Hydrogen Balloon Explosion. Source youtube, fair use, low resolution image to describe the subject.

Britain Hypes the Green Hydrogen Economy

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A few months ago, a colossal suspected hydrogen coolant leak explosion at a power plant in Australia, which caused blackouts up and down the East Coast, reminded us that hydrogen is not a gas to be toyed with. But nothing appears to be standing in the way of BoJo’s rush to push pressurised hydrogen gas into British vehicles and homes.

Green hydrogen ‘transitioning from a shed-based industry’ says researcher as the UK hedges its H2strategy

Am I blue? Am I green? Government report isn’t quite transparent

The UK government has released its delayed hydrogen strategy which – in a strange move for a colourless gas – hedges its bets between green and blue.

The government claimed the UK-wide hydrogen economy could be worth £900m by 2030, potentially £13bn by 2050. In the next 10 years the universe’s most abundant element could decarbonise energy-intensive industries like chemicals, oil refineries, power and heavy transport by helping these sectors move away from fossil fuels, it claimed.

Light, energy-intensive and carbon-free “hydrogen-based” solutions could make up to 35 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption by 2050, helping the nation meet its target of net-zero emissions by 2050, according to the government paper.

But navigation from the current state of the hydrogen industry to that worthy destination might require some tricky manoeuvres. The vast majority of industrial hydrogen is extracted from natural gas [PDF] in a process that releases greenhouse gasses and requires energy, which often comes from carbon fuels.

In theory, the simplest way to overcome this problem is to use renewable electricity to extract hydrogen from water using electrolysis – so called green hydrogen. The problem is, although it works in the lab, the process has yet to be industrialised on a scale comparable with other fuels in the global energy supply chain. Green hydrogen received a fillip as researchers found methods to make electrolysis more efficient at lower capital costs.

An alternative is to continue to use natural gas as a source of hydrogen but to capture and store the methane and CO2 byproduct, and use renewable energy to power the process. But a recent study found making blue hydrogen was 20 per cent worse for the climate than just using fossil gas over its entire lifecycle.

Read more: https://www.theregister.com/2021/08/17/uk_government_hydrogen_strategy/

As a kid I used to play with hydrogen, used a cheap chemical reaction with ingredients most people have in their homes, to fill party balloons with hydrogen, and tie birthday cake candles or firecrackers to the balloons. A lot of the balloons exploded while we were filling them, if we forgot to squeeze the balloons before filling, or if the rubber didn’t form a good seal with the pipe, the gas swirling inside the balloon and mixing with a trace of air was enough to cause an impressive bang. One time we loaded 5 balloons tied together with so many crackers the balloons failed to ascend above head height – we all hit the deck face down real fast. The blast rattled the windows of my parent’s house, frightened my mum.

The thought of piping pressurised hydrogen into homes, or parking an automobile with tens of litres of compressed hydrogen in the gas tank in an enclosed space, or anywhere near a house, is total insanity. The fuel air blast from an entire leaky gas tank full of hydrogen would likely destroy the house, and smash the windows of all the neighbour’s houses, with obvious consequences for anyone in the vicinity.

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Franz Dullaart
August 17, 2021 10:33 pm

A coal powered generator in South Africa recently exploded when the hydrogen coolant was not completely exhausted before allowing air into the pressure chamber. The generator was destroyed, repairs will cost billions and take up to two years to restore.

All die to human error – but human error is to be expected and you don’t want humans around dangerous explosive substances.

Franz Dullaart
Reply to  Franz Dullaart
August 17, 2021 10:34 pm

Sorry about the Freudian slip (die in stead of due) !!

Mark D
Reply to  Franz Dullaart
August 18, 2021 7:13 am

“Hydrogen has attractive characteristics as a fluid to bathe the windings of the
generator, and to remove heat from the windings and deliver that heat to the cooling water.

Hydrogen is nearly the perfect cooling gas, except for its one massive flaw.”


Last edited 1 year ago by Mark D
Reply to  Franz Dullaart
August 19, 2021 10:31 am

Medupi has been plagued by design problems, operator problems and corruption that makes your eyes sting. This explosion at generator 4 is just the most recent piece of stupidity.

CA non greenie
August 17, 2021 10:38 pm

They have got to be kidding! No person in their right mind would use compressed H2 as transport fuel source. Hydride yes but very heavy and low volume of storage.

Curious George
Reply to  CA non greenie
August 18, 2021 7:33 am

You don’t get the idea of green hydrogen. It will grow on trees.

Reply to  Curious George
August 18, 2021 11:53 pm

the only hydrogen that makes sense is PINK – using spare capacity from a fleet of nukes

Reply to  CA non greenie
August 18, 2021 11:52 pm

when the hydrogen bus trial ran back in 2000 in Perth WA there were ~ 6 buses with Hydrogen

I refused to ride on them as the hydrogen was stored at 700 bar (10000psi) in tanks on the roof

even with this the bus need refuelling regularly and could only do the short routes

August 17, 2021 10:42 pm

How on earth can it make sense to take an existing widely available fuel, use energy to extract H2 and then use the H2 as a fuel?

OK, I accept I’m talking about blue H2, but the principle is the same for “green” H2, a process that’s currently three times the cost of blue H2

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  Redge
August 17, 2021 11:11 pm

It’s virtue signalling, it’s not supposed to make sense. Get with the program.

Reply to  Redge
August 17, 2021 11:38 pm

Hate facts.

Reply to  Redge
August 18, 2021 12:18 am

blue H2 will, allegedly, come with CO2 capture into depleted offshore natural gas fields.

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 12:55 am

Yes, allegedly.

Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 1:04 am

Ha ha ha: best joke for weeks!

Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 2:16 am

That has worked out really well so far. How many billions down the drain?

Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 7:29 am

Are you working with Sid?

Reply to  Redge
August 18, 2021 12:29 am

It’s a demonstration of scientific ignorance. They don’t even know they have a whimsical belief in perpetual motion. They do the same with wind turbines and solar panels, imagining energy from turbines will build more turbines, as well as supply electricity for consumers and businesses – which they won’t do either.

Clearly any scientist pointing this out to them is dismissed from the room and another one of a long line invited in to give the ‘correct’ answer.

Gerry, England
Reply to  HotScot
August 18, 2021 3:20 am

I think you will find that the knowledgeable scientist never makes it into the room in the first place.

Anthony Banton
Reply to  Redge
August 18, 2021 1:52 am

“Green” Hydrogen would be the use of green energy to catalyse H2O into H2 and O2.
It could then be stored for a back-up when wind/Solar are low to power generating turbines.

Steve Case
Reply to  Anthony Banton
August 18, 2021 2:07 am

“…green energy to catalyse H2O into H2 and O2….”

Sounds to me like you think that won’t take much energy to break water down to its constituent elements. Besides, why not use your “Green Energy” in the first place?

Reply to  Steve Case
August 18, 2021 5:51 am

Yeah, Mr. Banton obviously doesn’t understand the meaning of “catalyse.”

Kevin kilty
Reply to  Scissor
August 18, 2021 7:16 am

Mr. Banton’s dream house.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Scissor
August 18, 2021 5:52 pm

Catalyze, electrolyze, you know the thing. Sciencey stuff!

Reply to  Anthony Banton
August 18, 2021 7:30 am

Batteries make way more sense for energy storage. (And batteries don’t make sense.)

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Anthony Banton
August 18, 2021 8:21 am

From which college did you earn your engineering degree?

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 18, 2021 11:56 pm

he works for the religion of new energies
a cult that follows the lies without challenge

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Anthony Banton
August 18, 2021 9:56 am

Where does the energy come from to make the green energy producing devices? The entire scheme sounds extremely inefficient.

Reply to  Redge
August 18, 2021 5:20 am

As water vapor is a much stronger green house gas than CO2, why the hell would you replace the CO2 coming from an ICE exhaust with water vapor coming from a hydrogen powered exhaust?

Do these people really think this would reduce any greenhouse effect.

Reply to  Hasbeen
August 18, 2021 5:45 am

Water condenses at or near ambient conditions and the amount of water released is negligible compared to water already naturally about. There could be some local effects, about like spitting into a swimming pool.

Reply to  Scissor
August 18, 2021 1:32 pm

“There could be some local effects..”

Yep…Like Edmonton in winter covered in a perpetual cloud/fog, with water dripping out of every tail pipe on the streets, making it a big ice skating rink. I don’t think they have thought through all the ramifications.

But seriously, all the inefficiencies of producing green hydrogen just doesn’t cut it when there are better solutions. Toyota is an example with their new hydrogen car, when they have perfected the Prius/Rav4 hybrid with a super efficient Atkinson cycle ICE. Why bother with hydrogen, with all the issues when their hybrid solves some of the perceived issues?

The only exception might be injecting oxygen into low grade bitumen deposits, and oxidizing/liberating the hydrogen and leaving everything else behind. But if that ever gets going, as they are currently experimenting with, the hydrogen should be simply burnt immediately in a CCGT burner and convert to electrons immediately and then make the claim it is green. There is a 15% hit to making the oxygen, but if the bitumen deposits are too low grade to mined economically, might be something we see happening. Alberta has signed onto the ‘hydrogen economy’ hoping to escape the wrath of the climate zealots, but let’s hope they do it smartly.

Reply to  Earthling2
August 18, 2021 2:16 pm

I’m not sure how well this plan was thought through …

Reply to  Scissor
August 19, 2021 6:56 pm

Which is way more than blowing a bit of CO2 over a swimmingh pool.

Reply to  Scissor
August 20, 2021 9:33 am

Amos power plant near Charleston, WV, w/all the steam from the 3 giant cooling towers, would make low-clouds & snow-flurries around the plant in very cold, calm weather.

Last edited 1 year ago by beng135
August 17, 2021 11:01 pm

Aren’t there a number of different brand hydrogen gas (pressurized) powered automobiles being sold?
Haven’t they been on the market for at least a half dozen years?
Aren’t there hydrogen gas refuel stations in various countries (and California)?

Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 17, 2021 11:36 pm

It is a much better, safer fuel with some C atoms added. We could call it gas….

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
August 18, 2021 6:29 am

Yes, the perfect hydrogen storage. Bind 4 H to a C and you have something easily compressible and transportable. For added energy density, drop one of the H’s and bind to another carbon. Say 6-10 C’s long.

If only there was a device that could use such a mixture for fuel.

Reply to  Fraizer
August 18, 2021 10:09 pm

Not for trucks. Batteries and trucks are even a worse idea than using H2.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 17, 2021 11:54 pm

Didn’t Mercedes abandon their work on hydrogen vehicles because they were going to cost twice that of electric cars?

Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 18, 2021 6:02 am

I’ve seen leaking units within refineries where the temperature of the product inside is so hot that it immediately burns when coming into contact with air. Such leaks are often tolerated until the next unit turnaround, as long as the leak is relatively stable and the flame doesn’t cause any uncontrolled fires.

Unignited leaks are far more scary because of the potential for an uncontrolled explosion, setting off a chain of other hazardous events.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Scissor
August 18, 2021 8:26 am

Stuff like this would should never be allowed by OSHA.

Last edited 1 year ago by Carlo-Monte
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
August 18, 2021 9:58 am

I was taken back the first time I saw it, but I now support the outcome of a proper risk analysis. The unit operators and engineers are generally better able to make such decisions.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 18, 2021 2:44 pm

Because of the U.S. monopoly on helium in the early days of the 20th century, non-U.S. builders of rigid airships and blimps had to use hydrogen as a lifting gas. They developed an impressive set of safety practices, and of all of the commercial airships using it, none ever experienced an accidental hydrogen fire. That includes the Hindenburg disaster, which would have occurred even if the ship had used helium. For temperature management purposes, its cotton outer skin was doped with a varnish laden with fine aluminum flakes to reflect sunlight, and iron oxide to increase emissivity in the infrared. In other words, it was coated with thermite, and nothing could stop it from burning once it started.

Rocketry was the next daring user of hydrogen, and I learned from my mentors about the safety procedures used on early test stands. Any time someone had to enter a stand where hydrogen was in use, he or she (he, actually) carried a straw broom cantilevered before him at eye level. Hydrogen fires were invisible, but the brooms would ignite and warn the carrier not to proceed. Things rapidly got more sophisticated, and Apollo used incredible amounts of the stuff without incident.

But one can never think of everything. The Air Force spent billions of dollars building Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg AFB, which was to be their Space Shuttle launch pad (for military missions into polar orbit). After the multi-thousand ton concrete and steel pad had been built, someone pointed out that hydrogen venting from the Shuttle was so cold that it was heavier than air – and would thus accumulate in the flame duct they had built to a design which didn’t take that fact into account. It would have guaranteed the destruction of the vehicle. SLC-6 had a famous Indian curse put on it during the ground-breaking, and this seemed to be one more manifestation of it.

Reply to  AndyHce
August 17, 2021 11:45 pm

No. These are hydrogen fuel cell E-cars.
There is no free or pressurized hydrogen inside.

Reply to  Alex
August 18, 2021 6:05 am

I’d love to have a diesel fuel cell E-car. The technical problems just have been too difficult to overcome to make an economically viable commercial product.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Alex
August 18, 2021 6:42 am

So, they have a built-in reformer to create the H2 on the fly?

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
August 18, 2021 8:00 am

Step 1–charge car battery overnight
Step2–fill gas tank with water from garden hose
Step 3–use electricity from car battery to convert water to hydrogen and oxygen
Step 4–burn hydrogen & oxygen in car engine

And there you have the much dreamed of zero tailpipe emission auto.😂

Reply to  Alex
August 21, 2021 12:51 am

Wrong. There are even pressurized hydrogen refueling stations for autos running on hydrogen gas.

Leo Smith
August 17, 2021 11:09 pm

It doesn’t have to make economic or technical sense. It just has to supoort the emotional narrative.

The ArtStudents™ are ‘designing’ the future.

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 17, 2021 11:39 pm

Dunning Kruger in action. Too stupid to know they’re stupid.

Harrow Sceptic
August 17, 2021 11:20 pm

Also they are proud to say it only produces water when it burns. However, as it burns isn’t it more likely to produce water vapour and not liquid water. And isn’t water vapour the most potent green house gas

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  Harrow Sceptic
August 17, 2021 11:31 pm

It will produce water and laughing gas.

Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
August 17, 2021 11:39 pm

Oxides of N.

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
August 17, 2021 11:44 pm

Nitrous oxide, N2O. Commonly known as laughing gas. It was a joke.

Curious George
Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
August 18, 2021 7:39 am

Hydrogen burns at a much higher temperature than gasoline/diesel fuel. Nitrogen oxides will be a problem.

Reply to  Harrow Sceptic
August 18, 2021 6:15 am

Water is already basically everywhere here on earth and in great quantity. We have oceans, lakes, clouds and humidity all about us. Basically every surface has some water chemisorbed onto it. One percent relative humidity, which is very dry air having a dewpoint of -34C, has a water concentration of 152 ppm by mass.The average water concentration of air globally is probably on the order of 10,000 ppm.

Maybe there could be local effects, but again it’s similar to spitting into a swimming pool.

August 17, 2021 11:23 pm

It has to be remembered that the UK government is totally ignorant of science and engineering and is advised by green nutters (like Princess Nut Nut, the CCC and the civil service). The UK government is green (as in gullible).

Gerry, England
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
August 18, 2021 3:22 am

It has to be remembered that the UK government is totally ignorant.’

There, fixed it for you.

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  Gerry, England
August 18, 2021 8:01 am

But at least they aren’t the Biden administration

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
August 18, 2021 9:32 am

That group is ignorant and stupid.

Reply to  Gerry, England
August 18, 2021 10:25 am

‘It has to be remembered that the UK government is totally ignorant.’

Fixed it for you.

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
August 18, 2021 3:54 am

BoJo’s rush to push pressurised hydrogen gas…

Realise that BoJo is driven entirely by his gonads, and Princess NutNut is deep green. What could possibly go wrong?

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
August 18, 2021 7:49 am

So you’re saying the UK government is an ignorant slut.
Well alrighty then!

Joel O'Bryan
August 17, 2021 11:35 pm
Last edited 1 year ago by Joel O’Bryan
August 17, 2021 11:43 pm

Tchernobyl Desaster was actually a hydrogen 💥. Do not forget that!

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Alex
August 18, 2021 1:22 am

So were the explosions at Fukushima.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Alex
August 18, 2021 8:39 am

Actually Chernobyl reactor blowing apart was a steam explosion due to a rapid high energy neutron pulse outburst from the reactor core into the coolant water. The reactor was put into a low output, unstable state and then poorly designed control rods were driven too fast into the reactor, causing a sudden massive runaway critical event that produced an energy flux 10X what the reactor was designed for.
Fukashima reactor building blasts were hydrogen fueled.

Peta of Newark
August 17, 2021 11:45 pm

2 points from this corner..
1) How are they proposing to utilise the Hydrogen if it is forced into cars & trucks?
Simply burning it in an internal combustion engine is crazy, especially thermodynamically as over 60% of the energy is lost

So they’ll say ‘Use a Fuel Cellbut : there simply isn’t enough Platinum in This Entire Universe to make the fuel cells needed for just the UK fleet of vehicles

2) Somewhere very recently I read that there are currently over 1 million job vacancies here in the UK right now.
Howzabout repurposing the dreamy little bureaucrats, muppets and other parasites that come up with this Hydrogen Garbage?

That is the Root Problem and typical of Socialist States. there are far too many of these parasitic nobodies

Set them off doing Real Jobs, in the Real World, engaging with Real People
If anything knocks this Climate Garbage ‘on the head’ pretty damn pronto – that will.

Last edited 1 year ago by Peta of Newark
August 18, 2021 12:17 am

The UK is already pumping natural gas with 20% hydrogen into homes in a trial scheme. No eplosions.

Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 12:48 am

No explosions yet, in a carefully controlled pilot environment, with only local transmission into the boiler. You would not expect any. But it does not prove the safety or even the possibility of a mass rollout.

To move to 100% hydrogen safely you would have to rebuild the entire transmission network including the last 100ft into the homes. This is because of leakage through the current network, and also, more dangerously, embrittlement.

It cannot be done in anything like the time period proposed, and if attempted it will lead to leakages and explosions. However much you may want it to be the case, hydrogen is just not a sensible fuel for home heating, and it will not happen.

Its a great puzzlement that these crazy idea for alternative energy get taken up by people who believe in the climate crisis. There is no connection. Even if there is a climate crisis, this cannot be part of any solution to it.

Reply to  michel
August 18, 2021 6:22 am

Good points.

Understand that these same people think that a rainbow flag holds some power of persuasion over the Taliban.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Scissor
August 18, 2021 8:29 am

They Want To Believe.

Reply to  michel
August 18, 2021 1:03 pm

Why even BOTHER with trying to make hydrogen work, when there is PLENTY of NG around and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper, too! Why freeze people to death when we have AMPLE energy available? Are we just trying to FORCE a hair-brained scheme on people just to prove that we can? What’s the point? with or WITHOUT ‘climate warming’?

Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 1:44 am

Prior to 1967, the U.K. used coal gas or town gas. This was the distillation of coal, the gas produced was up to 50% hydrogen, 35% methane, 10% carbon monoxide and the remainder ethylene. In 1967 conversion to North Sea natural gas started.

Richard Page
Reply to  JohnC
August 18, 2021 2:38 am

Yup and as soon as the UK got an abundant alternative that was less dangerous, town gas got ditched fast. Going to a Hydrogen gas supply would be like reversing the whole thing, but at greater cost.

Reply to  Richard Page
August 18, 2021 3:40 am

Town gas is also very toxic due the carbon monoxide content. It also smelled awful, but it did mean people would know if there was a leak.

Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 2:50 am

I think the term is “YET”

Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 5:48 am

The UK should conduct the Great H2 Experiment….eh?….griffter?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 8:42 am

With special engineering and careful selection of materials and maintenance of seals and gaskets, they can probably go up to 50%. Above that the engineers know the lea problems and long term embrittlement of steels in all the pipes that can’t be replaced without great cost becomes a serious issue.

Reply to  griff
August 18, 2021 10:27 am

20% just means the problems take 5 times as long to accumulate.

In griff’s world, no problems so far is the same as problems aren’t possible. So long as it is a solution that supports his religion.

August 18, 2021 12:30 am

“Leakage of hydrogen from containers and pipelines is expected to be 1.3–2.8 times as large as gaseous methane leakage and approximately 4 times that of air under the same conditions. ” – https://www.aidic.it/cet/13/31/153.pdf

Reply to  Aelfrith
August 18, 2021 12:43 am

the UK has thousands of old iron gas mains to houses that are leaking now

Reply to  sid
August 18, 2021 1:55 am

Those gas mains are from the time when town gas was used, which contained a high proportion of hydrogen. Ironically, they would be replaced by plastic pipes, which would be produced from oil.

August 18, 2021 12:39 am

There is no source of hydrogen at the required scale in the UK.

If there were, there is no pipeline network able to carry it. It is not like gas, it requires much more impermeable piping right up to the boiler itself.

If there were, there are no boilers capable of burning it.

And if there were, there are no technicians trained to install them.

And if you could manage to create all these things, the source of the hydrogen is going to be natural gas, which means it will require energy to extract, and will lead to exactly the same carbon emissions as burning gas without first taking out the hydrogen. So there will be no UK emissions reduction.

And even if there were, the amount of the reduction would be drowned in days by the increases in China, India, etc from their energetic programs to install more coal fired generating stations.

But don’t bother us with the facts, we are saving the planet!

John in Oz
August 18, 2021 12:58 am

Never a word said about how they intend to replace the other 000’s of products made from fossil fuels.

Without using oil and gas for power/heating and transport, would the oil companies stay in business to produce enough for those additional products?

Reply to  John in Oz
August 21, 2021 12:57 am

subsidize them!

August 18, 2021 1:18 am

Cummings got $7 million dollar government grant to develop a fuel cell battery hybrid 10 wheel tractor. At the same time Joe Biden ordered all federal transportation agencies to develop more stringent fuel efficiency standards, less greenhouse gas and NOX emissions for heavy diesel trucks.

We will make everything more expensive to deliver because climate.

Reply to  Doonman
August 18, 2021 6:25 am

Someone else said it, is there anything different that Biden would be doing if he were intent on destroying the U.S.?

Reply to  Scissor
August 18, 2021 1:09 pm

Funny, I asked the same question just the other day on Gab. It seems to me that he is doing everything he can, now.

Reply to  Doonman
August 18, 2021 10:08 am

“We will make everything more expensive to deliver …” using climate as the excuse.

Jim Turner
August 18, 2021 2:14 am

I seem to remember from my (distant) days in the chemistry lab that hydrogen required special handling due to its potentially hazardous properties. Hydrogen cylinders had reverse threads to make sure that only special cylinder heads could be used. This was because hydrogen diffuses into steel (!) and causes it to become brittle and liable to fracture. Leaks are also more dangerous than for other flammable gasses because of the rapid diffusion rate and negative Joule-Thompson effect whereby it actually gets hotter when pressure is reduced.
I found this interesting summary on hazards the internet:

http://www.hysafe.org/download/997/BRHS_Ch1_Fundamentals-version 1_0_1.pdf

Interestingly enough, published by an organisation that is promoting hydrogen as a fuel! Suffice to say I am less than enthusiastic about having hydrogen pumped into my home.

Reply to  Jim Turner
August 18, 2021 6:38 am

Hydrogen uses CGA 350 fittings (female on the cylinder). Basically all flammable gases use reverse threads in order to help prevent inadvertent mixing of fuels and oxidants. Nevertheless, accidents occur. At University of Hawaii a few years ago a post-doc mixed hydrogen and air into a vessel and static electricity set off the explosion.

There are inherently hazardous conditions all around but engineering controls can be used to improve safety. That doesn’t stop us from doing stupid things.

Eric’s stories of playing with hydrogen as a child bring backs many memories for me. I’m happy to say that I have all appendages.

August 18, 2021 2:19 am
Gerry, England
August 18, 2021 3:23 am

I wonder why we used hydrogen when testing flameproof – ie explosion proof – enclosures for hazardous environments? Oh, yes…because it gives the biggest bang!!

August 18, 2021 3:25 am

Until someone designs and builds a space freighter capable of collecting and delivering hydrogen from Jupiter to Earth, the gas will never be a source of primary energy.

Last edited 1 year ago by Philip Mulholland
August 18, 2021 6:09 am

We are truly blessed as a nation to have so many hydrogen experts…

August 18, 2021 6:12 am

In a decade or so there will be a full blown energy crisis in the UK from the madness of Government diktats. By then these eco loons will have long retired on fat pensions living in sunnier climbs.

willem post
August 18, 2021 6:24 am



As part of the quest of having energy sources that produce near-zero CO2 emissions, energy systems analysts have looked at hydrogen as one such source. They see hydrogen as a possible fuel for transportation.

In California, the hydrogen economy movement has received support, in the form of subsidies and demonstration projects, from the state government and environmental groups, often supported and financed by prominent Hollywood actors.

Current Hydrogen Production: Hydrogen is used by the chemical, oil and gas industries for many purposes. The US produces about 11 million short tons/y, or 19958 million kg/y.
At present, about 95% of the H2 production is by the steam reforming process using fossil fuels as feedstock, mostly low-cost natural gas. This process emits CO2. 

Hydrogen for Transportation: Proponents of H2-powered fuel cell vehicles, FCVs, in California think the hydrogen economy will be the future and a good place to start to reduce CO2 emissions from internal combustion vehicles, ICVs, would be to have near-zero-emission vehicles.
Here are examples comparing the fuel cost/mile of an FC light duty vehicle, an E10-gasohol IC vehicle, and an EV:
– Honda Clarity-FCX, using electrolytic H2 in a fuel cell, mileage about 68 mile/kg, or 14.8 c/mile, at a price of $10/kg at a fueling station in California. About $7/kg is electricity cost, and $3/kg is station cost. The H2 is not taxed. The average commercial electricity rate in California is 13.41c/kWh, which ranks 7th in the nation and is 32.9% greater than the national average rate of 10.09 c/kWh.


– Honda Accord-LX, using E10-gasohol, mileage about 30 mile/gal, or 8.3 c/mile, at a price of $2.50/gal at a gas station in California; this price includes taxes, surcharges and fees.

– Tesla Model S, using 0.38 kWh/mile, includes charging and vampire losses of batteries, at user meter, or 7.6 c/mile, at a price of 20 c/kWh at user meter; this price includes taxes, surcharges and fees.

Electrolytic H2 Production: H2 fueling stations can produce electrolytic H2 at high pressure on site with electricity at commercial electric rates, or H2 can be produced by central plants with electricity at industrial rates (typically lower than commercial rates) and delivered by truck to fueling stations.

The turnkey cost of fueling stations is well over $1 million per site, whereas a multi-bay EV charging station costs about $200k. In early 2017, there were (25) H2 fueling stations in California. FCV drivers must go to an H2 station to refuel. EV drivers have flexibility, as they mostly charge at home, or at work, or at public places, such as shopping malls.

Battery and H2 Storage: California generates significant solar electricity from about 10 am to 2 pm, almost every day, which stresses the electric grid and other generators. The state government has mandated utilities install battery storage systems to store some of that electricity for distribution during peak demand hours later in the day. The round-trip loss of this set-up is up to 20%.

Central H2 plants likely would increase their H2 production from 10 am to 2 pm, if the state would mandate a low electric rate, of say 5 c/kWh, during those hours. This would reduce the need for expensive battery systems and provide lower-cost H2 to FCVs.

NOTE: Whereas EVs and FCVs do not have CO2 emissions, the grid electricity for charging the batteries and producing H2 does have CO2 emissions.

NOTE: The H2 lower heating value is 113819 Btu/kg, which is comparable to the E10-gasohol LLV of 112114 – 116090 Btu/gal. A kg of H2 is about equal to a gallon of E10-gasohol, on a Btu basis. However, H2-powered vehicles have about 2 times the mileage of ICVs, i.e., to displace 1.0 gallon of E10-gasohol, about 0.5 kg of H2 is needed.

NOTE: The purchase price of FCVs and EVs are significantly higher, than of equivalent ICVs, because they are produced in very small quantities per day, whereas ICVs are produced in the thousands per day.

NOTE: In 2015, about 140.43 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed in the United States, a daily average of about 384.74 million gallons.

Lay people are being led to believe the hydrogen economy, i.e., producing H2 by electrolysis from near-CO2-free sources, such as hydro, wind, solar, and nuclear energy, will be a reality in the near future. For that to be true, for this analysis, it is assumed mass production of H2 at a rate of about 375/2 = 187.5 million kg/d would be required.

August 18, 2021 7:28 am

Hydrogen may be carbon free, however making hydrogen isn’t.
Since we are critically short of hydrogen mines, making it is the only option left.

August 18, 2021 8:51 am

Oh, c’mon all you Negative Nellies. Let’s just do it. Hydrogen power, here we come, full speed ahead.

It’ll be a blast!

Bruce Cobb
August 18, 2021 9:06 am

This was how the Big Bang happened: God said “I wonder what will happen if I do THIS.” KABOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!
Oh yeah, then He said all that other stuff -“let there be light”, yada yada. But it was really that BANG He was after. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

Joseph Zarebski
August 18, 2021 9:20 am

I am in favor of using compressed natural gas as a car fuel. This technology should be developed. As more people use CNG instead of gas the demand on gas will drop for those who still want to use it.

I am still against CC alarmism.

Reply to  Joseph Zarebski
August 18, 2021 11:43 am

Granted, this was an LP tank that blew on the garbage truck in California, but the folks on scene were lucky nobody was killed. An explosion with enough force to rip a hose bed off a fire truck is a big bang.
I was inside a warehouse in Kent, WA, in 2007 when a propane tank truck exploded at Atlas Castings in Tacoma, WA. Even though 20 miles away, the overpressure in the air was enough to shake the metal vehicle doors like a large gust of wind would. Compressed gases of any flavor used in general transport seem riskier than the alternative.

michael hart
August 18, 2021 9:40 am

I’m going to dissent slightly, after a few anecdotes.

A house next to my infant school was reduced to rubble when a natural-gas leak detonated.

My younger sister went to hospital on Christmas day to have glass removed from her eye when my brother showed her how to make hydrogen.

I’ve heard the high-pitched screaming of an adult man, like an animal in an illegal trap, when he set fire to himself in the laboratory after ignoring basic safety procedures.

I’ve worked alongside a student who was frightened to work with ‘chemicals’ in bottles. She was studying for a PhD in Chemistry.

And my point is?
You can make anything safe. That includes both nuclear power and electricity.
(When I used to go rock climbing in my youth, I recall a wise sage writing that rock climbing should not be viewed as a potentially dangerous sport. It should be regarded as potentially safe. I haven’t died yet.)

Hydrogen comes with higher safety costs than many other flammable materials, but I’ve safely handled much worse. It all comes down to cost. If electricity (energy) is made cheap enough then the obstacles can be overcome, at a cost.

But the green crazies don’t want you to have cheap affordable energy. They want it to cost more. They want to reverse the industrial revolution. They want you to be poorer. And they want you to like it.

There is a big difference between criticising how a “hydrogen economy” might work and criticising activists’ view of how they are going to order their brave new world.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to say it more than once. Nuclear power.

Smart Rock
August 18, 2021 10:48 am

I’m not a fan of the idea of using hydrogen, but you haven’t distinguished between home uses and transportation uses. Home heating/cooking would not require pressurised hydrogen; it would use existing gas pipes to deliver low-pressure hydrogen. Most of us have been admitting low-pressure, highly inflammable, lighter than air gas into our homes for decades. Now it’s natural gas and before that it was coal gas (which actually contained a significant amount of hydrogen along with the CO). It comes in at pressures that are measured in inches of water (I haven’t bothered to convert that to KPa or psi, but they will be small numbers).

In fact, piped coal gas was being used even before the first electric distribution, so you’re looking at well over a century of continuous domestic gas use. I seem to have read that when gas mantles were invented, they gave a much better light than early electric lamps, and there was a resurgence of gas lighting in the early 20th century. My present house was built in 1911, long after electric distribution came in, and the pipes to what would have been overhead gas lights are still there above the ceilings.

Gas storage was also developed long ago, in the coal-gas days, to balance out supply and demand. When I grew up in the UK, every town had a “gasworks” behind the train station, with a big gas holder beside it. IIRC the pressure inside those huge steel containers was very low. As the pressure increased successive cylindrical segments would rise up in the manner of a telescope.

Also, way back in the coal-gas days, the technique of adding trace amounts of very smelly gas to the coal gas was developed so that we could tell there was a leak, or someone had turned the gas on but forgot to light it. It’s still used with natural gas.

So using hydrogen domestically would not be a problem. The objections are that (a) blue hydrogen is a ridiculous waste of energy, and (b) green hydrogen isn’t yet available on a commercial scale. If electrolysis can be made to work on a large scale, domestic hydrogen using existing gas distribution systems should be quite feasible and no less safe than what we have now.

Also, long-distance transport of hydrogen shouldn’t be a matter of concern. It’s done with natural gas all the time. Pipelines have ruptured (I witnessed one in northern Ontario in 2011, and it was quite spectacular) but the only calls to shut down gas pipelines come from the anti-fossil fuel lobby, not from safety concerns.

OTOH, using compressed hydrogen in vehicles seems like a really bad idea. I remember maybe 15 or 20 years ago, there was a move to use compressed natural gas in taxis in Toronto. It worked fine, but the tanks were very large and took up almost all the space in the trunk so if you had more than one suitcase, you had to have them in the back seat with you. It didn’t last long when the price of petrol went down to more affordable levels. I think that hydrogen tanks to give any kind of range would be even bigger and heavier. And hydrogen under pressure will leak more readily

Smart people might start talking about using palladium sponge to store hydrogen. The problem with that is that palladium already costs US$2,500 an ounce, and there isn’t enough palladium in the world to equip a fleet of vehicles of any size.

Reply to  Smart Rock
August 19, 2021 8:47 am

No, you cannot use the same pipes. This is the whole point. This is why it will either never happen. Or, if they try to do it using the same pipes the explosions and leaks will put a stop to it smartish.

If you are offered hydrogen, first find out if all the pipes right up to your boiler are being reinstalled with the right stuff. If not, if they are just reusing it, don’t take it, and fit your windows with safety glass or netting to catch the fragments when it goes up. You are going to need it.

AGW is Not Science
August 18, 2021 10:57 am

The government claimed the UK-wide hydrogen economy could be worth £900m by 2030, potentially £13bn by 2050.

Translation: This worse-than-useless tail chasing exercise will result in yet another massive wealth transfer to the wealthy at the expense of people who work for a living, since there is nothing “economical” about using hydrogen as “fuel.”

The energy expended to GET hydrogen separated from whatever it is already bonded to will exceed the energy returned by burning it, by definition.

Next, these imbeciles will suggest we fill silos with the bits of grass that can be “harvested” from cow pies, and insisting that cow pies are a “source” of “biomass,” while ignoring the fields of grasses awaiting mowing.

AGW is Not Science
August 18, 2021 11:01 am

In theory, the simplest way to overcome this problem is to use renewable electricity to extract hydrogen from water using electrolysis – so called green hydrogen.

In practice, “renewable electricity” is 100% dependent on fossil fuels for its very existence.

[Insert Tommy Lee Jones Implied Facepalm here]

AGW is Not Science
August 18, 2021 11:05 am

An alternative is to continue to use natural gas as a source of hydrogen but to capture and store the methane and CO2 byproduct, and use renewable energy to power the process. But a recent study found making blue hydrogen was 20 per cent worse for the climate than just using fossil gas over its entire lifecycle.

It’s worse than they thought, since they completely omitted the inconvenient fact that the renewable energy is 100% dependent on fossil fuels for its very existence. Add that to your “20% worse.”

[Insert Tommy Lee Jones Implied Facepalm here, again]

AGW is Not Science
August 18, 2021 11:12 am

I swear if I got to hit these idiots in the head with a baseball bat each time they spewed the phrase “hydrogen economy,” they still wouldn’t figure out what a moronic idea it is and would continue to spew about it.

If hydrogen was a good fuel we would have been using it as such a long time ago. It isn’t, and never will be, because of that inconvenient fact called conservation of energy. All the issues with it being poorly suited for storage, compression and the consequences of the inevitable leaks are just icing on the cake.

August 18, 2021 11:14 am

Very powerful paragraph:
So what is the fundamental flaw in the idea of a hydrogen-based energy economy? Constable puts it this way: “Being highly reactive, elemental hydrogen, H2, is found in only small quantities in nature on the earth’s surface but is present in a very wide range of compounds.” In other words, the hydrogen is not free for the taking, but rather is already combined with something else; and to separate the hydrogen so that you have free hydrogen to use, you need to add energy. Once you have added the energy and you have the free hydrogen, you can burn it. But that’s where the Second Law of Thermodynamics comes in. Due to inevitable inefficiencies in the processes, when you burn the hydrogen, you get back less energy than you expended to free it up. No matter how you approach the problem, the process of freeing up hydrogen and then burning it costs more energy than it generates.

August 18, 2021 4:38 pm


Last edited 1 year ago by ATheoK
August 18, 2021 6:17 pm

Think I preferred it when dumb hippies made table candles.

michael hart
Reply to  WXcycles
August 18, 2021 8:35 pm

Don’t worry, they are still out there, selling candles at WOMAD festivals and pretending that they are saving the world. Ughh, I wish I hadn’t been reminded about such things.

It can be difficult for people (me, in particular, even though it is true) to accept just how many people know nothing, or less, about how the physical world works.
Ask an environmentalist on the street to give a detailed explanation of how their TV or cell phone actually works or how it was made. I wouldn’t find it easy, yet I’m supposed to do better than most, based on education. This is why so many people are quite happy to think we can do away with this that and the other without any thought as to the real costs that are incurred.

But what is the cure?
Apart from better maths teaching in schools, I think there ought to be some form of course that takes pupils (and teachers) on excursions to examine a complex consumer product from mineral mining all the way through to land-fill or recycling. And if it is recycled, then they should also go through the same process to examine how the ‘recycling’ machinery is made.

When most of the population realises that a modern civilization can’t build wind turbines economically by using the energy derived from wind turbines, then I will die a very happy man.

Steve Richards
August 19, 2021 4:31 am

If the UK went from Methane to Hydrogen to supply all housing, what pressure increase be needed due to the lower density and heating effect of hydrogen?

Stating that Hydrogen can replace Methane without changing the pipe work ignores any increased pressures that may be required.

Richard Briscoe
August 20, 2021 2:51 am

The real problem with this insane idea is that the UK government is insisting that all domestic gas boilers must be ‘hydrogen ready’ from 2026, but it will be years after that before hydrogen can actually be piped into homes. That must wait until nearly all homes have such boilers. The idea is that, at that point, engineers will go house to house switching boilers from methane to hydrogen. So if, by any chance, there are problems with manufacturing and installing boilers that can burn either methane or hydrogen, (which no one currently knows how to do – or even if it can be done safely and effectively), then we’re going to find out in a big hurry.

Russ Wood
Reply to  Richard Briscoe
August 26, 2021 3:18 am

I notice that no attention is being paid to the proliferation of gas cooking stoves and gas fires in the UK. My late mother (in Liverpool) had three gas fires in the house, and a full gas cooking stove. I can’t imagine that she was unique – in fact I would assume that her home was pretty typical. Now, all this talk of “gas boilers” fails to address the problems of burning H2 in open gas fires or in cooking stoves. One wonders how many houses “blowing up” it will take before this whole H2 nonsense returns to whence it came (I might assume that toilet paper is involved…).

August 20, 2021 11:20 am

There is nothing Green about Hydrogen, it is usually Orange.

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