PhD Changes in atmospheric hydrogen during the energy transition (2.0 FTE)

Updated: 2 months ago
Job Type: Temporary
Deadline: 21 Jun 2022

Hydrogen will play a profound role in the transition from our present fossil-fuel based energy system towards renewables. Hydrogen (H2) produced from electrolysis of water becomes the carrier of energy to be distributed, feeding fuel cells (or combustion engines) in cars, ships, aircraft, households, and industry. During all this, leakage of H2 into the atmosphere will be unavoidable.

This extra source of H2 to the atmosphere will modify a number of chemical cycles in the atmosphere, and thereby contribute to greenhouse gas forcing [1] and stratospheric ozone loss [2]. These negative impacts are currently thought to be small compared to the positive impacts brought about by the avoided emissions of CO2, CH4, CO, NOx, and PM2.5 (fijnstof) in a fossil- based energy system. But while building our new H2-production and -distribution capacity it is wise to:

1. (a) monitor and understand ongoing changes in the regional and global atmospheric H2 abundance
2. (b) increase our knowledge of the air quality, greenhouse forcing, and stratospheric impacts of H2
3. (c) develop capacity to detect H2 leaks and attribute elevated H2-levels to specific sectors or processes.

The present two positions are part of the atmospheric H2 project carried out in the Centre for Isotope Research (CIO), financially supported by the National Program Groningen ("waterstof werkt" project) and Shell Nederland (Gas & Hydrogen Partnership).

PhD1 will install and maintain a calibrated atmospheric Hydrogen detection system at our atmospheric monitoring station Lutjewad. (S)he will also perform Radon measurements throughout the country in an attempt to improve the national Radon flux inventory. This Rn flux, together with the H2 concentration measurements, will lead to observation-based national H2-flux estimates. Next to these activities, a novel method for the measurement of the HD isotope signal in atmospheric H2 will be pursued.

PhD2 will build a high-resolution (100m) numerical model that simulates hourly H2- and HD-abundances, together with air quality (including NOx, O3, and fijnstof or PM2.5), initially focussed on the Dutch Rijnmond area, which encompasses the Maasvlakte, the port of Rotterdam, its city center, and the Westland horticulture. The model will include expected H2 sources from leakage (mostly fueling stations, but also from industrial use and shipping/aviation), as well as chemical production+loss and deposition to the land surface. The resulting numerical modeling system will be the basis for sector-specific attribution of regional atmospheric H2 increases, but also for attribution of air quality improvements from increasing H2- use.

Both PhD candidates are expected to be committed to conduct independent and original scientific research, to report on this research in international publications and presentations, and to present the results of the research in a PhD dissertation, to be completed in 4 years. About 10% of their overall workload will be spent on teaching.

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