Experts discuss importance of proving hydrogen’s safety


Proving the safety case for hydrogen is key to realising ambitions and scaling up a hydrogen economy, according to a panel of experts.

On 22 September, DNV GL held a panel discussion, featuring its own experts as well as representatives from National Grid and Northern Gas Networks. The key issues behind proving the safety case for hydrogen were discussed, with a clear consensus of its importance displayed by both the panel and attendees – 47% believe it has the potential to hamper hydrogen uptake for heating homes, with 21% ranking it as the most critical factor for the industry to scale hydrogen, behind only cost (49%).

Dan Allason, Head of Section – Research and Innovation at DNV GL, stressed that while policy decisions are needed, those decisions must be informed which means the safety aspects of hydrogen must be understood. It was a view shared by National Grid’s Innovation Delivery Manager, Tom Neal, who said that proving the network can safely take hydrogen will be key to maximising the opportunity it presents.

Elsewhere, the panel discussed the challenges for testing hydrogen, noting that while existing knowledge from natural gas can be leveraged, gaps remain. Gaining access to pipelines already using hydrogen to build understanding of how it operates, and may in future, was cited as a key step, while the panel highlighted that there will be different challenges arise for different sectors.

The role of the public was also earmarked as important. Tim Harwood, Head of Programme Management at Northern Gas Networks and H21 Project Director, drawing on how they had been conducting a programme of social science research with Leeds Beckett University to gain insight into the public’s perception of hydrogen. Harwood gave an example that when the term “decarbonisation” is used, there can be a lack of understanding from members of the public, though when “climate change” is used, there is a greater sense of engagement. Effective communication, together with proving hydrogen’s safety case, will be key to ensuring it can move forwards.

Looking ahead, there was a consensus that demonstration projects are key to showing hydrogen is safe. The need for government to make policy decisions was emphasised as this would allow for the industry to move forwards with trials and build infrastructure.