Could hydrogen leaks affect the Earth’s ozone layer?

Posted: March 22, 2021 by oldbrew in atmosphere, Energy, hydrogen, modelling, ozone, research
Tags: ,

Hydrogen pipelines [image credit: US Department of Energy @ Wikipedia]

This is one of several questions to be investigated by a Norwegian research team. The ultimate one may be: what happens to hydrogen’s hoped-for role in the big push for so-called green energy, if the findings are unfavourable to current climate theory?
– – –
Hydrogen is an attractive [Talkshop comment: perhaps, but expensive] alternative to fossil fuels, especially for powering trucks, ships and planes, where using batteries isn’t so easy, says TechXplore.

Hydrogen is an attractive alternative to fossil fuels, especially for powering trucks, ships and planes, where using batteries isn’t so easy.

Batteries quickly become too large and heavy if these large transport vessels and vehicles are going to travel far.

As a result, hydrogen is being discussed like never before. Both Norway and the EU have said they will invest more in hydrogen in the years ahead.

But a lot needs to happen before hydrogen actually becomes climate-friendly. And it’s not just about how hydrogen is made, which is one of the challenges the Norwegian government highlighted in its Hydrogen Strategy released in the summer of 2020.

One thing that is rarely discussed is the hydrogen gas itself. What happens when it leaks into the surroundings?

Researchers at Cicero, the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, are in the process of finding the answers to these and other questions about hydrogen in a new research project.

The world’s lightest gas

“It’s important that we be aware of the effects that hydrogen can have on the climate and environment, before we start with large-scale production and use. That way, we can avoid making the same mistake as we did when we started using chlorofluorocarbon gases, which would later prove damaging to the ozone layer,” said Maria Sand, a Cicero researcher who is leading the new project.

Some of the hydrogen will inevitably leak out during production, transport, storage and use.

“Hydrogen is the lightest gas in the world, so it’s impossible to prevent leaks,” she says.

May affect the big picture

This concept is probably new to many, including politicians and scientists.

“People often think that there are zero emissions from hydrogen, since it is not a greenhouse gas,” Sand said.

Hydrogen does not on its own trap heat inside the atmosphere the way that CO2 and other greenhouse gases do.

But hydrogen can still affect the big picture. At least in theory.

Will calculate the effect with climate models

Researchers at Cicero started the new project in collaboration with both industry and several international research groups.

Sand says when she and her colleagues first began to examine the issue, she was surprised by what they found. The existing studies suggest that hydrogen emissions could have a negative effect.

“Even though hydrogen is not a greenhouse gas, it can affect the composition of the atmosphere,” she says.

But the extent to which this is happening—or could—is still uncertain.

“We don’t know if the effect is large, but we also don’t know if it’s small either,” Sand said.

So researchers at Cicero reached out to other scientists who have studied the issue in the US and Europe, so they could collectively put their heads together.

The plan is to calculate the answers using five different climate models. They will also use real measurements of hydrogen in the atmosphere to check if their calculations are correct.

The ozone layer can be damaged

The researchers will look at a range of possible effects.

The first is that hydrogen can potentially damage the ozone layer.

The gas can cause beautiful clouds to form in the sky. But the explanation for why the clouds form is not so beautiful.

When hydrogen is released into the air, it is often converted to water. This can happen high in the stratosphere, where the ozone layer is.

“The ozone layer is very dry, but some reactions with hydrogen cause can water vapor to form there,” Sand says.

This is not good news for ozone.

What happens is the same as when the weather is very cold, which can cause pearlescent clouds to form in the sky.

These colorful clouds are actually evidence that the ozone layer is being broken down.

Continued here.

  1. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Why not add some carbon atoms to the H2 to make it a safer and better fuel? You could call it gas…

  2. Gamecock says:

    ‘Hydrogen is an attractive alternative to fossil fuels, especially for powering trucks, ships and planes, where using batteries isn’t so easy.’

    I see what they did there. The base case is NOT batteries, it’s petrol.

    ‘hydrogen is being discussed like never before’

    [citation needed]

    ‘What happens when it leaks into the surroundings?’

    How would you know?

  3. oldbrew says:

    ‘hydrogen is being discussed like never before’ – by people who think they can do away with fossil fuels, but can’t seem to find a plan that might work in the real world.

  4. tom0mason says:

    As ‘hydrogen is being discussed like never before’ I propose that these people discussing the matter must inhale a lung full of the hydrogen at each third breath.
    This would at least ensure ‘being discussed like never before’ is quite correct.

  5. oldbrew says:

    Also from the article…

    Fossil energy the main source

    The least climate friendly aspect of hydrogen right now is how it is produced.

    “Most of the hydrogen today is produced from fossil energy, such as coal, oil or natural gas, which produces CO2 emissions,” Møller-Holst said.
    – – –
    You couldn’t make it up. They must enjoy chasing their own tails 😄

  6. Peter Norman says:

    Ah! We should learn from CFCs and the Ozone layer: CRISTA-SPA Project – Crista-Spas is a group of instruments (Crista), deployed on a space platform (Spas), that measures atmospheric gases in such detail that it can create three-dimensional images of the distribution of the gases in the stratosphere. As the German scientists from the University of Wuppertal and the German Space Agency (DARA) together with NASA, told the press, these 3-D images show that the models behind the ozone depletion scare are completely, and axiomatically, wrong. (Germany’s Die Welt newspaper Nov. 7, 1995 and

  7. Gamecock says:

    Thanks for the link, Mr Norman.

    I knew the principals at Dupont on Freon and the ozone layer. They had the science. Marketing told them to shut up. Being destroyed by the media for “damaging the environment” meant that the science didn’t matter. Environmentalist fervor trumps science.

  8. Graeme No.3 says:

    Australia is building a pilot plant to produce liquid hydrogen for export to Japan.
    Finkel, the Chief Scientist, got $140 million as a seed, and Japanese sources may add $500 million.

    The plant will use brown coal as the energy source and the resulting CO2 will could might be sequested in the spent oil fields off the Gippsland coast.

  9. oldbrew says:

    How economies are supposed to absorb *indefinitely* the massive extra costs of these ridiculously over-complicated schemes is a mystery.

  10. Phil Salmon says:

    Hydrogen is a road to nowhere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s