Problem Definition

In discussions about the future of our energy supply - particularly in connection with renewable energy sources - hydrogen is considered as an energy carrier. As a storage medium for energy, hydrogen fulfils several requirements concurrently, proving to be the most environmentally friendly energy carrier - because the only "waste gas" released when using it is water vapour. Moreover, hydrogen's special characteristics render it the ideal storage medium for electricity generated from renewable energy sources, making it the most important link in a sustainable energy value chain, which is completely emission free from beginning to end. Unlike fossil fuels such as crude oil or natural gas, hydrogen will never run out, because hydrogen is the element most commonly found in nature. Besides, the stored hydrogen can be used both to generate electricity or directly as a fuel, which makes it highly suitable for stationary as well as mobile applications. However, it must be kept in mind that it is only a medium for storage and not an energy source by itself, because it must be obtained from water or hydrocarbons by separation.

In addition, applications of hydrogen in energy sectors, especially for road vehicle and household uses are a promising avenue that must lead to an increased use of hydrogen technologies. Hydrogen used in fuel cells or as fuel in an internal combustion engine would result in reduced pollution. A rapid development of end-use technologies today will put hydrogen in the near future to be used as an energy carrier and fuels, called "hydrogen energy economy". A significant increase of hydrogen use as an energy carrier is, however only possible, if the risks of an accident in a production plant, during storage, transport, or end-use are controlled in order to avoid an increase of risk to the public as compared with well established procedures.

Hydrogen has a long history of safe use in the chemical, manufacturing, and utility industries, which are predominantly operated by highly trained people. However, as a large-scale energy carrier in the hands of the general public, where untrained people will deal with hydrogen, it may create safety issues unique to energy projects. In order to make hydrogen available at a large-scale as an energy carrier, an infrastructure covering the following steps must be built up: production, transportation, storage, filling station, and end-use. The technical installations used can fail. Furthermore, the possibility of handling incidents may occur in many places. Therefore it is reasonable to determine the safety technological conditions and associated operating procedures for the realization of the hydrogen infrastructure at an early stage. This is the goal of the present work in which system-analytic methods are used to evaluate the risks quantitatively, to identify possible weak points, and to make suggestions for improvement. The determined risk will be compared as far as possible with systems having similar goals, e.g. use of LPG.

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