Hydrogen is a sustainable energy source that could play an important role in the energy transition. Hydrogen can be transported and stored using liquid hydrogen carriers. As highlighted in a study performed by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), these chemicals can be – or can form – Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC, in Dutch ‘ZZS’). Therefore, RIVM recommends that due attention is paid to the potential harmful effects on humans and the environment during the design phase of new applications, avoiding the use of ZZS wherever possible. In that way the energy transition can be shaped safely and sustainably.
Hydrogen as a sustainable energy source
Producing hydrogen using sustainable electricity results in (virtually) no carbon dioxide emissions. Using the hydrogen as an energy source, whether for combustion or electricity generation, yields water and no carbon dioxide.
Transport and storage using liquid hydrogen carriers
At present, large-scale transportation or storage of hydrogen in the form of (compressed) gas or supercooled liquid is hardly feasible due to limited infrastructure. Ongoing research explores the possibility of utilising existing fossil fuel infrastructure for this purpose. A prerequisite is that the hydrogen is liquid under ambient conditions, which can be achieved by binding hydrogen to chemicals. The use of such liquid hydrogen carriers can speed up the energy transition.
Liquid hydrogen carriers can be – or can form – Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC, in Dutch ‘ZZS’)
RIVM investigated 10 different liquid hydrogen carriers, including the solvents used and the by-products formed. It was found that nearly all liquid hydrogen carriers have one or more substances with ZZS properties. However, the extent to which ZZS are present or formed may vary depending on the carrier.
Dutch policy aims to minimise ZZS emissions
ZZS may be harmful to humans and the environment. For example, they can be carcinogenic, toxic to reproduction or they can accumulate in the environment and food chains. Consequently, Dutch policy aims to minimise the presence of ZZS in the living environment. In new applications, such as the use of hydrogen as an energy source, it is advisable to avoid the application of ZZS wherever feasible.
More attention needed for a safe and sustainable energy transition
RIVM recommends that due attention is paid to the potential harmful effects on humans and the environment during the design phase of liquid hydrogen carriers and during their use, following the Safe and Sustainable by Design approach. This is crucial, as hydrogen is expected to be widely applied in the future. In that way, the energy transition can be shaped safely and sustainably.