Why Managing Hydrogen Risk Starts With The Right Equipment
Thanks to hydrogen being seen as a cutting-edge energy source for the near future by many investors and businesses alike, as a topic it’s rarely far from the headlines. One result of this development? If your workplace hasn’t started talking about the risks of working around hydrogen then you may well be hearing about it […]
Thanks to hydrogen being seen as a cutting-edge energy source for the near future by many investors and businesses alike, as a topic it’s rarely far from the headlines. One result of this development? If your workplace hasn’t started talking about the risks of working around hydrogen then you may well be hearing about it soon!
Thankfully, understanding not just hydrogen’s unique clean-burning benefits but also the specific risks and the right approach to counter these is little different from working with many fuel sources. Like any risk, taking time to spec the right equipment will, as always, mean a quicker, more efficient and ultimately safer project.
Our review of the latest developments in hydrogen compliments our working with hydrogen overview by taking a closer look at risk mitigations and how the right equipment helps this process…
Hydrogen As A Source: What’s The Latest?
We first updated our valued customers on the latest hydrogen developments in May 2021 and, it’s definitely safe to say, two years has proven to be a long time in the hydrogen business!
Now, innovations like the launch of Isreal’s first hydrogen fuel station and work continuing on the development of hydrogen cells in commercial vehicles is often found among energy or business media coverage. And there’s similar good news from Finland. Plus, hydrogen has been discussed as an energy source for drones.
Meanwhile, debate continues – and new ideas continue to surface – about the best source for the natural gas needed for hydrogen production.
However, one analyst urges caution about the potential scale of hydrogen use.
Writing in Forbes and asking whether hydrogen has been “oversold” in terms of its potential scale beyond the oil and gas sectors, expert Ian Palmer adds some essential insights to the conversation:
• Cost: “green production by electrolysis of water is expensive and electrolysis is an inefficient technology.”
• Blue hydrogen (see below for definitions): “While it is cheaper than green hydrogen, blue hydrogen requires energy to produce and break down methane into hydrogen plus CO2, and the CO2 needs to be disposed of, usually by CCS (carbon capture and storage). Both ends of the hydrogen production chain handicap the “clean” in this hydrogen alternative.”
• Adaption: “It’s an extra cost to rig up a conventional car to burn hydrogen instead of gasoline, or to adapt machines in an industrial shop to burn hydrogen instead of natural gas.”
Ian points out that “Rystad Energy predicted two years ago that liquid hydrogen will find a place at the 2050 table but only account for 7% of the total clean energy needed. This 7% is a clean-fuel niche for hard-to-abate aviation, ocean vessels, and cement and steel industries”. He adds that hydrogen is also ideal for oil and gas companies because “already know how to produce and distribute gas” in the form of natural gas and have a larger budget too.
A reminder, then, of the three types of hydrogen as defined by the specialists at European energy research, innovation and collaboration organisation TNO:
• Grey hydrogen: “Almost all of the hydrogen currently produced worldwide is so-called ‘grey hydrogen’. Production currently takes place via Steam Methane Reforming (SMR). Here high pressure steam (H2O) reacts with natural gas (CH4) resulting in hydrogen (H2) and the greenhouse gas CO2.”
• Blue hydrogen: “The term ‘blue hydrogen’ or ‘low carbon hydrogen’ is used when the CO2 released in the process of grey hydrogen production is largely (80-90%) captured and stored.”
• Green hydrogen: “Green hydrogen, also known as ‘renewable hydrogen’, is hydrogen that is produced with sustainable energy. The best known is electrolysis, in which water (H2O) is split into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) via green electricity.”
While research continues on hydrogen as a source pressure, of course, from competing fuel sources remains as a constant too. It’s pretty mind-blogging to imagine where the topic might be if we were to wait another two years to publish our next overview!
Hydrogen Risks And Risk Management
Hydrogen is, as we mentioned in our intro, little different from any fuel source in that it presents some distinct risks.
Some of the ‘headline’ factors to be aware of include:
• Flammability: Across a large range of concentrations in air
• Flame spread: Due to its high temperature and high heat release rate when burning
• Displacement: Meaning lack of oxygen can occur in poorly-ventilated areas
The UK Health and Safety Executive has been carrying out research into hydrogen in the workplace and even hosts a Fundamentals of Hydrogen course to help industry plan for change.
But, for now, what do the mitigations for hydrogen risk look like?
It’s clear that good planning, colleague awareness, avoiding equipment with a risk of adding an ignition risk and ensuring safe and clean air in working areas are priority actions for safer working with hydrogen.
• Planning: By understanding and managing-out hazards during the initial stages of a project. Awareness-raising, such as the HSE course above, can be used to help understanding across an entire business of hydrogen and its risks as a topic.
Tip: As well as the major pieces of portable heat, light air or power equipment needed to work safety in any hazardous environment, don’t overlook smaller items like the superb SA LUMIN EX LED Rechargeable Floodlight as doing so can cause delays or a last-minute order.
• Safe equipment: ATEX equipment can, and should be used, due to its already highly-tested performance as an ignition risk-free choice in environments like oil and gas hazardous areas.
Tip: Thinking about equipment RoI, at a time when budgets are under more pressure than ever, can make your choices an even greater asset to across multiple projects. For example, instead of a costly hired-in generation consider whether an SA POWERNET EX 3.8KVA Transformer could be used for to save on operator time, transport, permit costs and more.
• Safer air: As we’ve mentioned clean air for working doesn’t just mean bringing in clean air but making sure oxygen isn’t displaced by hydrogen in the air.
Reminder: SA Equip offers a consultation service to help pick the right equipment for hydrogen projects.
Our in-house product development team can even design bespoke products to suit your needs.
To speak to an SA Equip specialist just ask. We’re here to help.
How to Source Proven Equipment for Hydrogen Environments
We actively help our clients safely achieve optimal ventilation, heat and lighting results in challenging environments using ultra-reliable and durable stand-alone solutions.
That’s why we can confidently recommend the tried, tested and proven SA Equip heat, light, air and power range of products. In fact, each solution will already be in use by demanding professionals worldwide right this minute.
Taking a closer look at some of the products featured above:
Light, highly portable and extremely bright, the SA LUMIN EX LED Rechargeable Floodlight simply delivers.
Each light is fully certified for Zones 1 & 2 (Gas) and Zones 21 & 22 (Dust) and is trusted worldwide for tough working environments including confined spaces.
✓ Up to 2,000 lumens ✓ Up to 12 hours ✓ Includes shield and charging unit plus magnetic and scaffold brackets.
An easy-transport unit for safe power almost anywhere, the SA POWERNET EX 3.8KVA Transformer uses a marine grade stainless steel frame to perform in the most challenging environments.
It features IP66 ingress protection and a choice of input plug, cable length and output socket options.
✓ Operates in -40°C to +40°C ✓ Continuous 3.8KVA rating ✓ Approx. 90 kg
Ventilation and fume/ vapour extraction you can rely on meets the extreme performance of an EX unit designed especially for hazardous environments.
This compact solution can be used for 20cm, 30cm and 40cm simply by using easily-switched duct adaptors and SA CYCLONE Antistatic Reinforced Ducting.
✓ Maximum airflow 5179 m3/hr ✓ 110VAC or 230VAC ✓ Just 22kg
What makes SA Equip different? We bring almost 100 years of pacesetting service and knowledge – with a foundation in the most extreme shipping and oil industry environments – to global clients across aerospace, shipping, defence, utilities, pharmaceuticals, distilling, power stations and more.
This means SA Equip portable heat, light, air and power products have been proven in challenging conditions offshore, in the air and beyond for almost a century.