Distribution and safety
Depending on local circumstances, hydrogen can be produced locally or distributed from a central large-scale production plant. The costs and benefits of these various ‘pathway’ options are currently the subject of research.
There is already a limited hydrogen transmission system in Europe associated with the petrochemical industry, but considerable investment in infrastructure will be required to facilitate the widespread distribution of hydrogen. In the case of transport, special refuelling facilities will also be needed.
As with any fuel, safety is a paramount concern. Commonly accepted regulations, codes and standards for equipment, well-trained maintenance personnel, and operational guidelines will need to be formulated, alongside an extensive information and educational programme for the public.
Hydrogen can either be burned to provide heat, or to drive turbines, or used in internal combustion engines for motive or electrical power. However, fuel cells offer a more efficient use of hydrogen.
Initially, hydrogen use in combustion engines may provide an important means of enabling the introduction of hydrogen while fuel cell technology matures. Eventually, the widespread introduction of fuel cells will allow local (distributed) power production to become commonplace – even at the domestic level.