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Friday, January 22, 2010

Hydrogen Safety Part I



Hydrogen: Similar but Different

For over 40 years, industry has used hydrogen in vast quantities as an industrial chemical and fuel for space exploration. During that time, industry has developed an infrastructure to produce, store, transport and utilize hydrogen safely. Hydrogen is no more or less dangerous than other flammable fuels, including gasoline and natural gas. In fact, some of hydrogen's differences actually provide safety benefits compared to gasoline or other fuels.

However, all flammable fuels must be handled responsibly. Like gasoline and natural gas, hydrogen is flammable and can behave dangerously under specific conditions. Hydrogen can be handled safely when guidelines are observed and the user has an understanding of its behavior.

The following lists some of the most notable differences between gaseous hydrogen and other common fuels:


Hydrogen is lighter than air and diffuses rapidly.


Hydrogen has a rapid diffusivity (3.8 times faster than natural gas), which means that when released, it dilutes quickly into a non-flammable concentration. Hydrogen rises 2 times faster than helium and 6 times faster than natural gas at a speed of almost 45 mph (20m/s). Therefore, unless a roof, a poorly ventilated room or some other structure contains the rising gas, the laws of physics prevent hydrogen from lingering near a leak (or near

people using hydrogen-fueled equipment). As the lightest element in the universe, confining hydrogen is very difficult. Industry takes these properties into account when designing structures where hydrogen will be used. The designs help hydrogen escape up and away from the user in case of an unexpected release.

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