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Energy transition reports

Measurement needs within the hydrogen industry

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has published a report, Energy transition: Measurement needs within the hydrogen industry, which highlights and prioritises the current measurement challenges facing the hydrogen industry.

Hydrogen in the UK is beginning to shift from hypothetical debates to practical demonstration projects. An ever-growing evidence base has showcased how the costs of hydrogen and its barriers to entry are reducing, such that it now has practical potential to contribute to the decarbonisation of the UK's energy sector.

Despite this, hydrogen has yet to have wide commercial uptake, due in part to a number of barriers where measurement plays a critical role. To accelerate the shift towards the hydrogen economy, these challenges have been identified and prioritised by NPL.

The report, Energy transition: Measurement needs within the hydrogen industry, outlines the challenges identified. The highest priority issues are:

  1. Material development for fuel cells and electrolysers, to reduce costs and assess critical degradation mechanisms – extending lifetime and durability is key to the commercialisation of these technologies.
  2. Impact assessment of added odorant to hydrogen to aid leak detection. Measurement of its impact during pipeline transportation and on the end-use application (particularly fuel cell technology) will be important to provide assurance that it will not affect lifetime and durability.
  3. Determination of the blend ratio when hydrogen is mixed with natural gas in the gas grid. Accurate flow rate measurement and validated metering methods are needed to ensure accurate billing of the consumer.
  4. Measurement of the combustion properties of hydrogen, including flame detection and propagation, temperature and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, should it be used for heat applications, to ensure existing and new appliances are suitable for hydrogen.
  5. Assessment of the suitability of existing gas infrastructure and materials for hydrogen transportation. Building an understanding of what adaptations might need to be made to avoid for example air permeation, metal embrittlement and hydrogen leakage.
  6. Validated techniques for hydrogen storage, which will require measurement of the efficiency and capacity of each mechanism, through robust metering, leakage detection and purity analysis to ensure they are optimised for the storage of hydrogen gas.

These challenges were identified through an industry-wide workshop, in-depth interviews and consultation with key stakeholders within the hydrogen industry.

Energy transition infographic
An infographic summarising the measurement challenges identified throughout the report
(click to open)

As the UK's National Measurement Institute, NPL has a responsibility to tackle priority measurement issues. The UK has internationally prominent measurement capability, as well as established R&D institutions, which could enable us to host a world-leading hydrogen industry should these measurement challenges be addressed. However, tackling these challenges will require both measurement expertise and a harmonised effort from funders, industry, research institutes, standardisation bodies and policy makers.

Find out more about NPL's work on hydrogen:


Gareth Hinds

Contact: the Environment team

05 Dec 2017


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