5 Disadvantages of Hydrogen Energy Explained
Disadvantages of hydrogen energy are; high cost, unsustainable sources, storage challenges, explosion risk, and technological immaturity.
This article discusses the disadvantages of hydrogen energy, as follows;
1). High Cost (as one of the Disadvantages of Hydrogen Energy)
One of the most prominent disadvantages of hydrogen energy is its cost.
Hydrogen energy is expensive because it is produced from a multi-step process of raw material-sourcing, conversion, hydrogen extraction, and storage.
The cost of hydrogen energy per kilogram ranges from about 1.30 US$/kg to 16.80 US$/kg.
Exact prices depend on how hydrogen fuel is sourced and produced, with differences for hydrogen from biomass, water, fossil fuel, steam reforming, wind energy, and solar-powered electrolysis among others.
Hydrogen energy is so expensive because it is yet to be widely adopted and/or developed to a degree that can help subsidize its cost.
In the table below, estimates of the average cost per kilogram of hydrogen energy from various production pathways (mainly based on energy resource) is given;
Average Cost (US$/kg)
2). Unsustainable Sources
The relevance of hydrogen energy to the energy transition agenda is based on its sustainability with regards to the ecosystem, economy, and society.
However, hydrogen is not always a sustainable source of energy.
Hydrogen energy is bad for the environment when it sources and production pathways have negative environmental impacts .
This is the case where hydrogen fuel comes from primary sources like petroleum and natural gas, and is produced using non-renewable energy.
The above can be rephrased to state that not all hydrogen energy is green hydrogen energy.
Electrolysis of water is a known, sustainable method for producing hydrogen, but is estimated to account for only about 0.1% of total production .
In addition to utilizing water electrolysis, the procedure and equipment must receive electricity from sources like wind, solar, hydro and geothermal, in order to be fully sustainable and clean.
A major limitation to the use of such renewable sources at the present, is their shortcoming in terms of performance and energy efficiency, which is in turn a result of their developmental level.
Since hydrogen production is an energy-intensive process, it is often more practical to use non-renewable energy resources that are of higher density, especially for bulk production.
The fact that hydrogen energy is not always sustainable indicates that it may not be a reliable alternative to non-renewable energy until its production is fully optimized.
3). Storage Challenges (as one of the Disadvantages of Hydrogen Energy)
Storage of hydrogen is a major challenge and hurdle to the use of hydrogen fuel as a sustainable aviation fuel for transport, or in power plants for electricity generation, among other applications.
Hydrogen storage is a challenge due to the low density of the gas, which makes it require high pressure and low temperature (cryogenic) conditions to be effectively liquified and compressed in storage vessels.
Major challenges with hydrogen storage can be traced to the need to store liquid hydrogen in large quantity before it can play any notable role in energy supply .
Such large-quantity storage is very demanding in terms of equipment, cost, technical input, and even energy consumption, especially when compared to other storable sources like diesel.
Low volumetric energy density creates difficulties and inefficiencies when hydrogen is used in fuel cells for hybrid vehicles.
Suitable storage conditions include 5,000-10,000 psi pressure and -252.8°C temperature .
4). Explosion Risk
Hydrogen is a high energy-density fuel that readily undergoes combustion when mixed with oxygen.
In combination with its low density, these attributes imply that hydrogen energy is associated with significant risk of explosion and fire hazards.
The explosion risk of hydrogen is estimated to exceed that of fossil fuels, and can be increased under conditions of leakage, inappropriate storage and usage.
5). Technological Immaturity (as one of the Disadvantages of Hydrogen Energy)
The fact that hydrogen energy is still in its developmental phase means that its potential is yet to be fully realized.
There are multiple other implications of this.
Technological immaturity is one of the reasons behind the high cost of hydrogen energy , as it limits the availability and efficiency of technologies that harness hydrogen as an energy source.
It also means that there are few supportive infrastructure in terms of technological facilities, incentives and policies, to optimize the use of hydrogen energy.
Disadvantages of hydrogen energy are;
1. High Cost
2. Unsustainable Sources
3. Storage Challenges
4. Explosion Risk
5. Technological Immaturity
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