Saturday, September 15, 2007

McGuinty talks hydrogen, emits methane.

In a speech to Bombardier employees in Thunder Bay, Dalton McGuinty floated the idea of powering the next generation of GO trains by hydrogen rather than electricity. This is surprising considering his recently launched MoveOntario2020 plan proposed to use... electric locomotives. Bombardier don't care which technology is used - the passenger cars they make will probably be identical either way.

The accompanying analysis included one stunning mistake:
"Most trains in the world use either greenhouse-gas-emitting diesel engines or electricity, which is cleaner but is still often generated using greenhouse-gas-producing coal plants. A train that uses a hydrogen fuel cell to combine hydrogen with oxygen to create the electricity needed to run its motor would essentially be a zero-emissions vehicle, producing only water vapour, proponents say.

The trains might run on hydrogen produced by Ontario's nuclear plants.
Point 1: Ontario's nuclear plants do not produce hydrogen - they produce electricity. You can produce hydrogen from electricity by cracking water, but the source of the electricity can be nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, incineration or... coal. You could even use the Portlands Energy Centre if the station wasn't designed to be peak rather than baseload and it wasn't a stupid use of natural gas.

Point 2: All of our nuclear plants are either northwest or east of Toronto. To fuel the trains would require massive shipments of hydrogen to the trains originating in places like Bradford and Hamilton. Can't see that being popular.

Point 3: There are no hydrogen fuel cell passenger trains in service. The nearest equivalent are small 17kW engines used in mines and a Japanese prototype fuel-cell/battery carriage with 2 x 65kW motors. (GO's new diesel engines will be about 3000kW)

But then, it wouldn't be the first time Toronto commuters were guinea pigs for untried technologies at Ontario's behest, not to mention the short lived running of natural gas buses in Toronto, all of which were either sold or converted to diesel as soon as the TTC thought no-one was looking.

Steve Munro, who previously eviscerated the notion of running hydrogen buses from the Exhibition wind turbine, takes a similarly jaundiced view of this proposal.
Post a Comment