Is Hydrogen Safe?

Is Hydrogen Safe?

Hydrogen can be safely stored and used as a commercial fuel, according to a new publication of the National Bureau of Standards.

Because it burns cleanly and is quickly returned to the environment, hydrogen has often been proposed as a good synthetic fuel to take the place of less abundant fuels such as gasoline or natural gas. One of its major drawbacks is its reputation as an explosive that was firmly fixed in the public mind by the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

“Is Hydrogen Safe?” by Jesse Hord of the NBS Crogenic Division compares hydrogen as a safety hazard to gasoline and met hane, the major component of natural gas. Hord’s conclusion is that all three fuels can be safely stored and used, but that the amount of risk for each fuel depends on the particular application, and should be tested in advance.

Based on a review of over 80 published sources and some unpublished research, “Is Hydrogen Safe?” examines the hazards and possible damage caused by fire or explosion of all three fuels, compares storage methods, and discusses some possible uses for hydrogen.

Hydrogen has been successfully used in some industries for years, though not always as a fuel, and can in theory be used to fuel ships, planes, trucks, buses, trains and automobiles. Home appliances and furnaces can also be made to run on hydrogen gas and in fact hydrogen-enriched gases have been successfully used in Europe as residential fuels.

In addition to a tabie comparing 63 physical properties of hydrogen, methane and gasoline, Hord’s work provides a useful bibliography of federal and private guidelines for the safe storage and handling of hydrogen, and a reference index of mandatory federal regulat ions on the transportation of hydrogen as a gas or liquid.

Published as NBS Technical Note 690, “Is Hydrogen Safe?” is available for 85 cents from Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. 20402. Ask for catalog number 013.46: 690.

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