Used Automobile Oil Source of Hydrogen

While the phrase “Hydrogen Economy” is heard often these days and is widely anticipated by people who hope to see our world function using renewable energy resources, all agree that a lot of complex preparatory work still needs to be done.

One of the more interesting hydrogen projects going on now deals with a unique way to produce hydrogen. Dr. Ali Raissi and Karthikayan Ramasamy with the Florida Solar Energy Center are developing a process to produce hydrogen based on reformation of used automotive lubricating oils. Used lube oil – often considered just another substance to be disposed of – can be valuable when recycled as a re-refined lubricant or as an energy source. Each year, Floridians generate more than more than 45 million gallons of used lubricating oils. Typically, used lubricating oil is delivered at a cost of 10 cents per gallon, making it a potentially inexpensive source for local production of hydrogen. Since lube oil contains a complex mixture of higher hydrocarbons, it is very difficult to break it down using thermal energy alone. At FSEC, Raissi and Ramasamy have built a thermocatalytic reactor that uses supercritical water to accomplish reformation of lube oils. Water becomes a supercritical fluid at temperature above 374.2°C and pressure over 22.1 MPa. In the Supercritical region, densities are a fraction of that of normal liquid water, while solubility behavior is closer to that of high-pressure steam. To date, FSEC researchers have operated this system successfully and have demonstrated that hydrogen can be produced by using the supercritical water reformation method. To view a video showing the laboratory apparatus and an animation of the FSEC process for producing hydrogen from used lube oil, click on the following link.

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