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Hydrogen hopium: Storage

Hydrogen hopium: Storage

Source: Russel Rhodes (2011) Explosive Lessons in Hydrogen Safety. https://appel.nasa.gov/2011/02/02/explosive-lessons-in-hydrogen-safety/


Preface.  What is hopium? Irrational or unwarranted optimism. An addiction to false hopes. A metaphorical substance that causes people to believe in a false hope (H + opium). And Hopium makes fuel cell hydrogen cars!  What could be more suitable for today’s post.

No container can contain hydrogen for long. Use it or lose it. Hydrogen is the Houdini of elements, the smallest of them all, and will boil off and escape no matter how many gaskets and valves there are on a container and at every pipeline junction.

Hydrogen can’t be distributed with existing natural gas pipelines or service stations because hydrogen leaks as well as corrodes metal. According to former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu (2020), hydrogen seeps into metal and embrittles it, a material problem that has not been solved for decades and may never be solved. Meanwhile, hydrogen is stored in expensive austenitic stainless-steel containers and pipelines that delay corrosion, which must be carefully maintained and monitored, since embrittlement can result in catastrophic explosions with loss of property and life.

Yes indeed, hydrogen is explosive which makes it difficult to use (Heinberg and Fridley 2016, Friedmann et al. 2019). If hydrogen escapes it can explode or catch fire ten times more easily than gasoline, set off with just a spark of static electricity. For example, due to a faulty valve, a Norwegian hydrogen station explosion was so strong that two nearby people inside their cars went to the hospital after their airbags were triggered. Around the same time, a chemical explosion in a hydrogen facility in Santa Clara, California resulted in a cautionary shutdown of all hydrogen stations in the San Francisco Bay Area (Siddiqui 2020)…

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