PNOC studies deuterium as possible fuel, power source

By Angelica Y. Yang, Reporter

STATE-LED Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) said it is in the initial stage of exploring the production of fuel from deuterium.

Deuterium, a hydrogen isotope with a neutron, occurs in about one out of 6,400 hydrogen atoms. It is said to be naturally abundant in oceans.

“PNOC’s study regarding deuterium’s feasibility as fuel is currently in the conceptual phase,” the entity told BusinessWorld through the electronic Freedom of Information portal last week.

The firm earlier reported on its website that its business research and development team is studying how deuterium can be used to generate power.

“The study is still ongoing thus it is [too] early to provide findings at this time… If deuterium [will] be used [to produce] fuel, it has to be separated first from the water… which adds another process,” PNOC explained.

“Deuterium as fuel has not been widely researched and has only been used for nuclear fusion reactor prototypes,” it added.

The company said it is also exploring the possibility of generating power from protium, the so-called more dominant hydrogen isotope, which can be found in “regular water.”

This comes as the government looks to augment the country’s power mix.

The Energy department previously said it was looking at adding more renewable energy, nuclear and hydrogen-based power to the country’s supply mix to prepare for any supply crunches in conventional fuels.

Last year, Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi endorsed nuclear and hydrogen as possible fuel sources to be incorporated in the power generation mix.

In December, he reported that an interagency body tasked to conduct a study on the adoption of a national position on a nuclear energy program, had submitted its suggestions to President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

In the same month, Mr. Cusi announced that the DoE was looking at generating power from hydrogen, describing it as the “fuel of the future.”

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