In its most likely future incarnation, the "Hydrogen Economy" is described in terms of a "Fuel Chain", comprising the transformation of a primary energy source to generate hydrogen to feed Fuel Cells, which in turn provide power for a range of stationary or vehicle applications. The key stationary application foreseen for the hydrogen/fuel Cell system is to provide Combined Heat and Power (CHP) for homes and businesses, either via centralised/distributed energy or through "microgeneration" of electricity (and heat) on site.
The primary energy sources from which hydrogen can be generated include fossil fuels, light, wind and wave power, nuclear and biomass. In the short to medium term it is expected that the bulk of the hydrogen produced in the UK will continue to be derived from the reformation of fossil fuels, with the associated expansion of the need for CO2 capture and sequestration .
The risks associated with the storage of hydrogen (under high pressure or cryogenically in liquid form) and its use in Fuel Cell applications, are well appreciated by HSE and a comprehensive Guidance Note (HSG 243) has already been issued on the subject. In addition, work is already underway on various aspects of the fire and explosion hazards at the Health and Safety Laboratory, including investigations into the perceived risk of spontaneous combustion and modelling of potential designs for re-fuelling stations for vehicles.
See our Hydrgoen Economy Short Form report.