What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydrogen Energy?

advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen energy

We examine the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen energy and consider whether it can contribute to the transition to a world powered by renewable energy sources.

Almost all plant matter contains hydrogen, and water naturally contains hydrogen as well. Although hydrogen gas makes up a larger portion of the sun, it is so light that when it is carried by the sun’s rays, it essentially vanishes from the earth’s surface.

Hydrogen gas must therefore be produced using biomass, natural gas, or water in order to be effective. Let’s examine whether hydrogen is a good option for heating homes.

What is Hydrogen?

The building blocks of much of the life on our planet, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, make up 75% of the universe.

Water and almost all plant matter contain hydrogen. Hydrogen makes up a large portion of the sun as well, but because it is so light, it evaporates from the earth’s surface due to the heat from the sun’s rays.

With only one proton and one electron, hydrogen is the simplest of all the elements that make up our universe. This means that it typically exists in conjunction with other factors rather than existing independently (for example. water or Two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen make up water (H2O).

However, if we can extract hydrogen from water, natural gas, or biomass, we can use it to power and heat our homes. Hydrogen is a clean source of energy.

advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen energy

Advantages of Hydrogen Energy

Hydrogen energy is a renewable energy that has many advantages, such as:

Hydrogen is Renewable

Since hydrogen is a renewable energy source, it will never run out, at least not within our lifetimes. It is a plentiful source of energy that surrounds us.

Hydrogen is a Clean Energy Source

There are no harmful emissions into the atmosphere when hydrogen is burned. In fact, after being used as an energy source, hydrogen can be transformed into the water for astronauts.

It’s Not Toxic

In contrast to natural gas or nuclear power, hydrogen doesn’t harm human health.

Highly Efficient

Because it has such a high energy density, hydrogen can produce a lot of power. Less hydrogen is needed to complete the same tasks because it is three times as powerful as the majority of fossil fuels.

This is why hydrogen is used in space exploration to power spaceships, airplanes, boats, cars, and fuel cells.

It Would Speed Up the Use of Renewables

Any electricity required to produce hydrogen must come from sustainable energy sources in order for it to be truly carbon neutral. According to the government’s hydrogen strategy, off-shore wind generation will produce four times as much energy by 2030 to meet the demand for hydrogen.

Create Thousands of Jobs

advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen energy

Using hydrogen would lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs. By switching to hydrogen for home heating, the government predicts that 9,000 jobs will be added by 2030 and 100,000 by 2050.

Will Cost the Same as Gas Boilers

Concerns about homeowners bearing the cost of switching to low-carbon heating exist. However, the three largest boiler producers—Baxi, Ideal Vaillant, and Worcester Bosch—have all pledged to maintain the same price for hydrogen-ready boilers as for gas boilers.

Disadvantages of Hydrogen Energy

However, hydrogen still has its disadvantages:

Hydrogen is Volatile

In addition to being highly flammable and volatile due to its high energy content, hydrogen gas is also a dangerous fuel to handle.

Hydrogen Energy is Expensive to Produce

Due to the high cost of electrolysis and steam-methane reforming, few nations commit to mass production. To find a low-cost, environmentally friendly way to produce enough hydrogen without adding more carbon to the atmosphere, research and trials are currently being conducted.

Hydrogen Energy is Difficult to Store

Because hydrogen is a much lighter gas than gasoline, it is challenging to store and move around. It must be compressed into a liquid and kept at a low temperature in order to be stored. Hydrogen is an arduous fuel to transport in large quantities due to the high pressures required to store it.

Hydrogen Can Be Dangerous

If not handled properly, hydrogen is a dangerous fuel due to its extreme flammability. Additionally, hydrogen has no smell, so sensors are needed to find leaks.

Making Hydrogen Can Produce Carbon

advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen energy

Hydrogen can be produced in a variety of ways. A few of them even emit carbon. Fortunately, Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) allows for the capture of this cabron. After it has been captured, other industries can use it, such as to make drinks fizzy.

Unproven Technology

When it comes to improving home heating, hydrogen has many of the right answers. Putting hydrogen in the gas network, though, cannot happen overnight.

Testing of the technology is necessary before we can begin using hydrogen. Thus, trials using hydrogen are being set up across the nation. By 2023, a neighborhood will be tested, followed by a large hydrogen village in 2025 and possibly a town pilot in 2030, according to the government.

Can Emit Nitrous Oxide When Burned

Nitrogen oxide (NOx) can be released when hydrogen is burned in a specific manner (based on temperature, flame size, and airflow). This gas pollutes the air.

The same can be said about our modern gas boilers, which have been engineered to emit little NOx. It follows that hydrogen boilers would also need to meet this requirement.

Is Hydrogen Energy ‘Green’?

Since water is the only byproduct of burning hydrogen, it is a clean fuel. However, the three stages of hydrogen production are grey, blue, and green, respectively. Grey hydrogen is defined as hydrogen produced using fossil fuels, specifically natural gas.

It is made using a method known as steam reforming, which is based on the formula methane, the main component of natural gas, plus oxygen equals carbon dioxide plus hydrogen.

This equation states that carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is released during the extraction of hydrogen. If carbon capture is implemented during production, grey hydrogen will turn blue.

On the other hand, there is green hydrogen, which is produced using renewable energy and put through a different chemical procedure called electrolysis (water splitting), which does not require natural gas as a feedstock.

Since water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, the process involves running an electric current through a liquid that contains ions to separate the components of water. Hydrogen extraction is green if the electric current is produced using renewable energy.

advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen energy

Unfortunately, only 5% of the hydrogen produced today is environmentally friendly.

Is Hydrogen Efficient?

Automobiles propelled by hydrogen are frequently contrasted with electric vehicles (EVs). Proponents of hydrogen-powered cars assert that they can travel farther than EVs on a single charge and can refuel more quickly.

However, before the cars start driving, a sizable amount of energy is lost in the production of hydrogen.

The World Economic Forum estimates that during the electrolysis process, between 30 and 35 percent of the energy required to produce green hydrogen is lost. The storage and transportation of hydrogen are also necessary. It must be compressed under high pressure if it is to be stored as a gas.

Cryogenic temperatures of approximately −252.8°C are needed to keep it from evaporating when it is stored as a liquid. This expression wastes around 10% of the energy. Inside the fuel cells, up to 50% of the energy is lost during the conversion of hydrogen to electricity.

Hydrogen is not at all efficient, according to all of the papers I have read, despite the fact that the data on the percentage decrease in energy in each stage of manufacturing vary. The amount of stored electricity that is later retrieved is known as the round-trip efficiency and is only thought to be around 30%.

In contrast, lithium-ion batteries have a round-trip efficiency of up to 95%.

The Future of Hydrogen

In order to increase the efficiency of hydrogen energy, we still have a long way to go. Rather than concentrating on the growth of grey, blue, or any other color hydrogen, we should do so instead.

Some detractors even go so far as to claim that it would be preferable to focus on energy carriers that already display high efficiency. Rechargeable batteries, hydroelectricity with pumped storage, compressed air, and molten salt are a few examples of energy carriers that are available today and have much higher efficiency.

But despite the growing arguments for and against hydrogen energy, more governments and nations are placing their bets on this resource and investing in hydrogen-related technologies.

Many European nations, including Germany and the United Kingdom, have made the decision to invest billions in the low-carbon hydrogen industry, with millions of those dollars going specifically to fuel cells and hydrogen stations.

advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen energy

Indeed, we should not abandon any potential opportunities of scaling up sustainable energy, but how governments invest matters.

Proponents of hydrogen hold the opinion that the lack of infrastructure, such as hydrogen stations, which was once the case for electric cars, is to blame for the unpopularity of hydrogen-powered vehicles. Subsidies for such infrastructure would drive down the cost and expand the market.

But the physical, not the economic, crux of the hydrogen fuel issue must be addressed. The only requirement for energy carriers should be having a high round-trip efficiency if the primary goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by developing green and renewable energy sources.

Without addressing this physical issue, hydrogen will never be able to be compared to rechargeable batteries because it is unable to store the majority of the energy after all stages of production.

Therefore, research and development must receive funding priority over-commercialization, with the goal of reducing manufacturing steps and enhancing energy storage capabilities.

Conclusion: Hydrogen Energy

The primary culprit in climate change is our gas boilers. Burning natural gas to heat our homes and provide hot water causes carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere, which is a major contributor to climate change. The government, therefore, intends to use hydrogen to address this.

Since hydrogen is widely available and its effects are largely ignored, it is true that hydrogen energy is a renewable resource. In order to separate hydrogen from oxygen, hydrogen companies will in fact require other non-renewable energy sources like fossil (coal, natural gas, and oil).

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