Bloomberg: Hydrogen Leaks Could Drive More Global Warming

Essay by Eric Worrall

According to Bloomberg, the miracle fuel has some drawbacks; Hydrogen leaks could have a powerful impact on global warming.

Miracle Fuel Hydrogen Can Actually Make Climate Change Worse

If it escapes into the air, this green fuel can contribute to global warming — which is why scientists say we need to limit leaks.

By David R Baker
31 May 2022, 14:01 GMT+10

A world desperate for a climate-friendly fuel is pinning its hopes on hydrogen, seeing it as a way to power factories, buildings, ships and planes without pumping carbon dioxide into the sky.

“The potency is a lot stronger than people realize,” said Ilissa Ocko, a climate scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, a non-profit group. “We’re putting this on everyone’s radar now not to say ‘no’ to hydrogen but to think about how we deploy it.”

Hydrogen doesn’t trap heat directly, the way CO₂ does. Instead, when leaked it sets off a series of chemical reactions that warm the air, acting as an indirect greenhouse gas. And though it cycles out of the atmosphere far faster than carbon dioxide, which lingers for centuries, it can do more damage than CO₂ in the short term. Over 20 years, it has 33 times the global warming potential of an equal amount of carbon dioxide, according to a recent UK government report. Over hundreds of years, carbon is more dangerous, due to its longevity.

“It doesn’t mean it’s not still important, it doesn’t mean we don’t need to understand more about it, but our first impression is it’s much, much smaller,” said Edwards, a director with the company and its chief hydrogen advocate in the US. Hydrogen leaks, he said, “are manageable problems to address.”

Read more:

Reading further, the claim is Hydrogen extends the longevity of atmospheric methane. Although atmospheric methane concentrations are very low, according to the EPA methane is estimated to be 27-30 times more capable of trapping heat than CO2.

If there is one thing hydrogen can do, that is leak. Hydrogen attacks many metals and embrittles them – increasing the risk of fracturing and cracks. In addition, hydrogen is incredibly difficult to contain, far more difficult to methane – tiny hydrogen molecules find their way out of any defects in the containment system.

Personally I think the hydrogen economy push is an episode of lunacy which will end badly. Hydrogen is difficult to handle safely, even in an industrial setting, so any attempt to implement a large scale consumer hydrogen economy seems likely to go up with a bang.

From BOC factsheet on Hydrogen.


5.1 Extinguishing media

Stop flow of gas if safe to do so, such as by slowly closing the cylinder valve. If the gas source cannot be isolated, do not extinguish the flame, since re-ignition and explosion could occur. Await arrival of emergency services or manufacturer’s advisor. Drench and cool cylinders with water spray from protected area at a safe distance. If it is absolutely necessary to extinguish the flame, use only a dry chemical powder extinguisher. Avoid shock and bumps to cylinders.

5.2 Special hazards arising from the substance or mixture

Extremely flammable. Eliminate all ignition sources including cigarettes, open flames, spark producing switches/tools, heaters, naked lights, pilot lights, mobile phones etc. when handling.

5.3 Advice for firefighters

Hydrogen will form explosive mixtures in air. Temperatures in a fire may cause cylinders to rupture and internal pressure relief devices to be activated. This product will add fuel to a fire. Cool cylinders exposed to fire by applying water from a protected location. Do not approach cylinders suspected of being hot.

5.4 Hazchem code 2SE
2 Fine Water Spray.
S Risk of violent reaction or explosion. Wear full fire kit and breathing apparatus. Dilute spill and run-off. E Evacuation of people in and around the immediate vicinity of the incident should be considered.

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Sounds like just what you want parked in your carport, right?

If I had to choose between hydrogen, lithium batteries or the distant third contender, toxic and corrosive ammonia, my choice would “none of the above”.

I find moments like this intensely frustrating. Watching the momentum gathering for a hydrogen vehicle economy is like watching a family vehicle full of kids driving full speed towards a broken bridge, and being powerless to warn them to stop. Early adopters are going to accept the assurances and park these ticking time bombs in their homes, without understanding the risks. Entire families are likely going to die because of this idiocy.

My hope is if enough of us speak up and point out the problems to our friends, and their friends, we can at least hope to mitigate the damage, to bring forward the day of awakening, and reduce the number of deaths.

via Watts Up With That?

May 31, 2022 at 08:14PM

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