Business

Cooking gas from water?

BY NEKIESHA REID Business reporter

Friday, October 19, 2012    

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FRIED chicken and curried goat will soon cost less to cook if research by the University of Technology (UTech) pans out.

The school is trying to find out if hydrogen gas could be used for cooking instead of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) that now fuels most stoves.

"The successful outcome of this research [should] contribute to the reduction in the energy import bill for Jamaica," said Ruth Potopsingh, the university's director of sustainable energy.

LPG for cooking costs the country US$30 million ($2.7 billion) each year, said Dr Earle Wilson, the lead researcher and head of UTech's energy unit.

The plan is to use electricity from solar panels to separate water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is then bottled and later, when it reaches the stove, burned.

Unlike LPG, which produces carbon dioxide when set alight, or electricity supplied from the grid, which also involves burning fossil fuels, the exhaust from hydrogen is clean, environmentally friendly water.

UTech's three-year project — costing just under ¤500,000 ($59 million), 85 per cent of it from the European Union — will look at how stoves would need to be modified; how to store the hydrogen gas and how to prevent accidents, such as gas flame blow-back.

If cooking with hydrogen were adopted, it could release money to be spent on other, basic socio-economic needs, Potopsingh said.

It could also stop people from cutting down trees for charcoal.

Phillip Paulwell, the minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining, said at the launch yesterday: "Although the project will be implemented in Jamaica, the outcomes will be applicable within the Caribbean and Pacific group of states, many of which are also searching for renewable and sustainable [alternatives] that are cleaner and more affordable than fossil fuels."

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