Home / Business / After the fires in June, an energy group says that hydrogen is the fuel of the future

After the fires in June, an energy group says that hydrogen is the fuel of the future

Nozzle for pumping hydrogen.
Enlarge / A filling station for hydrogen.

Peter Gercke / photo alliance via Getty Images

Hydrogen fuel plants have seen two fires this month in Santa Clara, California, and Norway. Despite these setbacks, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report Friday, saying fuel was an important potential element of a low-carbon future.

The first Santa Clara fire occurred on Saturday, June 1 in a hydrogen reforming facility run by Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. No one was injured, but according to Silicon Valley Voice, several hydrogen tankers caught fire. The fire went out a little over an hour after the firefighters arrived.

After the fire was extinguished, Drew Miller, head of the Santa Clara Fire Brigade, told the press that "a hydrogen tanker truck was fueling and a leak was occurring. She added. an explosion took place. "

According to Green Car Reports, the explosion of hydrogen fuel has affected hydrogen fuel cell vehicle drivers in the Bay Area. One week after the incident, nine of the 11 passenger car hydrogen fueling stations in the Bay Area were offline due to a lack of hydrogen supply. Toyota, Honda and Hyundai, the three automakers selling fuel cell vehicles in the San Francisco Bay Area, have announced that they will work with owners to refuel their cars or find them in vehicle rentals. in the meantime.

The second incident occurred in Sandvika, Norway, on June 10, at a hydrogen refueling station provided by Nel Hydrogen. Nel is a Norwegian company founded 90 years ago that produces hydrogen for industrial purposes with the help of electrolysis methods. Nel has recently expanded to supply hydrogen for refueling passenger cars, taking advantage of the strong alternative fuel market in Europe and Norway in particular.

Last week's incident caused a fire and two injuries, while a wave of pressure triggered the airbags of two nearby passenger cars, according to Autoweek.

According to the Nel website, the company sent a crisis response team to investigate what happened and shut down its 10 other hydrogen refueling stations in Europe and the United States for reasons of security. In a June 13 press release, Nel said the preliminary results of the investigation had shown that neither the on-site electrolyser nor the fuel distributor were responsible for the accident .

The company has not yet been able to determine whether the low pressure stationary storage unit, the low pressure transport unit, the stationary high pressure storage unit, the various panels Valves or hydrogen refueling station unit were responsible for the fire. .

Nel said on his website that "when the root cause is clear and all the information from the event is gathered, we will bring together learning points to develop, which will be shared publicly and specifically. within the hydrogen industry in general ".

Point of view on a fuel

Both incidents are a setback for hydrogen as a fuel, particularly on the political scene. The Korea Times wrote on Thursday that South Korean President Moon Jae-In has decided to downplay the announcement of Norway's cooperation with South Korea on hydrogen development.

However, hydrogen is not the only fuel that can catch fire or cause explosions. Oil and gas infrastructure also causes several fires and explosions each year. We accept these risks because the economic benefits outweigh the costs.

On Friday, the IEA released a report suggesting that the development of hydrogen – based renewable energy sources was a reasonable step towards a low – carbon future. The agency wrote that hydrogen can serve as "storage" for solar and wind energy by using an additional electrical outlet to divide the water into H2 when demand for electricity is otherwise low. Hydrogen "offers ways to decarbonize a range of sectors – including long distance transport, chemicals, iron and steel – where it is difficult to reduce emissions significantly," wrote the IEA .

The agency also made policy recommendations for leaders wanting to increase the use of hydrogen. Recommendations included including clean hydrogen manufacturing facilities in existing industrial ports, utilizing existing natural gas infrastructure and pipelines, and "launching the first international shipping routes of the hydrogen trade".

The report also highlights that more expensive renewable methods need to be intensified for hydrogen production. "Today, hydrogen is already used on an industrial scale, but it is almost entirely supplied with natural gas and coal," the IEA wrote. "Its production, mainly for the chemical and refining industries, is responsible for 830 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. This is the equivalent of the annual carbon emissions of the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined. "

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