A study by Sandia researchers concludes that a number of existing gas stations in California can safely store and dispense hydrogen, suggesting a broader network of hydrogen fueling stations may be within reach. The report examined 70 commercial gasoline stations in the state and sought to determine which, if any, could integrate hydrogen fuel, based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) hydrogen technologies code (NFPA 2) published in 2011. The study determined that 14 of the 70 gas stations involved in the study could readily accept hydrogen fuel and that 17 more could accept hydrogen with property expansions. Under 2005 NFPA code requirements, none of the existing gasoline stations could readily accept hydrogen.
The study focuses on California, which has more hydrogen fueling stations than any other state. A key factor in the codes that Sandia examined was the separation distances required for fueling infrastructure, including fuel dispensers, air intakes, and tanks and storage equipment. The code defines required distances between such components and public streets, parking, on-site convenience stores, and perimeter lines around the site.
All fueling facilities are susceptible to fire due to the presence of flammable liquids and gases, said Daniel Dedrick, hydrogen program manager at Sandia. According to the NFPA, more than 5,000 fires and explosions a year occurred at conventional gasoline stations from 2004–08. “Whether you are filling your car with gasoline, compressed natural gas, or hydrogen fuel, the fueling facility first of all must be designed and operated with safety in mind,” he said.
This work is aligned with the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST) program. Developing meaningful, science-based fire codes and determinations such as those found in the report will help accelerate hydrogen system deployments, said Dedrick. “This work shows that we can reduce uncertainty and avoid overly conservative restrictions to commercial hydrogen fuel installations by focusing on scientific, risk-informed approaches. “It turns out that the number of fueling stations able to carry hydrogen can be quantified,” Dedrick added. “We now know that we can build more hydrogen fueling stations if we examine the safety issues within a sound, technical framework that focuses on the real behaviors of hydrogen.”
Sandia’s hydrogen safety, codes and standards program is a diverse portfolio of activities funded by EERE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office to provide the technical basis for developing and revising safety codes and standards for hydrogen infrastructure, including the NFPA 2 code—which provides fundamental safeguards for the generation, installation, storage, piping, use, and handling of hydrogen in compressed gas or cryogenic (low-temperature) liquid form.
Read the Sandia news release.