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The most commonly used energy sources in today’s world are fossil fuels. The two most popular fossil fuel choices, hydrogen and natural gas have been around for a while now. In recent years, both fuels have been considered viable alternatives to one another. It is suggested that because hydrogen boilers are so new, common boiler issues may be a problem.
Although there is quite a distinct difference between them, you can use them both to power boilers for commercial uses. It is crucial to understand their differences to choose the most suitable fuel for your needs.Learn the pros and cons of natural gas boilers versus those that run on hydrogen!Click To Tweet
What’s the Difference Between Gas and Hydrogen Boilers?
Gas boilers can use either natural or liquid petroleum gas, while hydrogen boilers use hydrogen gas.
The heat from natural gas is created within the unit, while in hydrogen boilers it’s caused by an electric current that runs through metal plates containing hydrogen.
Both gases are pretty affordable, with hydrogen being slightly more expensive than natural gas.
The sources of fuel are affordable as well. They are produced through various sources, with natural gas being mainly extracted from the ground while hydrogen is created through water electrolysis or steam reforming of methane.
Natural gas is much more likely to be used as an energy source. Hydrogen production requires transportation and scientific knowledge that not all countries can afford.
So, it is not very energy independent. However, in the future, it’s possible that a cost-effective and sustainable method for producing hydrogen could be discovered.
Both gases can power commercial boilers. You can also use them in gas turbines and engines for transportation, like cars and ships.
Hydrogen has a higher calorific value than natural gas. Natural gas is also being used as a substitute for crude oil, especially by the petrochemical industry.
Hydrogen has no by-products during combustion, so it does not contribute to greenhouse gases and global warming. However, natural gas does have several by-products, including carbon dioxide and methane. These gases are harmful to the environment.
Pollution levels from natural gas combustion are also much higher than hydrogen.
Hydrogen is a highly explosive gas requiring special attention during transportation and storage. On the other hand, natural gas has no such issues, mainly because you can easily convert it into a liquid form for easy handling.
However, when burned, natural gas emits carbon monoxide, which is very harmful to the environment. Therefore boiler installation companies need extra training given the additional risk and dangers involved.
You can easily transport natural gas in liquid form, which is more flexible than hydrogen for commercial uses. On the other hand, you must convert hydrogen into liquid before transportation, which requires special facilities and considerable costs.
Moreover, natural gas is not flammable at low temperatures, so it does not require special measures during transportation.
High Calorific Value
The high caloric value of hydrogen makes it a fuel of choice for powering boilers, especially those used commercially.
Natural gas is a low-calorie fuel that can be used in place of hydrogen, but it produces greenhouse gases when combusted. This makes natural gas an imperfect choice for heating purposes.
The availability of natural gas deposits worldwide makes it an ideal fuel for generating electricity. Hydrogen, on the other hand, has been difficult to obtain since the 90s. Some companies invest in research to find new ways of producing hydrogen instead of fossil fuels.
Hydrogen is a gas that occurs naturally in the ground or it can be produced by breaking water apart with an electrolyzer. This is where an electric current breaks down H2O molecules into their component parts.
Ease of Storage
You can easily store natural gas because you can transform it into liquid form for storage purposes. You can also store hydrogen the same way, but it requires more energy to store its molecules correctly because its molecules are smaller.
Resistance to High Temperatures
Natural gas has a higher tensile strength than hydrogen, so it is more resistant to high temperatures. This makes natural gas a better choice for powering boilers in industries that require high heat.
Hydrogen also has a higher calorific value, but its resistance to extreme heat limits its use in heating systems.
As mentioned above, hydrogen has a higher calorific value, but its molecules are smaller than natural gas, so it is more difficult to detect in case of leakage.
Natural gas has a distinct smell that helps identify leaks easily and quickly, but no such mechanism exists yet for hydrogen, so leak detection is a problem.
Amount of Energy Produced
Natural gas produces more energy during combustion compared to hydrogen because it contains a more significant number of atoms per molecule. On the other hand, hydrogen is harder to store and transport because of its size.
Natural gas is also more abundant than hydrogen, making it a more reliable fuel source.
Longevity of Equipment
Natural gas does not corrode equipment used in its delivery or transportation.
Hydrogen, however, produces corrosion in all types of equipment, especially those made of iron. This makes natural gas a much better choice for both sea-based and land-based transport over hydrogen and much less likely to need boiler cover insurance.
A gas boiler relies on burning gas to produce heat. In contrast, a hydrogen boiler uses an electric current to run through metal plates containing hydrogen, creating a chemical reaction between the plates and the water, producing heat (Ashe).
The primary component of both types of boilers is water. The boilers use the water as a medium to transfer and distribute heat (Ashe).
The main element that differs between the two is the temperature. A temperature range for gas is between 100 degrees Celsius and 300 degrees Celsius, but a hydrogen boiler can reach temperatures up to 500 degrees Celsius.
The entire point of the boilers is to heat water above its standard boiling point for it to boil. This makes sense because you need more energy or fuel to increase the temperature (Ashe).
A new, cleaner fuel source or just an energy-intensive distraction? The ongoing debate over the effectiveness and efficiency of hydrogen as a “clean” fossil fuel is heated and has many arguments on both sides.
One side believes that using natural gas to produce hydrogen instead of burning it in power plants can avoid carbon dioxide emissions while powering our cars with the resulting product. The other argues that this process will only create more pollution than running things without any changes. What do you think?
Can you name any other disadvantages of using hydrogen as a fuel?
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.