What Are the Potential Challenges of Hydrogen?
Making the switch to hydrogen will require significant investments into the production, storage, and distribution of the gas. This includes everything from pipelines and refueling stations to homes that can run on hydrogen fuel. If not understood and addressed, these challenges will impede the growth of hydrogen’s regime as a fuel.
Here are the key challenges we’ve identified so far:
Hydrogen is quite volatile and easy to ignite. At high quantities and pressure, it can pose a significant danger; the ignition energy for hydrogen is about ten times lower than that of natural gas.
Consider the 2019 hydrogen explosion in Norway, which resulted from leaked hydrogen and injured multiple people nearby. This is a clear example of why hydrogen must be handled carefully - from production to distribution to end-users.
One of the greatest challenges the industry faces is transporting hydrogen, determining whether existing infrastructures will be suitable for this new fuel, and determining how it will interact with pipelines, seals, gaskets, compressors, and other components.
At the current time, there isn’t enough factual information regarding how hydrogen could affect a small crack on a pipe. Would hydrogen propagate the crack size? Would seals expand or contract? Are there even compressors capable of handling hydrogen? These and many more questions are left to explore.
The use of hydrogen presents the need for efficient hydrogen pipeline inspection systems. Current pipeline inspection technologies may not be sufficient to assess useful information about the status of pipes, which lies solely in the fact that there are many unknowns about how hydrogen will impact them.
Since hydrogen's volatility and high ignition tendency have been clearly established, there’s no question that leakage poses a significant threat. The ability to avert leakage would come from the ease of inspecting pipelines adequately - with the right tools, at the right time - to obtain the right data.
Despite its challenges, we remain optimistic about the future of hydrogen and its role in the transition to a clean energy future.