Hydrogen Power: Questions About Safe Working to Start Discussing Today

21st May 2021

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hydrogen power offshore sea

Hydrogen Power: Questions About Safe Working to Start Discussing Today

The advance of hydrogen fuel is now all but unstoppable but it does raise an essential consideration for those who will be managing or carrying out on-site work where hydrogen power is used: what equipment will be needed when the requirement to work on such a site inevitably occurs?

The use of hydrogen as a fuel source in the relatively near future is, in the same way it became obvious in recent years that electric car use would become more popular, fast becoming a fact of life for heavy industries, engineers and trade professionals.

Our blog introduces hydrogen power, looks at some must-see latest developments and asks what this means for safety equipping – say – a maintenance team working in a hydrogen-powered factory or home where a leak has occurred.

 

Hydrogen Power: Why Hydrogen?

It’s simple: this cleaner to produce and cleaner to use fuel has been identified as an important part of achieving the UK government’s 2035 78% reduction and 2050 net-zero carbon goals. Vitally, it delivers energy without carrying carbon and therefore does so with no carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at the point of use.

In its 2019 Progress Report, the Climate Change Committee has gone so far as to say that hydrogen options are “vital in our net-zero scenarios” and adds: “…significant volumes of low-carbon hydrogen must be produced as multiple industrial clusters”.

It is important, though, to note the current major types of hydrogen which are, conveniently, summarised using a colour-coding system.

The specialists at European energy research, innovation and collaboration organisation TNO have outlined the differences:

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.”

It should be noted that green hydrogen has a higher degree of purity and is suitable for use right away in applications such as the fuel cell of a car while blue hydrogen is more suited to industrial use.

Hydrogen Power: Latest Developments

A project to develop a 100kNm3/hr production and supply facility, to be sited at Essar Oil’s Stanlow site, is already under way with the goal of delivering low-cost, low carbon bulk hydrogen.

A report produced on the HyNet Low Carbon Hydrogen Plant even projects that, based on bulk hydrogen production from natural gas in the North West of England, the typical consumption of a domestic home would not see any significant increase in cost in typical, current power supply bills.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian state-owned energy company Equinor has announced its intention to build a large environmentally-friendly blue hydrogen facility in Hull. In addition, ScottishPower plans a green hydrogen facility near Glasgow.

In Cumbria, three uninhabited domestic properties on an RAF base are the focus of a hydrogen fuel power trial.

Also among the other projects of note are Michelin’s work to make hydrogen power systems for vehicles and efforts to convert a nine-seater Islander plane to clean hydrogen power continue with a goal of demonstrating the aircraft in 2022.

Countries such as Norway, Australia, Morocco, Chile, Saudi Arabia, China and Japan are extremely active in developing hydrogen fuel technologies, representing a significant investment worldwide.

Hydrogen Power: Working Safely

Working on sites, like homes and factories, powered by a new type of technology will mean – of course – the suitability of existing safety equipment cannot be assumed.

However, while the exact formalities of this are still being ironed out the use of ATEX certification where there is an explosion hazard will obviously be very relevant, as will be the ATEX User Directive philosophy:

• Are flammable substances present?

• Can sufficient dispersal occur to give an explosive mixture?

• Is the formation of an explosive mixture possible?

• Is the formation of explosive atmospheres reliably prevented?

Some questions arise, then, for engineers, trade professionals and site operators working on-site where hydrogen power is in use:

• Will our existing portable heat, air, power or light equipment be suitable?

• Does this leave us with sufficient suitable equipment to work on-site (including in remote, confined and/ or hard to access places)?

SA Equip offers a complimentary consultation service to assess the latest developments in the certification or specifications of portable heat, air, power and light equipment suitable for working on hydrogen-powered sites.

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 are here to help. 

Certified Equipment for the Toughest Environments                     

We are much more than just an equipment ‘supplier’. We actively help our clients safely achieve optimal ventilation, heat and lighting results in challenging environments using stand-alone solutions. For example, the SA Equip SA CYCLONE range of portable ventilation equipment includes a heavy-duty Air Mover, couplers, adaptors, a choice of anti-static ducting and a high-performance Filtration Unit.

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 air, light, heat and power products have been proven in challenging conditions offshore, in the air and beyond for almost a century.

 

Contact us for help with choosing the right equipment, request a demonstration or to find out more about our bespoke equipment service.

 

See also: Safer Working Without Hot-Work Permits, Choosing Equipment for Confined Spaces