Federal Government to research Climate damage caused by leaking hydrogen pipes

The use of hydrogen should enable climatic neutrality. But if it escapes unchecked, it can potentially have a significant negative impact on the environment. The need for building a hydrogen infrastructure is increased as a result, as even little leaks from hydrogen pipes can have significant negative effects on the environment.

Tightness plays “a crucial role” in hydrogen applications, according to Stefan Wenzel, parliamentary state secretary at the Federal Ministry of Economics, who was speaking to Handelsblatt. He views the creation of a hydrogen infrastructure as a study topic “because we will have new technologies, numerous new processes, and transport procedures throughout the world.” According to Wenzel, it should “already be supplied in the planning.”

On this issue, the Federal Institute for Materials Research (BAM) is already engaged. Although unintentional hydrogen emissions into the atmosphere are a known problem, Kai Holtappels from BAM noted that the objective of continuing research is “to avoid such releases by technical measures or to reduce them to such a low level that the consequences on the climate are minimal.” This includes studying potential materials for hydrogen infrastructure, such as pipes.

Without hydrogen, it is impossible to attain climate neutrality. Wherever direct use of electricity from renewable sources is not possible, climate-neutral hydrogen is the preferred alternative.

According to the state of the art, this is applicable to, for instance, several industrial operations as well as air traffic, ships, and the transportation of large commodities. Therefore, one of the primary energy and climate policy objectives of the traffic light coalition is to begin producing climate-neutral hydrogen and to establish a hydrogen infrastructure.

Additionally, the conditions must be established for importing climate-neutral hydrogen from everywhere in the world. Transnational hydrogen infrastructure is being developed at the same time at the European level.

According to the plans of the participating firms, the center of this infrastructure will be a European “hydrogen backbone” whose pipelines will span a distance of 27,000 kilometers as early as 2030.

But does the climate face a threat from the hydrogen infrastructure? Recent years have seen an increase in the number of scientific research highlighting how unchecked hydrogen emissions can harm the climate.

Hydrogen itself has no discernible negative impact on the climate. But there are also side effects: In the atmosphere, it forms water through a reaction with hydroxide molecules, reducing the amount of hydroxide available for interactions with greenhouse gases. As a result, the amount of ozone in the atmosphere rises and the highly climate-harmful gas methane degrades more slowly.

The outcome is terrifying. According to Andrea Lübcke from the German Academy of Science and Engineering, the indirect climate impact of hydrogen over a 20-year period is 33 times more than the climate impact of carbon dioxide (Acatech). Even greater levels may be feasible, according to recent studies, but there are significant variations depending on the methodology used for the calculations.

Businesses must monitor for methane leaks

According to the group FNB Gas, which consists of the operators of the gas transmission networks, technical investigations by the industry have revealed that existing natural gas pipes may also be utilized, for the most part, for the transport of hydrogen. The group says, “We are conscious of our responsibilities for the safety of our plants and climate protection as future hydrogen carriers.

Over a 20-year period, hydrogen has an indirect climate impact that is 33 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. According to Andrea Lübcke of the National Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech), “the necessary measures will be taken to ensure system safety and avoid leaks” due to the safety-relevant characteristics of hydrogen, such as its propensity for spontaneous combustion and the barely perceptible flames.

Previous research on converted natural gas installations had demonstrated that hydrogen was not released from sites that did not emit natural gas. “The size of the molecules is irrelevant. The essentially feasible diffusion of hydrogen via welded steel pipes can only be observed in a laboratory setting using very sensitive measuring equipment, and it has no bearing on safety or the effects on the climate “FNB Gas states. The smallest element in the periodic table is hydrogen.

Gas network operators are not new to the discussion surrounding leakage. The EU member states only came to an agreement on a regulation to control methane emissions in the oil and gas sector at the end of December of last year.

Businesses will be required to routinely check for and fix methane leaks in their plants. Environmental groups had already accumulated a lot of pressure and warned of the dangers that unchecked methane emissions posed to the planet.

In terms of hydrogen leakage, this may grow similarly. In relation to the hydrogen infrastructure, the extent of the leakage issue is still not fully recognized, new issues exist if natural gas pipelines are modified to use hydrogen.