Blowing Up Myths About Hydrogen

People often picture explosions when they think about hydrogen. It’s time to set the record straight: this common, safe substance is paving the way for a greener future.

Hydrogen has faced a challenging public image throughout the years. Many people associate it with danger and explosions, a perception shaped by past incidents and a limited understanding of this important substance. However, this view stands in stark contrast to the actual state of hydrogen technology and safety measures present today.

Hydrogen is often perceived as dangerous due to its explosive nature. However, it’s important to note that many gases we use every day, like cooking and natural gas, are also explosive.

Despite the dramatic imagery associated with hydrogen explosions, particularly the infamous Hindenburg disaster, such events are rare. According to Hydrolite’s CTO, Dr. Charly Azra, “In the past few decades, there haven’t been any significant fatal accidents involving hydrogen. This safety record is comparable to, if not better than, that of other gases used in industrial and domestic settings.”

The reality is that hydrogen has been safely transported and stored for decades across various industries. It is used in a wide range of applications, often unseen by the public, and its transportation is a routine matter. Trucks carrying hydrogen on the roads are a common sight, and the gas is transported in both gaseous and liquid forms, cooled in pipelines, and often stored in large quantities without incidents.

Addressing Common Concerns

One of the prevalent fears about hydrogen is its tendency to leak due to its small molecular size. Hydrogen is the smallest molecule, so there’s a belief it can leak through storage containers.

However, advancements in materials science have led to the development of storage solutions capable of containing hydrogen, even under very high pressures up to 1,000 atmospheres. These containers, made from either metals and or composite materials, are designed to withstand the pressures and prevent leaks in hydrogen storage and transportation.

Furthermore, the notion that hydrogen is more dangerous than other gases is a myth. Lots of other gases that are used abundantly around us, including LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) and LNG (Liquified natural gas), are hazardous if mishandled. For example, cars running on LPG cannot enter underground parking lots because leaked LPG, being heavier than air, accumulates in low areas and poses a risk of ignition. In contrast, hydrogen, being much lighter than air, disperses quickly if released.

Hydrolite’s CTO further explains, “In some cases, hydrogen has an advantage over other gases. If one bursts a hydrogen balloon in a room with an open window, gases will find its way out and disperses very rapidly”

Hydrogen vs. Fossil Fuels

One of the most compelling arguments for hydrogen is its behavior during accidents. Hydrogen’s rapid dispersion can reduce the duration and intensity of fires compared to fossil fuels. “When testing cars with hydrogen tanks against gasoline cars, the hydrogen explosion is swift and ends quickly, unlike gasoline fires, which can burn for extended periods,” the CTO explains.

While both scenarios may be extremely hazardous, a hydrogen explosion’s immediate and short-lived nature can sometimes be less dangerous and fetal than the prolonged burning of fossil fuels.

Ensuring Sustainable Hydrogen Use

The safety of hydrogen is further ensured through stringent standards and regulations governing its production, compression, transportation, storage, and usage.

Hydrogen technology is monitored by at least two international standards organizations, such as the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) and ISO (International Organization for Standardization). These standards cover every aspect of hydrogen’s lifecycle, from production to end use, ensuring that all safety protocols are meticulously followed.

Moreover, every hydrogen facility around the world receives approval from fire safety authorities. This ensures that emergency protocols are in place and the infrastructure is built to withstand potential hazards.

The fear surrounding hydrogen largely stems from its novelty to the public and high-profile historical accidents. However, as Azra emphasizes, “The key is to present the correct use of hydrogen. Because it is less familiar to the public, there is fear.”

Through continued education and adherence to stringent safety standards, hydrogen can be demystified and recognized for its potential as a clean, efficient, and safe energy source.