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UK National Physical Laboratory identifies measurement challenges in the hydrogen industry

The UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has published a report which highlights and prioritizes the current measurement challenges facing the hydrogen industry. The report emphasizes the importance of addressing these challenges should hydrogen play a significant role in a transition to a decarbonized energy system.

NPL is the UK’s National Measurement Institute, and is a world-leading center of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology available. NPL has developed and maintained the UK’s primary measurement standards for more than a century.

Hydrogen in the UK is beginning to shift to practical demonstration projects. An ever-growing evidence base has showcased how the costs of hydrogen and its barriers to entry are reducing, such that it now has practical potential to contribute to the decarbonization of the UK’s energy sector.

Despite this, hydrogen has yet to have wide commercial uptake, due in part to a number of barriers where measurement plays a critical role. To accelerate the shift towards the hydrogen economy, these challenges have been identified and prioritized by NPL.

The report “Energy transition: Measurement needs within the hydrogen industry” ranked six challenge areas as high priority:

  1. Material development for fuel cells and electrolyzers, to reduce costs and assess critical degradation mechanisms—extending lifetime and durability is key to the commercialisation of these technologies.

  2. Impact assessment of added odorant to hydrogen to aid leak detection. Measurement of its impact during pipeline transportation and on the end-use application (particularly fuel cell technology) will be important to provide assurance that it will not affect lifetime and durability.

  3. Determination of the blend ratio when hydrogen is mixed with natural gas in the gas grid. Accurate flow rate measurement and validated metering methods are needed to ensure accurate billing of the consumer.

  4. Measurement of the combustion properties of hydrogen, including flame detection and propagation, temperature and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, should it be used for heat applications, to ensure existing and new appliances are suitable for hydrogen.

  5. Assessment of the suitability of existing gas infrastructure and materials for hydrogen transportation. Building an understanding of what adaptations might need to be made to avoid for example air permeation, metal embrittlement and hydrogen leakage.

  6. Validated techniques for hydrogen storage, which will require measurement of the efficiency and capacity of each mechanism, through robust metering, leakage detection and purity analysis to ensure they are optimized for the storage of hydrogen gas.


These challenges were identified through an industry-wide workshop, in-depth interviews and consultation with key stakeholders within the hydrogen industry.




This is good news for a structured H2 industry development and standards.

H2 will certainly be an important part of the worldwide decarbonising effort.

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