Activities Task 31

Hydrogen Safety 

Operating Agent: William Hoagland
Term: 2010-2013


The lack of operating experience with hydrogen energy systems in consumer environments continues to be a significant barrier to the widespread adoption of these systems and the development of the required infrastructure. During recent years, a significant international effort has been initiated for the development of necessary codes and standards required for the introduction of these new systems. However, such codes and standards are usually developed through operating experience in actual use that is accumulated over time. Without such long term experience, there is a natural tendency for such codes and standards to be unnecessarily restrictive, which impacts other areas such as insurance and public acceptance.
Purpose and Objectives: 

The purpose of Hydrogen Safety Task 31 is to develop and conduct effective risk
management techniques, testing methodologies, test data, and targeted information
products that will facilitate the accelerated adoption of hydrogen systems. The specific
objectives of this task are:
  • to develop testing methodologies around which collaborative testing programs can be conducted;
  • to collect information on the effects of component or system failures of hydrogen systems; and
  • to use the results obtained to develop targeted information packages for selected hydrogen energy stakeholder groups. 

Acceptability of new systems is traditionally measured against regulations, industry and company practices, and the judgment of design and maintenance engineers. However, contemporary practice also incorporates systematic methods to balance risk measurement and risk criteria with costs. Management decisions are increasingly relying on Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) to achieve acceptable levels of safety, reliability and environmental protection in the most effective manner. QRA is being applied more frequently to individual projects and may be requested by regulators to assist in making acceptance and permitting decisions. This task is a follow-on task to Task 19 (2004-2010) and was approved in 2010 for a period of three years. It is being accomplished within four subtasks:

Subtask A - Physical effects knowledge gaps

This subtask will address knowledge gaps on the physical and chemical properties of hydrogen as a gas or a liquid in support of the work performed in the other subtasks and to increase the knowledge base on hydrogen properties relevant to safety issues. The task will tackle issues pertaining to sources, release phenomena, dispersion processes, ignition, and combustion modes. Experimental, theoretical, and numerical analyses are covered by this task.

Subtask B - Hydrogen storage systems and materials

During the period of November 2010 through October 2013, Subtask B plans to focus on the following technical areas:
  • Safety, reactivity, and risk mitigation of hydrogen storage in different forms
  • Safety and risk mitigation measures of hydrogen storage systems and system interfaces for mobile and stationary applications
  • On-board vehicular storage systems materials compatibility issues
  • Enabling technologies for fire suppression systems and fire suppression agents compatible with hydride storage material
  • Safety categorization framework for hydrogen storage materials and associated life cycle impact assessment (LCIA)

Subtask C - Early markets and risks hazards

Commercialization of new hydrogen technologies for mobility, stationary, and materials handling applications will result in potential significant involvement of consumers. This dictates to adjust traditional approaches to risk characterization and hazard analysis of industrial hydrogen focused mostly on operator / worker safety in a new reality – widely exposed members of the public. Safety assessment methods, data, and use of prevention and mitigation features need to be tailored to address specifics of early markets which include lack of data and understanding of specific phenomena. Improvement in the data, models, and risk assessment methods are needed in order to generate defensible RCS requirements. This new reality underlines the need to establish systematic data collection from new hydrogen-based operating facilities (i.e. hydrogen forklift materials handling facilities, car and bus fleets, stationary power units, etc.), specifically failure / leak frequency data. Since new technologies are penetrating densely populated urban environment, special attention should be paid to risk mitigation technologies and methods such as sensors, barriers / walls and safety distances. These findings and methods are being analyzed and communicated to relevant stakeholders within international codes & standards development activities to ensure those requirements are risk-informed and evidence-based.

Subtask D - Knowledge analysis, dissemination and use

Safety knowledge tools can take many forms and serve to help disseminate the wealth of information that already exists on the safe use and handling of hydrogen and to remove barriers to the successful commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. This subtask will enhance databases and websites that have been integral work products and accomplishments of Task 19. New tools and collaborations will be developed to serve worldwide interest in expanded applications of hydrogen and hydrogen systems. Subtask D supports the work product development in the other subtasks to ensure that knowledge dissemination for broad use becomes an integral goal of Task 31 as a whole. Subtask D work scope includes the following collaborations:

D.1 Hydrogen incident reporting, analysis and lessons learned
D.2 Hydrogen Safety Best Practices
D.3 Hydrogen Safety Bibliographic Database
D.4 HyTEX Database
D.5 Training materials for regulators and public safety officials
D.6 Risk Communications
Progress and Products:

The key accomplishment of the hydrogen safety task is in the value of sharing research results and the insights gained insights during the technical experts meetings. This collaborative activity is a great aid to harmonising research results and to identify gaps in the current R&D programs. This provides for a unifying voice to provide consistent, technically based input to the development of risk-informed regulations, codes and standard development.

Task Experts Meetings – To facilitate technical information exchange, two experts meetings were conducted during 2012. This first meeting was conducted at the offices of Air Liquide in Paris, France, April 16-18, and the second was conducted in Bethesda, Maryland, October 4-5.

End of Task Stakeholder Workshops – During the consideration of the most effective manner of dissemination the results of Task 19, Hydrogen Safety, the conduct of workshops or seminars was proposed to convey the results of the task and to begin a dialogue with stakeholders concerning the issues of safety while there are not sufficient regulations, codes, and standards to guide the design and approval of such systems. The conduct of HIA workshops was first considered after the IEA HIA became a co-organizer of the Third International Conference on Hydrogen Safety in September 2008.

Two workshops, one in Europe and one in North America, were planned. Although the workshops were originally planned to be held in 2011, they were delayed pending sufficient sponsorship. The North American Workshop was successfully conducted in October 2012 in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. The second workshop, to be held in Europe, has been delayed until 2014. The planned size of the workshops is 50-75 persons, and the invitation list for these workshops is intended to ensure that the workshops have the right mix of stakeholders from among permitting authorities, codes and standards developers, early adopters, etc.

White Papers – The hydrogen safety collaboration intends to develop a series of white papers regarding subjects where the collaboration has resulted in a consensus on a particularly technical or outreach topic. During 2012, Task members, led by Dr. Steven Weiner of PNNL (USA) developed a white paper entitled, “Advancing the Hydrogen Safety Knowledge Base. This white paper is also the subject of a paper presented at the Fifth International Conference on Hydrogen Safety to be held in Brussels in September 2013.

Read Task 31 White Paper
Read Final Technical Report for Task 31 - Hydrogen Safety

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