Hydrogen 2228165071

A deep dive into hydrogen

01 Dec 2023


We all know there's kind of an imperative to decarbonise and reduce carbon emissions, looking at what can solve the dependency on the traditional carbon fuels like oil and gas? One of these pathways is – hydrogen.

As one of the most abundant elements in the universe, hydrogen offers real potential as one of the most sustainable energy carriers. There's a lot of optimism out there at the moment, which is a step in the right direction, but it's important to note, there are no silver bullets to decarbonise and achieve net zero. 

The key uses for hydrogen would include heavy-duty transport like trucks and long-distance buses, as well as mine haul trucks that operate 24/7 and high-power equipment. Additionally, there are other transport applications like aviation and maritime which will increasingly use hydrogen and its derivatives. There's also a significant market for hydrogen in industrial and chemical processes such as ammonia production and clean steels. It's the high-temperature heat applications that look to have the best potential for hydrogen. In this article, Graeme MacLean, a chartered mechanical engineer and IMechE fellow, looks at how we can join up the hydrogen value chain together.

For the global transport, energy and heavy industry sectors, hydrogen could be a key enabler in achieving the Paris Agreement targets and help to decarbonise manufacturing processes such as cement, plastics, ammonia and steel which remain heavily dependent on fossil fuel. No matter whether hydrogen is produced from water (H2O) or fossil fuels like methane (CH4), the key challenge is storage and transport of the hydrogen molecules. One way is to liquefy the hydrogen, therefore increasing its density, so that more molecules can be transported within a given volume. Hydrogen is the second coldest liquid, −252.9°C, so requires a significant amount of energy to cool it down. However, this gives fantastic opportunities to utilise the cooling potential of liquid hydrogen in applications such as electric propulsion systems. Read more about this in our Q&A with Ricardo's Global Technical Expert in electronics systems.

However, this storage system comes with its own safety issues. Read this article written by Ricardo and Air Products's Hydrogen Safety Experts where we go into detail on the properties of liquid hydrogen and its associated challenges. As hydrogen is used more widely as a fuel for mass transit, energy production, industrial processes and transport, all potential users of hydrogen will need to be aware of the safety risks and associated hazards as well. The impacts of hydrogen incidents can be catastrophic to people, the environment, business assets and reputations, and unprepared organisations put themselves and others at increased risk from these impacts. Hydrogen, whether as a gas, cryogenic liquid or in the form of a derivative, can be such an impactful substance that by the time emergency responders arrive at an incident significant damage will already have occurred. Responsible organisations that use hydrogen in any capacity need to ensure that their staff are prepared and trained to manage an emergency incident that involves hydrogen. Through a unique collaboration with international government bodies, the chemical industry and global fire and rescue services, our experts have developed hydrogen training courses that provide quality learning that embeds practical knowledge. Here, we provide more information about the degree of understanding provided by our hydrogen training courses - all of which are accredited by The International Organisation for Industrial Emergency Services Management (JOIFF).

At Ricardo, we have placed decarbonisation and sustainability at the heart of our strategy. We are very proud of the work our hydrogen experts have already been doing especially related to the support provided to multiple companies and government organisations in their decarbonisation journeys. There are a few case studies we would like to highlight here:

We have an extensive range of services relating to the hydrogen agenda, from policy development to infrastructure feasibility through to implementation and integration of hydrogen-based technologies for global transport and energy applications that you can find out more about here. If you would like further support with the use of hydrogen, no matter where you are in your decarbonisation journey, please contact us or directly email us at info@ricardo.com today.

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