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Hydrogen Applications

Health & Safety

Is H 2 dangerous?

Like all energy carriers do, H 2 presents safety and health risks when used on a large scale. Established products don't face this kind of scrutiny anymore, at least in the eyes of the general public, but new technologies often do. Public safety concerns are important to be addressed quickly, otherwise the speed of deployment could be slowed down.

As a light gas of small molecules, H2 will diffuse easily, even in certain types of iron and steel pipes. It also escapes very easily through sealings and connectors, this means that special equipment and procedures are required to handle it. Another important characteristic to consider its high flammability (due to a high flame velocity, low and broad ignition), which is partly offset by its high diffusivity and buoyancy, allowing the gas to quickly dissipate.

Since H2 has been used for industrial purposes for decades (including large dedicated pipelines), there is already a base knowledge on how to handle it and the necessary protocols for safe handling. Nevertheless, widespread use in the energy or transport sector would bring new challenges and thus further development on new protocols to ensure proper manipulation.

For the rest of hydrogen-based fuels and feedstocks, health and safety considerations are already very familiar to the energy sector (except for ammonia and liquid organic hydrogen carriers, which are newcomers). Ammonia currently has the most potential due to its diverse use, however, it raises more considerations than H2 due to its high toxicity, flammability, corrosiveness, and escape capability. But, unlike H2, it is easier to detect due to its pungent smell.

Ammonia also has a long and widespread use in the industry, it is routinely stored, transported and used for multiple purposes. Only professionally trained operators are in charge of these tasks, and for the time being it would seem it will have to remain that way.

More information on the safety of hydrogen in its various applications can be found at:

  1. The International Hydrogen Safety Association

  2. Ballard`s hydrogen safety myths

  3. European Hydrogen Safety Panel

  4. Hydrogen cars safety

  5. Comparison of hydrogen with other fuels