Hydrogen is not inherently more dangerous than other fuels. Several of hydrogen’s characteristics in reality boost its safety when compared to other fuels. As with any energy source hydrogen must be handled correctly to insure safety.
For the past 40 years vast amounts of hydrogen have been used in manufacturing. Hydrogen has been used from applications such as food processing to fuel in rockets. As a result practices have been developed to safely make store and ship hydrogen safely. Knowing a few of the attributes of hydrogen will greatly increase safely handling it. The following is a brief list of some differences between hydrogen and other fuels.
Hydrogen is lighter than air and as a result it diffuses more quickly. Hydrogen dissipates nearly 4 times faster then natural gas. Therefore, when released hydrogen concentrations quickly falls below flammable concentration. Hydrogen rises twice as fast than helium and 6 times faster than natural gas.
As a result in a properly ventilated room hydrogen will not concentrate around a leak. As the lightest element, confining hydrogen is very difficult. One way of insuring safety is by designing properly ventilated buildings that do not permit hydrogen concentrations to build to unsafe levels.
Burning hydrogen produces heat and water. Because of water vapor generated when hydrogen burns, a hydrogen fire has less radiant heat compared to a hydrocarbon fire. The low levels of heat near the flame (the flame is just as hot), decreases the danger of secondary fires starting.
Hydrogen’s small molecular size makes it hard to create a combustible situation. For a hydrogen fire to start requires a sufficient concentration of hydrogen along with of an ignition source and the right quantity of oxygen. The energy necessary to ignite hydrogen can be very low. However, at concentrations lower then 10% the energy necessary to ignite hydrogen increases. This makes hydrogen more harder to ignite close to the lower flammability levels.
For a hydrogen explosion to take place 10% pure oxygen needs to be present or 41% or air. Hydrogen is explosive at concentrations of 18.3% to 59%. Gasoline explosion can take place at lower concentration, from 1.1% to 3.3% as a result creating a more dangerous situation. It is very unlikely that hydrogen will explode in open air due to its inclination to quickly dissipate. This is the opposite of other gases such as gasoline or propane, which remain near the ground, creating a bigger danger of an explosion.
Excluding oxygen any gas can cause suffocation. Hydrogen is unlikely to achieve levels that cause suffocation because of its penchant to dissipate quickly.
Hydrogen is non-toxic or poisonous. In addition, it doesn’t contaminate the ground or water. The accidental discharge of hydrogen into the atmosphere doesn’t contribute to pollution.
Also,it is probable that shipping of hydrogen could be significantly reduced by generating it at the point of use. The hydrogen refueling site could generate hydrogen at the refueling site. Similarly, hydrogen could be generated in the home and piped to the appliance for use.
Currently hydrogen generators are added to an car and the hydrogen is plumbed straight into the gas intake where it is added with the gas. When the engine is started hydrogen is generated and when the motor is shut off production stops. In case of an accident the only hydrogen available is that in any tubes and that would rapidly and safely disperse.
In summary, the industrial use of hydrogen has already led to the generation safely standards and equipment. The use of hydrogen will make us to reexamine current safety procedures for other fuel. These differences are not insurmountable and with proper education hydrogen can turn out to be a safe fuel for consumers to handle.
To find out additional information about using hydrogen with diesel visit Hydrogen Fuel Today.