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Addressing an H2 Infrastructure Issue

As many vehicle manufacturers rush toward the hydrogen future, we’re encouraged by some of the work being done by HYPER, a European consortium with a name contracted from “HYdrogen PERmitting.” It consists of 15 partners from France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, the U.K., and the U.S.

As many vehicle manufacturers rush toward the hydrogen future, we’re encouraged by some of the work being done by HYPER, a European consortium with a name contracted from “HYdrogen PERmitting.” It consists of 15 partners from France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, the U.K., and the U.S. The U.S. is represented on HYPER by Sandia National Laboratories (www.sandia.gov). HYPER is focused on small—10-kW—stationary hydrogen fuel cells for such applications as auxiliary power for households. The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE, which Sandia works at the behest of) is working on the FreedomCAR & Fuels initiative. However, says Jay Keller, hydrogen program manager at Sandia, “We’re all working toward a similar goal—making hydrogen a dominant energy carrier sooner rather than later. We’re better off all playing together than alone, so this international research effort is essential.”

Sandia is working on safety codes and standards for HYPER, an area it is pursuing as regards its DOE work. One of the activities that it is working on is understanding the “unintended releases” of hydrogen. In other words, what standards are required for, say, hydrogen fueling stations. It has been determined that an unintended release of hydrogen at 2,500 psi could result in a 12-ft long jet flame, which could be blocked by a barrier. “The question we are trying to answer is ‘does a barrier mitigate the effects of an unintended release, or does it create conditions that exacerbate the release?’” for example, sufficiently high overpressure could, apparently, break glass, damage walls, or even eardrums. “We can’t test everything,” Bill Houf, a Sandia principal investigator, says. “Most of our tests are done for supply pressures of 2,500 to 6,500 psi, but vehicles may be fueled at 10,000 psi.”