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Atmospheric composition and climate impacts of a future hydrogen economy

Warwick, N. J., Archibald, A. T. ORCID:, Griffiths, P. T. ORCID:, Keeble, J. ORCID:, O'Connor, F. M. ORCID:, Pyle, J. A. and Shine, K. P. ORCID: (2023) Atmospheric composition and climate impacts of a future hydrogen economy. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 23 (20). pp. 13451-13467. ISSN 1680-7324

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5194/acp-23-13451-2023


Hydrogen is expected to play a key role in the global energy transition to net zero emissions in many scenarios. However, fugitive emissions of hydrogen into the atmosphere during its production, storage, distribution and use could reduce the climate benefit and also have implications for air quality. Here, we explore the atmospheric composition and climate impacts of increases in atmospheric hydrogen abundance using the UK Earth System Model (UKESM1) chemistry–climate model. Increases in hydrogen result in increases in methane, tropospheric ozone and stratospheric water vapour, resulting in a positive radiative forcing. However, some of the impacts of hydrogen leakage are partially offset by potential reductions in emissions of methane, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from the consumption of fossil fuels. We derive a refined methodology for determining indirect global warming potentials (GWPs) from parameters derived from steady-state simulations, which is applicable to both shorter-lived species and those with intermediate and longer lifetimes, such as hydrogen. Using this methodology, we determine a 100-year global warming potential for hydrogen of 12 ± 6. Based on this GWP and hydrogen leakage rates of 1 % and 10 %, we find that hydrogen leakage offsets approximately 0.4 % and 4 % respectively of total equivalent CO2 emission reductions in our global hydrogen economy scenario. To maximise the benefit of hydrogen as an energy source, emissions associated with hydrogen leakage and emissions of the ozone precursor gases need to be minimised.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:113753
Publisher:European Geosciences Union


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