World Hydrogen Summit 2022

Crowcon exhibited at the World Hydrogen Summit & Exhibition 2022 on the 9th – 11th May 2022 as part of the event designed to advance development in the hydrogen sector. Based in Rotterdam and produced by the Sustainable Energy Council (SEC), this year’s exhibition was the first Crowcon has attended. We were excited to be part of an occasion which fosters connections and collaboration between those at the forefront of the heavy industry and drives the hydrogen sector forward.

Our team representatives met various industry peers and showcased our Hydrogen solutions for gas detection. Our MPS sensor offers a higher standard of flammable gas detection thanks to its pioneering advanced molecular property spectrometer (MPS™) technology that can detect and accurately identify over 15 different flammable gases. This showcased an ideal solution for hydrogen detection due to hydrogen having proprieties that allow for easy ignition and higher burn intensity compared to that of petrol or diesel, therefore poses a real explosion risk. To find out more read our blog.

Our MPS technology had interest due to this not requiring calibration throughout the life cycle of the sensor, and detects flammable gases without the risk of poisoning or false alarms, thereby having a significant saving on total cost of ownership and reduce interaction with units, ultimately providing peace of mind and less risk for operators.

The Summit allowed us to understand the current state of the hydrogen market, including key players and current projects, allowing for potential developed a greater understanding of our product needs in order to play a major role in the future of hydrogen gas detection.

We look forward to attending next year!

The importance of Gas Detection in the Marine Industry 

Gas detectors for vessels is a device that detects the presence of gases in ships, often as part of a safety system. SOLAS regulations XI- 1/7 requires that vessels have at least one portable gas monitor on board for oxygen and flammable gas detection. This type of equipment is used to detect a gas leak and interface with a control system so a process can be automatically shut down. 

Why is gas detection required? 

Gas detection equipment measures a gas concentration against a calibration gas which acts as a reference point. Some gas detection monitors only can detect a single gas, some gas detectors can detect several toxic or combustible gases and even combinations within one device. 

Marine applications often generate high humidity and dirty conditions. Detection is required from O2 monitoring in cargo room exhausts, to monitoring flammable and toxic gases within various void spaces, to pump room or cabins, fixed systems with sampling are all commonly used in marine settings. 

Gas detection is required within the marine industry due to the high temperature surfaces housed in an engine room, as well as the short circuit in the electrical system. Both factors combine with smoking or other domestic sources of fire or a reaction in the cargo, leave ships extremely vulnerable to fires. Gas detection is therefore a vital piece of equipment in protecting the lives of those who work on these vessels. This is key as many seafarers lose their lives every year due to the toxic working environment, they work in. Therefore, detecting such hazards before they become fatal, is essential to contain the damage which can take the form a disaster, meaning gas detection is one of the most important pieces of equipment on a marine vessel. 

What are the gas hazards? 

There are several different gas hazards, dependant on the vessel type, such as FPSO (floating, production, storage, and offloading), tankers, ferries, submarines, general or cargo tanks.  

FPSO and tankers house flammable gases and hydrogen sulphide. Therefore, there is a gas hazard risk of flammable gas leaks within the pump rooms. Gas hazards in confined spaces are another hazard, as there may be inerted tanks or voids, which therefore may be too much or too little oxygen in these confined space environments and where inerting gases are stored. There are also hydrocarbon oxygen risks during the purging of tanks (from %Volume to %LEL (Lower Explosive Limit)).  

  • Carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrous oxide (NOx) are housed on ferries as a result of the accumulation from vehicle exhausts, as both are poisonous gases, they are both gas hazards to be aware of.  
  • Submarines house hydrogen within battery rooms. Along with CO2 leaks from air conditioning systems. 
  • On general vessels, CO and NOx are present engine rooms. Along with hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and O2 being depleted in bilges, that arise from the on-board sewage treatment plant. Vessels that carry food produce, such as grain, will sometimes be at risk of H2S. 
  • Cargo Tanks house vapour emission control systems which are used to analyse waste vapour gas for oxygen gas content. The system includes a pressure transmitter to monitor the pressure on the waste vapour line. 

Marine standards 

Products installed on any marine vessel must comply with internationally recognized regulations. Therefore, the international standard that applies to a vessel depend upon where it is registered. It is essential that products sold for use on a vessel comply with the standards relevant to the country in which the ship is registered. For example, products fitted to a European-registered vessel undergoing a re-fit in Singapore must comply with the European MED (Marine Equipment Directive) directive. 

There are several different standards that comply to different regions: 

  • EU (European Union) countries: MED (Marine Equipment Directive 96/98/EC). 
  • North America: US Coast Guard (USCG) regulations. 
  • Other countries: SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations provide the minimum requirements, however individual countries will require compliance with the standards of their chosen marine insurance body (e.g., BV, DNV etc). 

Why use detectors? 

Gas detectors measure and specify the concentration of specific gases within the air via different technologies. 

Gas meters are also used on-board ships to measure the hydrocarbon content, explosion hazard risk, and the oxygen analysers. Under the current guidelines cargo tanks or any enclosed space on-board the ship must be tested to ensure that the space is gas-free along with ample amount of oxygen for any required personnel to work there. These circumstances include; prior to starting any repair work or before loading as quality control. 

To find out more about the Marine industry, visit our industry page.  

Hydrogen Electrolysis

At present the most commercially developed technology available to produce hydrogen is from electrolysis. Electrolysis is an optimistic course of action for carbon-free hydrogen production from renewable and nuclear resources. Water electrolysis is the decomposition of water (H2O) into its basic components, hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2), through passing electric current. Water is a complete source for producing hydrogen and the only by-product released during process is oxygen. This process uses electrical energy that can then be stored as a chemical energy in the form of hydrogen.

What is the Process?

To produce Hydrogen, Electrolysis converts electrical energy into chemical energy by storing electrons in stable chemical bonds. Like fuel cells, electrolysers are composed of an anode and a cathode separated by an aqueous electrolyte according to the type of electrolyte material involved and the ionic species it conducts. The electrolyte is an obligatory part as pure water does not have the ability to carry enough charge as it lacks ions. At the anode, water is oxidised into oxygen gas and hydrogen ions. While the cathode, water is reduced to hydrogen gas and hydroxide ions. At present there are three leading electrolysis technologies.

Alkaline Electrolysers (AEL)

This technology has been used on an industrial scale for over 100 years. Alkaline electrolysers operate via transport of hydroxide ions (OH-) through the electrolyte from the cathode to the anode with hydrogen being generated on the cathode side. Operating at 100°–150°C, Electrolysers use a liquid alkaline solution of sodium or potassium hydroxide (KOH) as the electrolyte. In this process the anode and cathode are separated using a diaphragm that prevents remixing. At the cathode, water is split to form H2 and releases hydroxide anions that pass through the diaphragm to recombine at the anode where oxygen is produced. As this is a well-established technology it is relatively low in cost of production as well as it provides a long-time stability. However, it does have a crossover in gases possibly compromising its degree of purity and requires the use of a corrosive liquid electrolyte.

Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Electrolysers (PEM)

Polymer Electrolyte Membrane is the latest technology to be commercially used to produce hydrogen. In a PEM electrolyser, the electrolyte is a solid specialty plastic material. PEM electrolysers operate at 70°–90°C. In this the process the water reacts at the anode to form oxygen and positively charged hydrogen ions (protons). The electrons flow through an external circuit and the hydrogen ions selectively move across the PEM to the cathode. At the cathode, the hydrogen ions combine with electrons from the external circuit to form hydrogen gas. Compared to AEL there are several advantages: the product gas purity is high in a partial load operation, the system design is compact and has a rapid system response. However, component cost is high and durability is low.

Solid Oxide Electrolysers (SOE)

AEL and PEM electrolysers are known as Low-Temperature Electrolysers (LTE). However, Solid oxide Electrolyser (SOE) is known as High-Temperature Electrolyser (HTE). This technology is still at development stage. In SOE, solid ceramic material is used as the electrolyte which conducts negatively charged oxygen ions (O2-) at elevated temperatures, generates hydrogen in a slightly different way. At a temperature about 700°–800°C steam at the cathode combines with electrons from the external circuit to form hydrogen gas and negatively charged oxygen ions. The oxygen ions pass through the solid ceramic membrane and react at the anode to form oxygen gas and generate electrons for the external circuit. Advantages of this technology is that it combines high heat and power efficiency as well as it producing low emissions at a relatively low cost. Although, due to the high heat and power required, start-up time takes longer.

Why is Hydrogen being considered as an alternative fuel?

Hydrogen is considered an alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Hydrogen produced via electrolysis can contribute zero greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the source of the electricity used. This technology is being pursued to work with renewable (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal) and nuclear energy options to allow virtually zero greenhouse gas and other pollutant emissions. Although, this type of production will require the cost to be decreased significantly to be competitive with more mature carbon-based pathways such as natural gas reforming. There is potential for synergy with renewable energy power generation. Hydrogen fuel and electric power generation could be distributed and sited at wind farms, thereby allowing flexibility to shift production to best match resource availability with system operational needs and market factors.

Blue Hydrogen – An overview

What is Hydrogen?

Hydrogen is one of the most abundant sources of gas contributing approximately 75% of the gas in our solar system. Hydrogen is found in various things including light, water, air, plants, and animals; however, it is often combined with other elements. The most familiar combination is with oxygen to make water. Hydrogen gas is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas which is lighter than air. As it is far lighter than air this means it rises in our atmosphere, meaning it is not naturally found at ground level, but instead must be created. This is done by separating it from other elements and collecting the gas. 

What is Blue Hydrogen?

Blue hydrogen has been described as ‘low-carbon hydrogen’ due to the Steam Reforming Process (SMR) not requiring the release of greenhouse gases. Blue hydrogen is produced from non-renewable energy sources when natural gas is divided into hydrogen and Carbon Dioxide through either Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) or Auto Thermal Reforming (ATR), the CO2 is then captured and stored. This process captures greenhouse gasses, thereby mitigating any impacts on the environment. SMR is the most common method for producing bulk hydrogen and contributes most of the world’s production. This method uses a reformer, which reacts steam at an elevated temperature and pressure with methane as well as a nickel catalyst resulting in production of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide is then combined with more steam resulting in more hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The process of ‘capturing’ is completed through Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS). Alternatively, autothermal reforming uses oxygen and carbon dioxide or steam to react with methane to form hydrogen. The downside of these two methods is that they produce carbon dioxide as a by-product, so carbon capture and storage (CCS) is essential to trap and store this carbon. 

The Scale of Hydrogen Production

The natural gas reforming technology that is available today lends itself to the industrial manufacture of hydrogen on a large scale. A world-class methane reformer can produce 200 million standard cubic feet (MSCF) of hydrogen per day. That is the equivalent amount of hydrogen to support an industrial area or refuel 10,000 lorries. Approximately 150 of these would be needed to completely replace the UK natural gas supply, and we use 2.1% of the world’s natural gas. 

Industrial scale production of Blue Hydrogen is already possible today, however, improvements in production and efficiency would lead to a further reduction in costs. In most countries who produce hydrogen, Blue Hydrogen is currently being produced at a lower cost than green, which is still in the earlier stages of its development. With the additionally arrangements of CO2 policy and hydrogen incentives, the demand for hydrogen will continue to rise and with this it will gain in traction, although this would currently require both production technologies for hydrogen to be fully used. 

Advantages of Blue Hydrogen?

By producing Blue Hydrogen without the need to generate electricity needed for the production of green hydrogen, Blue Hydrogen could help to conserve scarce land as well as accelerate the shift towards low-carbon energy without hinderance related to land requirements. 

Currently Blue hydrogen is less expensive compared to Green Hydrogen. With mainstream estimates of Blue Hydrogen production costing around $1.50 per kg or less when using lower-cost natural gas. Comparatively, Green Hydrogen is costs more than two times that amount today, with reductions requiring significant improvements in electrolysis and very low-cost electricity. 

Disadvantages of Blue Hydrogen?

Natural gas prices are on the increase. US researchers when looking into environmental impact over its entire lifecycle of Blue Hydrogen have found that methane emissions produced when the fossil natural gas is extracted and burned are much less than Blue Hydrogen due to manufacturing efficiencies. With more methane needing to be extracted in order to make Blue Hydrogen. As well as it requiring to pass through reformers, pipelines, and ships, of which poses more opportunities for leaks. This research indicates, making Blue Hydrogen is currently 20% worse for the climate than just using fossil gas. 

The process of making Blue Hydrogen also requires a lot of energy. For every unit of heat in the natural gas at the start of the process, only 70-75% of that potential heat remains in the hydrogen product. In other words, if the hydrogen is used to heat a building, 25% more natural gas is required to produce Blue Hydrogen than if it was used directly for heat. 

Is hydrogen the future?

The potential of this initiative could increase the use of hydrogen, which may help decarbonise the area’s industrial sector. Hydrogen would be delivered to customers to help reduce emissions from domestic heating, industrial processes and transportation, and CO2 would be captured and shipped to a secure offshore storage location. This could also attract significant investment in the community, support existing employment, and stimulate the creation of local jobs. In the end, if the Blue Hydrogen industry is to contribute a meaningful role in decarbonisation, it will need to build and operate infrastructure that delivers on its full emission reduction potential. 

Green Hydrogen – An Overview

What is Hydrogen?

Hydrogen is one of the most abundant sources of gas contributing approximately 75% of the gas in our solar system. Hydrogen is found in various things including light, water, air, plants, and animals, however, it is often combined with other elements. The most familiar combination is with oxygen to make water. Hydrogen gas is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas which is lighter than air. As it is far lighter than air this means it rises in our atmosphere, meaning it is not naturally found at ground level, but instead must be created. This is done by separating it from other elements and collecting the gas. 

What is Green Hydrogen?

Green hydrogen is produced using electricity to power an electrolyser that separates hydrogen from the water molecule producing oxygen as a by-product. Excess electricity can be used by electrolysis to create hydrogen gas that can be stored for the future. Essentially, if the electricity used to power the electrolysers originates from renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydro, or if it originates from nuclear power – fission or fusion, then the hydrogen produced is green, in which the only carbon emissions are from those embodied in the generation infrastructure. Electrolysers are the most significant technology used for synthesising zero-carbon hydrogen fuel using renewable energy, known as green hydrogen. Green hydrogen and derivatives are an essential solution to the decarbonisation of heavy industry sectors and experts suggest will constitute up to 25% of total final energy use in a net-zero economy. 

Advantages of Green Hydrogen

It is 100% sustainable as it does not emit polluting gases either through combustion or production. Hydrogen can be easily stored thereby allowing it to be used later for other purposes and/or at the time of production. Green hydrogen can be converted into electricity or synthetic gas and can be used for a variety of domestic, commercial, industrial or mobility purposes. Additionally, hydrogen can be mixed with natural gas at ratio of up to 20% without modification of the gas main infrastructure or gas appliances.  

Disadvantages of Green Hydrogen

Although hydrogen is 100% sustainable it currently comes at a high cost than fossil fuels due to renewable energy being more expensive to produce. The overall production of hydrogen requires more energy than some other fuels, so unless the electricity required to produce hydrogen comes from a renewable source the entire process of production may be counterproductive. Additionally, hydrogen is a highly flammable gas, therefore extensive safety measures are essential to prevent leakage and explosions. 

What is The Green Hydrogen Catapult (GHC) and what does it aim to achieve? 

Members of the Green Hydrogen Catapult (GHC) are a coalition of leaders with an ambition to expand and grow Green Hydrogen Development. As of November 2021, they have announced a commitment for 45 GW of electrolysers to be developed with secured financing by 2026 with additional targeted commissioning for 2027. This is a vastly increased ambition as the initial target set by the coalition at the time of its launch in December 2020 was 25 GW. Green hydrogen has been seen as a critical element in creating a sustainable energy future as well as being one of the largest business opportunities in recent times. And has been said to be the key to allowing for the decarbonisation of sectors like steel manufacturing, shipping, and aviation.  

Why Hydrogen is seen as a cleaner future?

We live in a world in which one of the collective sustainability aims is to decarbonise the fuel we use by 2050. To achieve this, decarbonising the production of a significant fuel source like hydrogen, giving rise to green hydrogen, is one of the key strategies as production of non-green hydrogen is currently responsible for more than 2 % of total global CO2 emissions. During combustion, chemical bonds are broken and constituent elements combined with oxygen. Traditionally, Methane gas has been the natural gas of choice with 85% of homes and 40% of the UK’s electricity depending on natural gas. Methane is a cleaner fuel than coal, however, when it is burnt carbon dioxide is produced as a waste product which, on entering the atmosphere, starts contributing to climate change. Hydrogen Gas when burnt only produces water vapour as a waste product, which has no global warming potential. 

The UK Government have seen the use of hydrogen as a fuel and hence hydrogen homes as a way forward for a greener way of living, and have set a target for a thriving hydrogen economy by 2030. Whilst Japan, South Korea and China are on course to make considerable progress in hydrogen economy development with targets set to surpass the UK by 2030. Similarly, the European Commission has presented a hydrogen strategy in which hydrogen could support 24% of Europe’s energy by 2050. 

What do you need to know about Hydrogen?

Hydrogen, alongside other renewables and natural gas has an increasingly vital role to play in the clean energy landscape. Hydrogen is found in various things including light, water, air, plants, and animals, however, is often combined with other chemicals, the most familiar combination is with oxygen to make water.

What is Hydrogen and what are its benefits?

Historically, Hydrogen Gas has been used as a component for rocket fuel as well as in gas turbines to produce electricity or to burn to run combustion engines for the power generation. In the Oil and Gas Industry, excess hydrogen from the catalytic reforming of naphtha has been used as fuel for other unit operations.

Hydrogen Gas is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas which is lighter than air. As it is lighter than air this means it float higher than our atmosphere, meaning it is not naturally found, but instead must be created. This is done by separating it from other elements and collecting the vapour. Electrolysis is completed by taking liquid usually water and separating this from the chemicals found within it. In water the hydrogen and oxygen molecules separate leaving two bonds of hydrogen and one bond of oxygen. The hydrogen atoms form a gas which is captured and stored until required, the oxygen atoms are released into the air as there is no further use. The hydrogen gas that is produced leaves no damaging impact on the environment, leading to many experts believing this is the future.

Why Hydrogen is seen as a cleaner future.

In order to make energy a fuel that is a chemical is burnt. This process usually means chemical bonds are broken and combined with oxygen. Traditionally, Methane gas has been the natural gas of choice with 85% of homes and 40% of the UK’s electricity depending on gas. Methane was seen as a cleaner gas compared to coal, however, when its burnt carbon dioxide is produced as a waste product thereby contributing to climate change. Hydrogen Gas when burnt only produces water vapour as a waste product, this being already a natural resource.

The difference between blue hydrogen and green hydrogen.

Blue hydrogen is produced from non-renewable energy sources, through two methods either Steam or Autothermal. Steam Methane reformation is the most common when producing hydrogen in bulk. This method uses a reformer which produces steam at a high temperature and pressure and is combined with methane and a nickel catalyst to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Autothermal reforming uses the same process however, with oxygen and carbon dioxide. Both methods produce carbon as a by-product.

Green hydrogen is produced using electricity to power an electrolyser that separates hydrogen from the water molecule producing oxygen as a by-product. It also allows for excess electricity to electrolysis to create hydrogen gas that can be stored for the future.

The characteristics that hydrogen presents, has set a precedence for the future of energy. The UK Government have seen this a way forward for a greener way of living and have set a target for a thriving hydrogen economy by 2030. Whilst Japan, South Korea and China are on course to make significant progress in hydrogen development with targets set to match the UK for 2030. Similarly, the European Commission have presented a hydrogen strategy in which hydrogen could provide for 24% of the world’s energy by 2050.

How Hydrogen is Helping the Gas and Steel Industries to Go Green

Green hydrogen, taken from both low carbon and renewable energy sources, can play a crucial role in taking a company – or a country – closer to carbon neutrality. Common applications in which green hydrogen can be used include:

  • Fuel cells for electric vehicles
  • As the hydrogen in pipeline gas blending
  • In ‘green steel’ refineries that burn hydrogen as a heat source rather than coal
  • In container ships powered by liquid ammonia that is made from hydrogen
  • In hydrogen-powered electricity turbines that can generate electricity at times of peak demand

This post will explore the use of hydrogen in pipeline gas blending and green steel refineries.

Injecting hydrogen into pipelines

Governments and utilities companies worldwide are exploring the possibilities of injecting hydrogen into their natural gas grids, to reduce fossil fuel consumption and limit emissions. Indeed, hydrogen injection into pipelines now features in the national hydrogen strategies of the EU, Australia and the UK, with the EU’s hydrogen strategy specifying the introduction of hydrogen into national gas grids by 2050.

From an environmental point of view, adding hydrogen to natural gas has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but to achieve that, the hydrogen must be produced from low-carbon energy sources and renewables. For example, hydrogen generated from electrolysis, bio-waste or fossil fuel sources that use carbon capture and storage (CCS).

In a similar way, countries aspiring to develop a green hydrogen economy can turn to grid injection to stimulate investment and develop new markets. In an effort to kick start its renewable hydrogen plan, Western Australia is planning to introduce at least 10% renewable hydrogen into its gas pipelines and networks, and to bring forward the state’s targets under its renewable hydrogen strategy from 2040 to 2030.

On a volumetric basis, hydrogen has a much lower energy density than natural gas, so end-users of a blended gas would require a higher volume of gas to achieve the same heating value as those using pure natural gas. Simply put, a 5% blending of hydrogen by volume does not directly translate into a 5% reduction in fossil fuel consumption.

Is there any safety risk in hydrogen blending in our gas supply? Let’s examine the risk:

  1. Hydrogen has lower LEL than natural gas, so there is a higher risk of generating a flammable atmosphere with blended gas mixtures.
  2. Hydrogen has lower ignition energy than natural gas and a broad flammable range (4% to 74% in air), so there is higher risk of explosion
  3. Hydrogen molecules are small and move quickly, so any blended gas leak will spread faster and wider than would be the case with natural gas.

In the UK, domestic and industrial heating accounts for half of the UK’s energy consumption and one third of its carbon emissions. Since 2019, the UK’s first project to inject hydrogen into the gas grid has been underway, with trials taking place at Keele University. The HyDeploy project aims to inject up to 20% hydrogen and blend it with the existing gas supply to heat residential blocks and campuses without changing the gas-fired appliances or piping. In this project, Crowcon gas detectors and flue gas analyser are being used to identify the impact of hydrogen blending in terms of gas leak detection. Crowcon’s Sprint Pro flue gas analyser is being used to assess for boiler efficiency.

Crowcon’s Sprint Pro is a professional grade flue gas analyser, with features tailored to meet the needs of the HVAC professional, a robust design, full selection of accessories and 5-year warranty. Read more about the Sprint Pro here.

Hydrogen in the steel industry

Traditional iron and steel production is considered one of the largest emitters of environmental pollutants, including greenhouse gases and fine dust. Steel making processes rely heavily on fossil fuels, with coal products accounting for 78% of these. It is thus not surprising that the steel industry emits around 10% of all global process- and energy-related CO2 emissions.

Hydrogen may be an alternative for steel companies seeking to drastically reduce their carbon emissions. Several steel makers in Germany and Korea are already cutting emissions through a hydrogen reduction steelmaking method that uses hydrogen, not coal, to make steel. Traditionally, a significant amount of hydrogen gas is produced in steel making as a by-product called coke gas. By passing that coke gas through a process called carbon capture and storage (CCS), steel plants can produce significant amount of blue hydrogen, which can then be used to control temperatures and prevent oxidation during steel production.

In addition, steel makers are producing steel products specifically for hydrogen. As part of its new vision of becoming a green hydrogen enterprise, Korean steelmaker POSCO has invested heavily to develop steel products for use in the production, transport, storage and utilisation of hydrogen.

With many flammable and toxic gas hazards being present in steel plants, it is important to understand the cross sensitivity of gases, because a false gas reading could prove fatal. For example, a blast furnace produces a great deal of hot, dusty, toxic and flammable gas consisting of carbon monoxide (CO) with some hydrogen. Gas detection manufacturers that have experience in these environments are well acquainted with the issue of hydrogen affecting electrochemical CO sensors, and thus provide hydrogen-filtered sensors as standard to steel facilities.

To learn more about cross sensitivity, please see our blog. Crowcon gas detectors are used in many steel facilities across the world, and you can find out more about Crowcon solutions in the steel industry here.

References:

  1. Injecting hydrogen in natural gas grids could provide steady demand the sector needs to develop (S&P Global Platts, 19 May 2020)
  2. Western Australia pumps $22m into hydrogen action plan (Power Engineering, 14 Sep 2020)
  3. Green Hydrogen in Natural Gas Pipelines: Decarbonization Solution or Pipe Dream? (Green Tech Media, 20 Nov 2020)
  4. Could hydrogen piggyback on natural gas infrastructure? (Network Online, 17 Mar 2016)
  5. Steel, Hydrogen and Renewables: Strange Bedfellows? Maybe Not… (Forbes.com, 15 May 2020)
  6. POSCO to Expand Hydrogen Production to 5 Mil. Tons by 2050 (Business Korea, 14 Dec 202 0)http://https://www.crowcon.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/shutterstock_607164341-scaled.jpg

The Many Colours of Hydrogen

Hydrogen, alongside other renewables and natural gas has an increasingly vital role to play in the clean energy landscape. Corporations and countries are increasingly interested in alternative fuels amid the global push for carbon neutrality. This year the EU pledged to become climate neutral (that is, to become an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions) by 2050, Australia launched its National Hydrogen Strategy to accelerate development of clean hydrogen and export it to neighbouring countries and Shell and BP pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

For many oil and gas companies aiming to decarbonise, hydrogen is a fuel of choice to comply with climate targets. The growth of hydrogen is expected to take off in the next 10–20 years, with costs driven down as hydrogen becomes more widely produced. With new applications, the low-carbon hydrogen market size could reach US$ 25 billion by 2030 and grow even further long-term.

Hydrogen burns clean when mixed with oxygen, and is seen as green fuel alternative in transport, shipping and heating (both domestic and industrial). Interestingly, the use of hydrogen as fuel is not new. Hydrogen is already a component of rocket fuel and is used in gas turbines to produce electricity, or burned to run combustion engines for power generation. Hydrogen is also used as feedstock to produce ammonia, methanol and other petrochemicals.

In general, we know that hydrogen is a good choice of fuel for industries looking to decarbonise, but not all hydrogen is created equal. Although the gas only emits water when burned, its contribution to carbon neutrality depends on how it is produced.

Brown hydrogen is made from the gasification of coal, which emits CO2 into the air as it combusts. Grey hydrogen is hydrogen produced using fossil fuels, such as natural gas, and is the most commonly-produced form of hydrogen in the world today. Blue hydrogen is made in the same way as grey, but carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies prevent the release of CO2, enabling the captured carbon to be safely stored deep underground or used in industrial processes. Turquoise (or low carbon) H2 is hydrogen produced from natural gas using molten metal pyrolysis technology.

As its name suggests, green or renewable hydrogen is the cleanest variety, producing zero carbon emissions. It is produced using electrolysis powered by renewable energy, like wind or solar power, to produce a clean and sustainable fuel.

Electrolysis splits water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen, so there is no waste and all parts are used with zero environmental impact. If the energy used for electrolysis is taken from renewable sources this can be counted as ‘green fuel’ because there are no negative impacts on the environment.

In our next blog we will discuss the potential hazards of hydrogen that may occur during production, storage and transport, and the gas detection solutions that Crowcon offers.

To learn more download our Hydrogen fact sheet here.

 

References:

Committing to climate-neutrality by 2050: Commission proposes European Climate Law and consults on the European Climate Pact (Apr 2020)

Shell unveils plans to become net-zero carbon company by 2050 (The Guardian, 16 Apr 2020)

BP sets ambition for net zero by 2050, fundamentally changing organisation to deliver (BP.com, 12 Feb 2020)

Shaping tomorrow’s global hydrogen market (Baker Mackenzie, Jan 2020)

The Dangers of Hydrogen

As a fuel, hydrogen is highly flammable and leaks generate a serious risk of fire. However, hydrogen fires are markedly different to fires involving other fuels. When heavier fuels and hydrocarbons, like petrol or diesel, leak they pool close to the ground. In contrast, hydrogen is one of the lightest elements on earth, so when a leak occurs the gas rapidly disperses upwards. This makes ignition less likely, but a further difference is that hydrogen ignites and burns more easily than petrol or diesel. In fact, even a spark of static electricity from a person’s finger is enough to set off an explosion when hydrogen is available. Hydrogen flame is also invisible, so it is hard to pin-point where is the actual ‘fire’ is, but it generates a low radiant heat due to the absence of carbon and tends to burn out quickly.

Hydrogen is odourless, colourless and tasteless, so leaks are hard to detect using human senses alone. Hydrogen is non-toxic, but in indoor environments like battery storage rooms, it may build up and cause asphyxiation by displacing oxygen. This danger can be offset to some extent by adding odorants to hydrogen fuel, giving it an artificial smell and alerting users in case of a leak. But as hydrogen disperses quickly, the odorant is unlikely to travel with it. Hydrogen leaking indoors quickly collects, initially at ceiling level and eventually fills up the room. Therefore, the placement of gas detectors is key in early detection of a leak.

Hydrogen is usually stored and transported in liquified hydrogen tanks. The last concern is that because it is compressed, liquid hydrogen is extremely cold. If hydrogen should escape from its tank and come in contact with skin it can cause severe frostbite, or even the loss of extremities.

Which sensor technology is best for detecting hydrogen?

Crowcon has a wide range of products for the detection of hydrogen. The traditional sensor technologies for flammable gas detection are pellistors and infrared (IR). Pellistor gas sensors (also called catalytic bead gas sensors) have been the primary technology for detecting flammable gases since the 1960s and you can read more about pellistor sensors on our solution page. However, their key disadvantage is that in low oxygen environments, pellistor sensors will not function properly and may even fail. In some installations, pellistors are at risk of being poisoned or inhibited, which leaves workers unprotected. Also, pellistor sensors are not fail-safe, and a sensor failure will not be detected unless test gas is applied.

Infrared-type sensors are a reliable way to detect flammable hydrocarbons in low oxygen environments. They are not susceptible to being poisoned, so IR can significantly enhance safety in these conditions. Read more about IR sensors on our solution page, and the differences between pellistors and IR sensors in the following blog.

Just as pellistors are susceptible to poisoning, IR sensors are susceptible to severe mechanical and thermal shock and are also strongly affected by gross pressure changes. Additionally, IR sensors cannot be used to detect hydrogen. So the best option for hydrogen flammable gas detection is molecular property spectrometer (MPS™) sensor technology. This does not require calibration throughout the life cycle of the sensor, and since MPS detects flammable gases without the risk of poisoning or false alarms, it can significantly save on total cost of ownership and reduce interaction with units, resulting in peace of mind and less risk for operators. Molecular property spectrometer gas detection was developed at the University of Nevada and is currently the only gas detection technology able to detect multiple flammable gases, including hydrogen, simultaneously, very accurately and with a single sensor.

Read our white paper to find out more.