idea of utilizing hydrogen as a promising energy carrier is not new. Jules Verne, one of the world’s greatest visionaries, wrote in 1874 in
The Mysterious Island: “I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light.” Since then, the idea gained ground and today it is generally agreed that hydrogen is the fuel of the future. Despite challenges such as its storage and conversion, hydrogen remains a promising energy carrier and storage medium. It is environmentally friendly as water is the exhaust, renewable, reliable and as safe as gasoline, diesel or natural gas; also, it reduces dependence on fossil fuels, thereby preventing the depletion of fossil fuel reserves, and can be produced in any country from a variety of domestically available energy sources – coal, natural gas, biomass and water. In the case of water, electricity may be used to produce hydrogen via electrolysis.
In the mid 1980’s the Lockheed Corporation recognized that the efficient production of hydrogen by electrolysis requires both electricity and very pure water. Having participated in the construction of Mini-OTEC in 1978, Lockheed also recognized that a closed-cycle hybrid OTEC system, unlike most renewable energy systems such as photovoltaics, wind and tide, can generate electricity day and night, and from season to season, in addition to producing significant quantities of pure, fresh water as a bonus byproduct. This has led Lockheed to propose to build several 500 MW OTEC
plants on floating platforms in three tropical
locations, namely the tropical east Pacific, the Gulf of
Mexico and the Caribbean. The electricity generated by
these plants would serve to produce hydrogen by
electrolysis and the hydrogen would be liquefied and
transported cryogenically by liquid hydrogen (LH2) tankers. Soon after making this proposal,
however, Lockheed decided to abandon the OTEC hydrogen project.
We therefore contemplate producing liquid hydrogen on a small scale in Haiti on one of the five deep ocean water (DOW) sites identified along the coast of the country by constructing an onshore OTEC hydrogen plant that will be economically viable. It is expected that the continually rising oil prices will make future economic conditions favorable for the development of OTEC
hydrogen. The liquid hydrogen produced would be stored in vacuum-insulated spherical tanks, transported to different regions of the country and possibly to the
neighboring Dominican Republic via tanker trucks and used to power cars, buses,
motorcycles and even boats equipped with fuel cells.
Alternatively, Haiti may just be an attractive candidate site for the installation of a large 500-1,000 MW OTEC hydrogen plant in the doldrums within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This large plant would be constructed on an offshore floating platform installed in 1,000 meters of water some 3 to 5 kilometers off the coast and would generate
liquid hydrogen without the use of fossil fuels. If the price of oil were to continue to rise and to exceed the US$60.00 per barrel of July 2005, a consortium of large engineering firms could decide to revive the Lockheed proposal and build and operate such a large OTEC hydrogen plant in the calm zone of the deep territorial waters of Haiti to produce, at a cost which is increasingly competitive with fossil fuels, significant quantities of liquid (cryogenic) hydrogen that LH2
tankers would transport to regional markets. This would
make Haiti become an exporter of "clean" or "green" hydrogen
produced with electricity coming from a renewable source.