Proving the safety case for Hydrogen

Hydrogen plays a critical role in reducing emissions from hard-to-electrify sectors and achieving the objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement. However, Hydrogen also presents several technical and safety challenges that demand attention and collaboration across the entire hydrogen value chain before we witness a widespread adoption of this energy carrier.

Is Hydrogen safe?

Watch the episode as our decoders, Koheila Molazemi and Karin Monsen, discuss the intricate technical, safety, and risk challenges associated with Hydrogen.

Karin Monsen

The whole value chain must come together to ensure hydrogen safety, from production to use and the industry at large. This is a joint effort; we're all part of the solution.

  • Karin Monsen ,
  • Regional Manager EMEA ,
  • DNV


KARIN MONSEN    So Koheila, is hydrogen safe? 


KOHEILA MOLAZEMI    That's a very good question. I guess a question that the industry and all the customers entering into this segment are asking. 


My name is Koheila Molazemi, and I'm the Product Line Director for Plant Products. I've been working most of my career in the safety and risk business, so I have a lot of passion for safety and, of course, risk. 


KARIN MONSEN    My name is Karin Monsen. I am a Regional Manager. We deliver projects and products to help our customers transition to hydrogen. 


So we see that the market is out there. The customers are asking questions. There's a lot of engagement in that area. And we also think that there are some clear statements out there with ambitions on both the Paris Agreement and other places where we see that this is going to be a big thing going forward. 

Only in Europe, there are half a million plants already on hydrogen, and there are 40,000 kilometres of pipelines being repurposed for hydrogen. So, obviously, this will be a big thing going forward, and the safety related to it is obviously a big topic. 

But I think we have to accept the fact that the transition will not happen overnight, and we will have to accept that it comes from other sources and work through that. 

The part of it that comes to safety, Koheila, you're really engaged in that. 


KOHEILA MOLAZEMI    Absolutely. So you're right, Karin, there are basically an energy trilemma that exist at the moment with the affordability and reliability of the energy, having a more greener and cleaner energy as a second aspect of this trilemma, and most importantly, safety and security. 

With all the new chemicals coming into the picture, into the energy mix, there are safety challenges. 


KARIN MONSEN    Yes, the safety part is a big one. So, what should we do to ensure we achieve the goal of safety? To make sure that the transition happens safely? 


KOHEILA MOLAZEMI    Yeah, so absolutely, that's a good question. Hydrogen presents a lot of opportunities for decarbonizing the industry and obviously helping and supporting the energy transition, but is not without challenges. 

The current safety regulations that we have in the industry for hydrocarbon materials are not applicable for hydrogen as such, and hence, there are safety-related challenges that need to be addressed and properly studied and reviewed with both storage and distribution, but also the end use of hydrogen. 

Natural gas is not new to the industry and consumers. They have been using it for many, many years. They have a lot of knowledge and experience from natural gas. But also, you have to bear in mind that hydrogen is significantly different from natural gas in many ways. 

Obviously, hydrogen has different physical and chemical characteristics compared to natural gas. The burning velocity is higher and in a higher concentration, is much more explosive compared to natural gas. 

So, with all of these, it presents different challenges and uncertainties to the industry. Particularly when they are increasing the scalability of hydrogen, with all the projects that you mentioned, where the pipelines are being repurposed not only in Europe but globally these things are presenting safety concerns that need to be addressed. 

On top of that is the public perception and public acceptance because when these pipelines pass by the schools and houses and residential areas, then you need to make sure that we gain the confidence and trust of the population before we take the hydrogen to the end-users and the consumers. 

But these are safety challenges; I'm sure there are technical challenges as well that you are talking to customers about and hearing from them. 

What are the technical challenges? What are your reflections? 


KARIN MONSEN    Yeah, technically, there are many, and the entire value chain is facing these different challenges, from the production of hydrogen to its storage and transportation to distribution. 

Obviously, infrastructure is being built for the purpose and refurbished for the purpose. I think the production sites that are out there need to take in how they can technically adapt what's there, make sure that we can reuse some of that capacity, and also how can we reuse the transportation utilities like pipelines, for instance, making sure that they are able and applicable to transport hydrogen alongside or instead of any other energy source. So I think that's something that the industry is definitely facing! 

Several of the projects we have been working on lately are related to inserting hydrogen into existing pipelines, and customers have the ambition to make whole cities supplied by hydrogen. Obviously, within that comes both the integrity issues with the pipelines, the simulation of how does it behave within the pipelines, and the ability to adapt accordingly. 

So this is really one of the key challenges we are talking to customers about. 


KOHEILA MOLAZEMI    That's a very good example, and of course, we also see that the very same customers entering into this emerging market would also like to have some support in terms of the safety aspects of it. 

To give you some examples, as you mentioned, the pipeline customers that are repurposing these pipelines from natural gas or they're using the national grid to introduce hydrogen, 

then they have done the safety studies and safety cases for natural gas. But it is not correct to assume that the risk will be similar by just comparing the characteristics of hydrogen and natural gas. 


KARIN MONSEN    Yes, the behaviour is totally different.


KOHEILA MOLAZEMI    Absolutely. We also need some more live experiments and evidence of what and how hydrogen behaves. So our customers are quite interested in getting some help to run these studies or access some models so that they have a better understanding of what it means to really convert and repurpose these pipelines to hydrogen.  If the risk is not within acceptable levels, then they need to think about additional control measures to put in place, whether it is hardware barriers or whether it is soft barriers like procedures and such processes to bring the risk back to an acceptable level. 


KARIN MONSEN    Yeah. Absolutely. The whole value chain and the industry at large really need to come together. This is a joint effort, and I think we're all part of the solution.

The entire value chain, from the production all the way down to the usage of hydrogen, all need to take their share in that. The industry needs to take on responsibility, work through it, and also take in the differences between what they're doing today and how should they adapt to make it safe. Also how can they be part of that transition and not lag behind. 




KARIN MONSEN    Everybody, joined together, needs to take that responsibility, and I think that's where the solution lies. 


KOHEILA MOLAZEMI    Yes, the collaboration is the key.


KARIN MONSEN    Collaboration is definitely the key.

Explore the full 'Decoding the Energy Transition' video series where we simplify the complexities of the energy transition, answer key questions, and share practical insights into future energy challenges.

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