Hydrogen Safety, Codes and Standards Challenges

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From a safety, codes and standards perspective, the fundamental challenges to the commercialization of hydrogen technologies are the lack of safety information on hydrogen components and systems used in a hydrogen fuel infrastructure, and the limited availability of appropriate codes and standards to ensure uniformity and facilitate deployment. Some of the specific challenges include:

  • Limited Safety Data for Hydrogen Systems. Only a small number of hydrogen technologies, systems, and components are in operation, and many are in the pre-commercial development phase and still proprietary. As such, only limited data are available on the operational and safety aspects of these technologies. In addition, the historical data used in accessing safety parameters for the production, storage, transport, and utilization of hydrogen are several decades old and need to be assessed and validated.

  • Liability/Insurability Issues. Lawsuits and insurability are serious concerns that could affect the commercialization of hydrogen technologies. New technologies not yet recognized in codes and standards will have difficulty in obtaining reasonable insurance and may not be approved in some cases.

  • Lack of Understanding of Hydrogen Systems. There is currently a general lack of understanding of hydrogen and hydrogen system safety needs among local government officials, fire marshals, and the general public. In addition, there is no comprehensive handbook of best management practices for hydrogen safety to which officials should refer.

  • Consensus National Agenda on Codes and Standards. The code development process is voluntary, so the government can affect its progression, but buy-in is ultimately required from code publishing groups. Competition among standards/code development organizations complicates the process. Other challenges include the large, diverse number of state/local jurisdictions in the United States, limited state funds for new codes, and training differences for code officials.

  • International Competitiveness. International code development is usually complicated and difficult to achieve because of international competitiveness and licensing issues. Governments have a limited role in the development of International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards. Inadequate representation by government and industry at international forums leads to difficulties in promoting the findings of international technical committees to domestic industry experts.

  • Current Large Footprint Requirement for Hydrogen Fueling Stations. Lack of technical data for underground and above-ground storage, set back and other safety requirements in effect for the use of hydrogen in industrial applications, and the current lack of technical data for hydrogen storage result in excessively large footprints. Insurance rates are tied to current codes and standards.

A detailed list of the barriers to safety, codes and standards, and the technical targets to meet these challenges and support the development of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies are presented in the Safety, Codes and Standards section of the Multi-Year Research, Development, and Demonstration Plan.