Baking bread with hydrogen in Antarctica

Mawson Station, one of the Australian Antarctic field camps, will soon be partially powered by hydrogen produced locally. The station workers will be able to heat their huts with this clean hydrogen. They also will be able to bake their bread or power their laptops with this eco-friendly energy source. Read more...

According to the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), Mawson Station, one of their Antarctic field camps, will soon be partially powered by hydrogen produced locally. And as it's cold there at this time of the year -- temperatures oscillate between -10°C and -19°C -- the station workers will be able to heat their huts with clean hydrogen. They also will be able to bake their bread or power their laptops with this eco-friendly energy source. This project -- the first of its kind in Antarctica -- should reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions in Antarctica. Read more...

The other motive of this project is to reduce the costs associated with the delivery of oil and gas to the Australian bases in Antarctica.

"As the cost of fossil fuels continues to rise, we need to explore renewable energy options to supplement or completely replace them," AAD engineer Peter Magill said.
"We have already reduced our fossil fuel use at Mawson by installing two wind turbines. And we can reduce it further by using any electricity generated by the turbines, in excess of station requirements, to produce hydrogen."

Below is a photograph of Mawson Station with the two wind turbines in front of an impressive sky (Credit: AAD, 2004).

Mawson Station's wind turbines

Mr Magill said the hydrogen, which is made by electrolysing or splitting water molecules into their component hydrogen and oxygen molecules, will be transported in cylinders on a specially designed trailer across the sea ice to Béchervaise Island, some four kilometres away. The trailer will be towed using a hydrogen-powered quad bike modified at the University of Tasmania.

And below is a a photograph of these hydrogen-powered quads that will be used to transport hydrogen cylinders (Credit: Gordon Hancock, for AAD).

Mawson trailers for hydrogen transportation

AAD has other plans for the hydrogen produced near this station.

Hydrogen generated by the wind turbines will also be stored in high pressure vessels at Mawson. If the [hydrogen] demonstration project is a success, this hydrogen could be used to provide electricity and heating for the station when the wind drops, through a large scale fuel cell system or in an internal combustion engine generator.

Beside hydrogen production, there are other subjects of interest in Mawson these days. For example, "the emperor penguin chicks at Auster Rookery [have] started hatching in mid July" and here is a link to some pictures of these penguins.

Finally, you might have heard about the rare and spectacular clouds which appeared above Australia's Mawson base about two weeks ago. Here is a link to an article from The Age, Australia (August 1, 2006) which contains a photograph of these clouds.

Sources: Australian Antarctic Division news release, July 11, 2006; and various web sites

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