Carbon is ubiquitous and has been being together with water the basis of any organic life on our planet. Unfortunately anthropogenic use of it for energy recovery has lost sight of Effectiveness. No matter how efficient its chemical energy might be transformation into thermal energy by burning it up. In Stone Age fire of course was a game changing progress. But greediness of our species just took it to do more and more of the same, without ever questioning it again. Although with scientific ascent of humanity we have learned of more effective ways to use it than just burning it, no matter where it came from. 175 years ago the first Water Gas reactor had been demonstrated. At the time coal was used as a source of Carbon. From each Carbon molecule paired with a water molecule in the form of steam one molecule of Hydrogen and Carbon monoxide each are produced. This transformation nicely illustrates that Nature stores chemical energy in Carbon and water adding up when used together theoretically compensating for the transformation energy input need.
Water Gas is a basic building block in Chemical Synthesis, allowing to form all kinds of Hydrogen – Carbon compounds named Hydrocarbons without unwanted contaminations and by-products fossil oil raffinates usually have. Starting from Water Gas the molar ratio of Hydrogen can be leveraged up to 100% Hydrogen output by a so called Water Shift reaction with more or less no energy loss. However any Carbon monoxide consummated that way will be disposed into CO2, which in the case of a chemically synthesized fuel would also happen upon its combustion. Actually it is most effective to use Carbon as an energy storage alike Nature does. Also Natural Gas is just Hydrogen carried by a Carbon backbone like being the case with any Hydrocarbon fuel. For heat alone nowadays other possibilities like solar- or geo- thermal with or without heat pumps as well as waste heat of energy transformation processes from stored primary chemical into e.g. released electrical energy should be prioritized. The merit of heat energy’s storability, allows concepts of running for example a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Utility power unit on demand of electricity and store the generated waste heat for asynchronous district-heat use. Depending on the types of fuel cells employed the temperature levels can be between 80 – 400 – 600°C.
Using Water for energy may be viewed eyebrow raising in view of widespread water scarcity. But if the water enabled Hydrogen was reformed predominantly on demand for an onsite utility and district CHP use, most of the water could be kept in a local closed loop without needing to be consummated. Right now strong German industrial interest in electrolysis for shaving negative regime renewable electricity regimes to store such abundant power production in the form of Hydrogen enticed German language area politicians to disprize Terrestrial Carbon sourced Water Gas options deeming electrolysis a cleaner approach. By taking abundant negative regime electricity as an “if you don’t use it you lose it” windfall they don’t even worry about efficiencies. Albeit unused abundant Terrestrial Carbon rots into the same amount of CO2 than its recycled Carbon would dispose in reforming Hydrogen, the CO2 aspect is held out for justifying the seven times higher transformation energy of electrolysis for an equivalent Hydrogen yield from the same amount of water.
From an effectivity point of view such preference is even less understandable under energy storage aspects. While Recycled Carbon could be easily stored until reforming it on demand for immediate use of Hydrogen in a fuel cell, electrolysis Hydrogen can only be produced volatilely. Storing Hydrogen is not easy and on large scale commonly requires a Carbon source as storage backbone. Although it sounds very popular to use CO2 for such purpose use of recycled Carbon could double storage efficiency. Given Carbon Recycling prevented an equivalent amount of CO2 formed in the first place it seems pretty obvious, which option will become the more effective one.