International Fuelcellbus Collaborative

Featured Topic: Hydrogen Safety

As hydrogen fuel cell vehicles hit the road in increasing numbers, national and international organizations are ensuring public safety through development of safety codes, standards and procedures.  While hydrogen has been utilized as an industrial chemical for decades, its role as an energy carrier for on-road vehicle propulsion is relatively new.  Hydrogen is no more dangerous than current vehicle fuels, just different, and hazards must be mitigated.

In order to reduce risk the US Department of Energy (DOE) is working through the National Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Codes & Standards Coordinating Committee to develop and harmonize codes and standards governing the use of hydrogen in vehicles and during vehicle fueling.  In particular the committee works to coordinate the International Code Council (IOC) codes with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes.  These codes relate to on-board hydrogen, hydrogen stations and fuel cells.  The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA)  reports the activities of the committee as well as current activities related to hydrogen safety. 

Resources

  • A matrix of national and international current and planned codes and standards can be found here.  
  • The DOE also maintains a database on hydrogen safety resources.
  • One of the US DOE’s most important tools is H2Incidents, a confidential database that allows incidents and near misses to be reported and users to share lessons learned. 
  • The DOE maintains resources specifically for code officials and permitting officials.

 

                                 


Key Features of Hydrogen

Hydrogen diffuses extremely rapidly, which means that when released it quickly disperse into a non-flammable concentration.  Hydrogen is the lightest element in the universe and rises quickly as long as it is in a well-ventilated area.  Because of this quality, hydrogen does not pool around people or equipment.

  • Hydrogen’s quick dispersal and small size make it difficult to create a combustible situation.
  • Hydrogen is odorless making it hard to detect. Industry uses sensors to locate hydrogen.
  • FCHEA Hydrogen Fact sheet

Research

Continued research is important to ensure effective codes and standards are developed.  The European Commission co-funds the International Association for Hydrogen Safety “HySafe”. The association facilitates networking and dissemination of knowledge in the field of hydrogen safety.  

The EU’s Joint Research Center Institute for Energy & Transport (JRC-IET) manages Hydrogen Safety in Storage and Transport (HySAST).  This program provides hydrogen safety research output for regulations, codes and standards to the FCH-JU.

In addition, HySAST feeds hydrogen storage, detection and safety research into the following international, standardisation and regulatory activities: