Hydrogen Energy Security: Things to Know

Hydrogen Energy Security: Things to Know

Here, we are going to talk about the security of hydrogen energy.

The emergence of hydrogen as a clean energy source was lauded a decade ago. However, despite widespread advertising and governmental backing from world leaders, including former US President Barack Obama, the use of hydrogen as a substitute for conventional fuels is still not widespread.

The lack of technology readiness and the high cost of the associated equipment are the main causes of this delay in the adoption of hydrogen power.

Hydrogen is safer to handle and use than many of the current fuels because of a variety of its characteristics. One non-toxic substance is hydrogen.

Read More: What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydrogen Energy?

Safety Questions

Some doubters claim that hydrogen’s safety problems could prevent it from being used more widely. Although handling hydrogen responsibly should make it safer to handle than handling conventional fuels like gasoline and diesel, it does have known safety hazards, so we should continue to prioritize hydrogen safety measures.

The most prevalent and basic element in the universe is hydrogen. On earth, it mainly exists as an essential component of water (H2O). Hydrogen gas (H2) is composed of two hydrogen atoms stuck together, each containing just one proton and one electron.

Hydrogen gas is flammable and relatively simple to ignite due to its straightforward chemical structure. This is also why hydrogen gas is non-toxic, odorless, tasteless, and light.

Hydrogen safety: busting the myth that hydrogen is more dangerous

Hydrogen Fuel Cells: Fire and Explosion

Fuel cell hydrogen is a highly flammable gas that, if not handled carefully, can result in fires and explosions. Gases made of hydrogen have no taste, odor, or color. Although propane and natural gas are both odorless, a sulfur-containing odorant (Mercaptan) is added to these gases to help detect leaks.

Since hydrogen has no smell at the moment, it is difficult to determine if there is a leak. A very light gas is hydrogen. No odorants that are light enough to diffuse at the same rate as hydrogen is known to be odorant additives.

To put it another way, by the time a worker detects an odorant, the hydrogen concentrations may have already surpassed its lower flammability limit.

Fuel cell hydrogen is a highly flammable gas that, if not handled carefully, can result in fires and explosions. Because hydrogen fires are invisible, if a worker suspects a leak, they should always assume there is a flame present.

Employers are required to give employees the safety equipment they need when they are tasked with putting out hydrogen-related fires in order to shield them from oblique flames and potential explosion hazards. Employers who use or produce hydrogen may need to comply with a number of OSHA regulations.

Green Hydrogen is Safer Than Conventional Fuels

The safety of hydrogen must be compared to that of other traditional fuels like gasoline, propane, and diesel. While no fuel is 100 percent safe, green hydrogen has been shown to be safer than conventional fuels in a multitude of aspects.

Hydrogen Safety: Let's Clear the Air | NRDC
  1. Contrary to conventional fuels, hydrogen is non-toxic. On the other hand, a lot of conventional fuels are carcinogenic or contain potent carcinogens. In addition, vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells produce only water while those powered by conventional fuels produce harmful air pollution when they burn those fuels. While a hydrogen leak or spill won’t harm the environment or endanger people or wildlife, a leak, spill, or combustion of fossil fuels can have serious negative effects on people’s health and the environment.
  2. 57 times lighter than gasoline vapor and 14 times lighter than air, respectively, is hydrogen. As a result, the likelihood of an ignition event at ground level is significantly reduced when hydrogen is released because it typically rises and disperses quickly. The vapors of propane and gasoline, on the other hand, are heavier than air, so they are more likely to remain at ground level, increasing the possibility of fires that could endanger people and structures.
  3. Because hydrogen has a lower radiant heat than regular gasoline, the air around a hydrogen flame does not get as hot as it does around a flame of gasoline. Consequently, there is a reduced chance of hydrogen secondary fires.
  4. In comparison to fossil fuels, hydrogen requires more oxygen for an explosion. While gasoline is explosive at oxygen concentrations between 1 and 3 percent, hydrogen can be explosive at oxygen concentrations between 18 and 59 percent. In any environment with oxygen, gasoline is therefore more likely to explode than hydrogen.

Hydrogen Safety Standards Have Come a Long Way

Although there has been a lot of hype recently regarding hydrogen, the technology is not new. For the past 40 years, the manufacturing of fertilizer, oil refineries, and rocket fuel has used hydrogen, giving scientists and engineers more than enough time to create and implement reliable safety measures.

Currently, the National Fire Protection Association, International Code Council, and Hydrogen Industry Panel on Codes collaborate to create strict standards for hydrogen systems and fuel cells.

Years of research and development have allowed for the development of the proper engineering controls and guidelines to lessen the risks associated with hydrogen’s high flammability and low ignition energy.

For instance, sensors are needed in hydrogen fueling stations, machinery, and facilities because hydrogen has no color and no smell. Remote hydrogen sensing is now possible thanks to technology, which guarantees accurate leak detection.

Before they can be used, hydrogen storage tanks in fuel cell vehicles must pass stringent testing requirements, including exposure to extremely high and low pressures. These are only a few examples of the standards and codes that have helped the hydrogen industry stay safe for the past forty years.

Hydrogen Energy Security: Things to Know

However, and this is important, hydrogen safety remains a top priority for R&D. In order to ensure that hydrogen can continue to be a safe fuel that can aid in decarbonizing our future energy needs, the Department of Energy funds research and development (R&D) projects in this area through its Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office.

Hydrogen Safety Should Continue to Be a Priority

Although green hydrogen offers a solution for the industries with the highest barriers to adoption, we have little practical experience with it in those settings. Because of this, if hydrogen is to become more prevalent in our economy, safety research is essential.

It’s a challenge for engineers to store hydrogen in tanks for fuel-cell cars and hydrogen-powered aircraft without compromising on safety.

Given the importance of any form of transportation safety, the fuel cell trucking and aviation sectors will need to meet goals for safety that are on par with or better than those of vehicles and aircraft that burn fossil fuels.

The risk of hazardous leakage and combustion must be reduced in the design of new hydrogen refueling stations and hydrogen pipelines.

The Center for Hydrogen Safety (CHS), a global non-profit organization devoted to promoting hydrogen safety, is addressing these issues by offering training for incident response and resources to those responsible for designing or utilizing various hydrogen systems and facilities.

The industry is placing a high priority on safety with more than 45 member organizations in CHS (Shell, Hyundai, Argonne National Laboratory, and National Grid, to name a few).


Green hydrogen is less dangerous than other flammable fuels we use today when used responsibly. As more hydrogen demonstrations get going, the safety record of hydrogen can improve and inspire confidence that hydrogen can be just as safe as the fuels currently in wide use.

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