The emerging "hydrogen economy" took a hit recently when a report by Cal Tech scientists concluded that hydrogen's widespread usage could cause significant damage to the ozone layer. It was a rather surprising finding for a substance touted as an environmentally-friendly replacement for fossil fuels.
According to the study, if hydrogen replaced fossil fuels, it could be assumed that 10% to 20% of the hydrogen would leak from pipelines, storage and cars. Accordingly, more hydrogen molecules would rise into the stratosphere, where they would eventually form water. "This would result in cooling of the lower stratosphere and the disturbance of ozone chemistry," Cal Tech researchers wrote.
But the researchers aren't against the growth of the hydrogen industry. Rather they are issuing their report as a warning. They suggest that the hydrogen infrastructure be especially designed to control leaks. Some hydrogen experts however believe the Cal Tech report may be overestimating the amount of actual leakage. Further, developments such as HydrogenSource's(1) processors, which would make hydrogen on demand at gas stations, could eliminate leakage and problems associated with transportation.