The hydrogen revolution

On May 6, 1937, the hydrogen-filled airship Hindenburg, which set off from Frankfurt Am Main in Nazi Germany, is landing at Lakehurst Airport in New Jersey. There is a feeling of thunder and drizzle in the air. At 19:25, the stern of the ship suddenly catches fire and soon the flames engulf the entire ship and it crashes to the ground. More than 30 passengers died in the accident. This ended the airship era. Humanity was not yet ready for the age of hydrogen. The Hindenburg was poorly constructed and the technology was rudimentary. Because of this, the risk of accidents was high.

Times have changed a lot since those days. For a long time, hydrogen was considered a major accident risk. That's why, for example, the development of hydrogen cars was slow. The reason is that, for example due to a leak, when reacting with air, even a small spark can cause a big explosion. Hydrogen burns when combined with oxygen, and this reaction is initiated by a single spark. Hydrogen contains a large amount of energy, and nowadays we can use the energy released when hydrogen is burned in the production of electricity and heat, as well as as a power source for means of transportation and industry. At the time of the Hindenburg accident, humanity was not yet technically ready to manage the risks of hydrogen. Today, however, hydrogen technology is not dangerous. The important thing is that there are no leaks, no contact with air, and no sparks. Good sealing and isolation as well as monitoring and control are important. Today, the technology is of such high quality that hydrogen-related accidents happen very rarely. Leaks are usually detected immediately and accidents are prevented. There is no greater risk associated with hydrogen than with the use, storage and handling of other gases, such as gases that are used in industry, for example.

So the hydrogen burns and from this burning a large amount of energy is released, which we can use. Hydrogen or 2 H2 reacts with air or O2 and thus 2 H2O is created. In other words, only water is released. Hydrogen technology is therefore extremely clean. Hydrogen can be separated easily with the help of electrolysis, for example from seawater, where only oxygen is produced as a byproduct. As it burns, it turns back into water and falls back into the sea. Hydrogen can be stored or transported to where it is needed and burned when needed.

Hydrogen technology perfectly solves the storage problems associated with wind power and solar power. When there is no wind or the sun is not shining, hydrogen is burned and thus electricity and heat are obtained. When there is an oversupply of wind and light, electrolysis equipment uses electricity to produce hydrogen, which is stored and possibly transported elsewhere. In future district heat production, hydrogen power plants play a key role. Hydrogen can also be used in industry, for example the steel industry needs very high temperatures, which can be achieved with hydrogen. Burning hydrogen can be used to balance electricity. Airplanes, ships and many vehicles will probably run on hydrogen and electricity in the future. Hydrogen is a very profitable investment as a future energy source. It is important that we start building the hydrogen infrastructure of the future now.

The use of oil and natural gas as an energy source will end in the 2030s. This leaves a large number of oil and natural gas pipelines unused. For example, those traveling from the North Sea to the mainland or from Russia to Eastern Europe. However, these pipes can be reused to transport hydrogen. In the North Sea etc., we can establish large offshore wind farms, where large quantities of hydrogen are also produced by electrolysis and this hydrogen is transported to the mainland along former oil and natural gas pipelines. Hydrogen technology combined with wind and solar power is invincibly good. Leino implements the green transition and transition to a clean energy production system. In the near future, already in the 2030s, almost all energy will be produced mainly in these three ways. For example, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark plan to increase the share of wind and solar power to 70% by 2030, and the pace of building new infrastructure is currently skyrocketing. Hydropower, tidal power, sea current turbines, geothermal energy and wave power will also be used locally in the future. Some biopower as well, for example waste incineration and the burning of logging residues from forest felling, paper industry broths, agricultural by-products, etc. The energy system is always adapted to the local geography and climate and a suitable combination is sought. The potential of hydrogen is great and it is one of the most important things in the green transition.

Daniel Elkama


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