This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

June 25, 2003

Hydrogen Group Disputes Study on Potential Ozone Impacts

Leakage from a future hydrogen infrastructure could cause damage to the Earth's ozone layer, according to a recent study by the California Institute of Technology. The study, published in the June 13th edition of Science magazine, examined the potential effects of a future hydrogen economy in which hydrogen is stored and shipped as a fuel in place of natural gas, gasoline, and other fuels. Assuming a leakage of 10 to 20 percent of the hydrogen along the way, the study found that hydrogen could cause a 10 percent thinning of Earth's ozone layer. However, the Caltech group noted that hydrogen's behavior in the atmosphere is not well understood, and the predicted ozone effects could be a worst-case scenario. See the Caltech press release.

The group's findings, however, were immediately disputed by a number of energy experts. As noted by Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University, the actual losses of hydrogen from storage and pipelines is expected to be much lower than the 10 to 20 percent assumed by the Caltech group. The research center also noted that any hydrogen that is intentionally vented could easily be destroyed by catalytic oxidation to prevent its release to the atmosphere. See the Schatz letter to the editor of Science, posted on the National Hydrogen Association Web site (PDF 21 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.