As the number of producers and end-users of hydrogen grows, so too does the importance of its safe handling and use.
Hydrogen use has dramatically increased in recent years, especially as it has grown in popularity as a transportation fuel. Although hydrogen has been used in industry for decades, its use as a fuel for vehicles or for stationary power generation in consumer environments is relatively new (1). Hydrogen is traditionally used to make ammonia for fertilizer, remove sulfur in fuels in oil-refining processes, manufacture silicon chips, and hydrogenate oils in the food industry. It is also a common reactant and byproduct in the specialty chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
Many chemicals have inherent risks that must be managed, and hydrogen is no exception. If managed appropriately, hydrogen can present less risk than other fuel sources. For example, hydrogen is nontoxic. And, because hydrogen is lighter than air, it dissipates rapidly when it is released, unlike hydrocarbon-based fuels. However, although it is a commonly used and understood molecule, hydrogen presents unique safety challenges. Therefore, it is important for every engineer and facility support specialist to know and understand how to identify and mitigate hazards presented by hydrogen.
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