03 Mar 2023
 | 03 Mar 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Atmospheric composition and climate impacts of a future hydrogen economy

Nicola J. Warwick, Alex T. Archibald, Paul T. Griffiths, James Keeble, Fiona M. O'Connor, John A. Pyle, and Keith P. Shine

Abstract. 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 UKESM1 chemistry-climate model. We find that 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 new methodology for determining indirect Global Warming Potentials 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. 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.

Nicola J. Warwick et al.

Status: open (until 14 Apr 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on acp-2023-29', Matteo Bertagni, 07 Mar 2023 reply
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2023-29', Anonymous Referee #1, 09 Mar 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2023-29', Anonymous Referee #2, 17 Mar 2023 reply

Nicola J. Warwick et al.

Nicola J. Warwick et al.


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Short summary
We have used a chemistry-climate model to explore the atmospheric response to changes in emissions of hydrogen and other species associated with a shift from fossil fuel to hydrogen use. We find that leakage of hydrogen results in an indirect global warming, offsetting greenhouse gas emission reductions from reduced fossil fuel use. To maximise the benefit of hydrogen as an energy source, hydrogen leakage and emissions of methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides should be minimised.