Opinion: Fueling Station Safety and Hydrogen Detection
Andrei V. Tchouvelev, A.V. Tchouvelev & Associates Inc.

Early hydrogen detection is one of the key risk mitigation measures associated with potential hydrogen releases from hydrogen containing equipment and pipework. But how early should it be implemented to effectively improve safety and not become an operational nuissance at the same time?

Hydrogen Detection at Fueling Stations: The 100 ppm requirement
Some people have a perception that if the hydrogen detection limit is as low as possible then safety will be improved (or risks reduced) at hydrogen fueling stations. This belief is particularly strong in Japan within the circle of experts that design, build and operate hydrogen stations. An informal survey of related Japanese industries on the minimum required detection limit of hydrogen concentrations revealed that the average weighted response was around a few hundred ppm. Thus, to ensure that a few hundred ppm are reliably measured, the requirement for a 100 ppm detection limit is justified. 

Others (including myself) think that such a low detection limit has nothing to do with "safety" or "risk," is not scientifically based (on hydrogen properties and risk perspectives) and is purely emotional (perception-based). If we presume that a concentration of 4% hydrogen by volume (40,000 ppm) is flammable outdoors (which, we know, it is not) there is a huge disparity between the 40,000 ppm flammability level and the minimum detection limit – 100 ppm. If safety is primary concern, a factor of 10 rather that 400 would be more than adequate. From risk prospective, there is absolutely no reason to believe that hydrogen detection at 100 ppm will reduce risk of incidents during fueling instead of detecting hydrogen at, say, 4,000 ppm (which incorporates a safety factor of 10). Moreover, premature detection and initiated inadequate response may have adverse effects (see below), while timely detection of reasonably significant concentrations will allow the user to concentrate on mitigating real hazards. As Confucius advised: "Don’t use cannon against mosquitoes."

There is nothing wrong with a 100 ppm detection limit in principle; certainly there might be a need for this type of measurement. The point here is: it has nothing to do with improving fueling safety and it will likely be very impractical under the conditions of a fuelling station. It is ironic that in Japan, within the circle of experts discussing maximum allowable hydrogen concentrations that could be emitted from fuel cell vehicles' tailpipes, emissions containing up to 4% hydrogen by volume are considered to be potentially permissible. In the US during the development of a recommended practice for general fuel cell vehicle safety, the same tailpipe emissions with 4% hydrogen have been discussed. This means that a regular hydrogen fuel cell vehicle may routinely generate short term emissions of up to 4% hydrogen by volume (or 40,000 ppm) from its tail pipe during shut down or start up. This could happen immediately before or after fueling. One could predict that every normal (i.e. safe) fueling operation will likely set off an alarm of a highly sensitive detection apparatus. This might in turn have very “interesting” effects ranging from solidifying a sense of fear or unease in the public to strong annoyance from station operators against hydrogen detection followed by permanent disabling of detection system. This would really have an effect on safety--a negative effect. 

Testing of detectors in enriched hydrogen gas
As pointed out by detection experts, it is very important that the sensors, when exposed to high concentrations of hydrogen, would continue to display over the range concentrations ("stay high") during the whole period of exposure. This is a very important safety feature. Suppose there is a large leak that quickly exceeds the measurement range of a sensor. If the sensor does not stay high and drops its reading to zero, an operator may think that there is no hydrogen around while in fact the hydrogen concentration is very high. 

Experts advise that thermal conductivity sensors have no problem staying high while other technologies may. When exposed to high hydrogen concentrations, the accepted solution for hydrogen detectors is either to display an alert over the range of concentrations or send a latching alarm (the one that would require a deliberate action to be deactivated).

NHA Summary of the ISO Roundtable on Global Harmonization
Including discussions on NGVs and GTRs
Karen Hall, National Hydrogen Association

NHA staff attended the ISO Roundtable on global harmonization of regulations, codes and standards for gaseous fuels and vehicles, held in Geneva, Switzerland on January 10. 

The initiative was initially proposed by the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Working Party 29). According to an ISO announcement, the purpose of the Roundtable was to "facilitate the early commercialization of hydrogen and natural gas fuel and vehicle technologies by examining opportunities to remove potential technical barriers to trade associated with non-harmonized regulations, codes and standards in this area."

The intent, according to the announcement, was to "create awareness and willingness, on the part of key players in this important new energy sector, to develop solutions that will assist in achievement towards the important goal of one product, one standard, one test."

The proceedings are posted on the ISO website at:http://www.iso.org/iso/en/commcentre/events/2006/roundtable.html.

In response to the readers of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Safety Report who have indicated interest in this event, the NHA is publishing a summary of the meeting based on staff notes. Readers are encouraged to review the formal proceedings. 

Summary-Morning Session
Alan Bryden, ISO Secretary-General, opened the Roundtable. He noted that ISO and IEC Standards have the potential to be adopted nationally, making them available to regulators. His views can also be seen on a recent publication called "Designing International Standards to Support Global Trade," available on the ISO website athttp://www.iso.org/iso/en/commcentre/presentations/

The meeting was facilitated by Kevin McKinley, ISO Deputy Secretary-General, and attended by decision-makers from multinational automotive, energy and infrastructure companies, as well as high-level government representatives. The audience was evenly divided between those who considered themselves part of the natural gas industry and those who considered themselves part of the hydrogen industry. Several speakers made the point that we should all consider ourselves part of the "gaseous fuels" industry, as the issues we face are the same. 

Christoph Albus, HFCV Chair at UN/ECE Transport, noted that although the Global Technical Regulation (GTR) process is relatively new, five GTRs have been developed so far on a variety of vehicles topics. (For the GTRs recently adopted by UN/ECE WP 29, visit:http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/automotive/unece/gtr.htm) GTRs in general cover test procedures and performance requirements. Mr. Albus indicated that GTRs should work with both Type-Approval and Self-Certification systems. Some countries, including most European ones use Type-Approval for certifying vehicle safety, while other countries, including the U.S. use Self-Certification. 

Frederic Barth of Air Liquide, indicated that the gaseous fuels market is global, and therefore GTRs make sense. He further indicated that the regulations should state only essential requirements, with compliance provided by globally harmonized standards (ISO and IEC). 

Speakers in favor of global harmonization indicated this was necessary to enable industry to get vehicles deployed quickly and economically in world markets. 

Summary-Afternoon Session
In the afternoon, the audience was divided into two panels: Automotive (including natural gas and hydrogen topics), and Energy and Infrastructure (also, NG and H2). I attended the Energy and Infrastructure Panel. 

During the Energy and Infrastructure group’s discussion, an overwhelming majority indicated that GTRs are a long-term goal for those things that are regulated (such as hydrogen supply), and that the near-term emphasis must be on developing consensus International Standards upon which regulations or codes could be built. The majority of participants indicated it would be prudent to attempt to create GTRs for things that are not currently regulated (such as siting of refuelling stations, which in the US is covered by building and fire codes). One participant indicated it would be desirable to regulate these as a single design and single certification procedure which could be used in all areas. The majority did not agree, again emphasizing the role of consensus International Standards upon which different jurisdictions could use to resolve any discrepancies. Participants also cautioned against creating regulationsin advance of consensus standards, as regulations can be more difficult to change once in place. Putting regulations before standards could actually hinder the timely and economical deployment of infrastructure. Examples were given where this has been an demonstrated issue with natural gas vehicles and the ethanol infrastructure. 

The two groups were reunited for a wrap up and recommendations. A recommendation was made by Randy Dey, Chairman of ISO TC 197, to form an independent body for global harmonization to facilitate better communication and cooperation among the existing players: UN, regulators, ISO, industry, and standards development organizations. This recommendation raised many questions and comments from the audience:

  • It seems that WP 29 already had such a role. If ISO and the UN share this concern, who could be independent? 
  • Who can be independent of all the existing players, and still be effective. IPHE has a Codes & Standards Working Group? This facilitation could conceivably be performed as part of their mission.

Advocates of the independent body indicated the need to formalize "something" to ensure the proper level of cooperation among the parties. This raised additional discussion about whether this would be best achieved by an independent body or a joint body of the existing players. No conclusion was reached by the participants.

Safety, Codes and Standards featured at NHA Conference in San Antonio
Karen Hall, National Hydrogen Association

For those of you interested in activities that specifically focus on hydrogen safety, codes and standards, the following is a consolidated list of those events. Please note that this is just an excerpt of a nearly full week of hydrogen activities associated with the NHA Annual Hydrogen Conference and Expo 2007. For a full working version of the program, registration for all events and hotel information, please visit: www.hydrogenconference.org.

The NHA Annual Hydrogen Conference and Expo will begin Monday evening, March 19 and continue through Thursday, March 22. (As you can see below, some C&S activities will continue on Friday, March 23.) More than one thousand business professionals and expo visitors are expected to attend the 18th Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas to experience "Hydrogen: Here and Now," network with industry leaders and learn about the latest developments from keynote addresses, specialized technical sessions and the expo. The NHA Annual Hydrogen Conference with Hydrogen Expo US is the largest hydrogen conference in the US and the longest running annual hydrogen conference in the world.

Safety, Codes & Standards Events
All dates and times are subject to change.

Monday, March 19

9:00 AM – 12:00 PMNational Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Codes & Standards Coordinating Committee In-Person Meeting

6:30 PM – 8:30 PMWelcome reception

Tuesday, March 20

7:00 AM – 9:00 PMConference Events Continue (see schedule online)

Morning (time TBD)Parallel Session 1
Safety: Risk Assessment

Afternoon (time TBD)Parallel Session 2
Permitting and Responder Training

Wednesday, March 21

7:00 AM – 8:30 PMConference Events Continue (see schedule online)

Afternoon (time TBD)Parallel Session 4
Safety: Leaks and Leak Detection

Thursday, March 22

8:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Conference Events Continue (see schedule online)

2:30 PMIndustry Tour - SWRI

3:00 PM – 7:00 PM2007 CGA Hydrogen Seminar Part 1 (separate fee)

Friday, March 23

8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

2007 CGA Hydrogen Seminar Part 2 (separate fee, see Thurs)

8:30 AM – 4:45 PM2007 ENGVA Seminar (separate fee): NGV Pathways to Hydrogen Vehicles & Fuelling Infrastructure: Lessons on Safety and Speed-to-Market

Scientists Put Hope in Hydrogen Sensors
John Trumbo, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

A tiny buttonlike sensor may be the key to bringing the world into the hydrogen age.

At least that is what Dan Briscoe, vice president of business development at Apollo in Kennewick, hopes will happen in the next few years.

Apollo has developed the hydrogen gas sensor with the help of scientists at the Karpov Institute of Physical Chemistry in Moscow.
Briscoe said the two entities linked up at the suggestion of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Program.

Briscoe said PNNL approached Apollo about four years ago with the idea to work with Russian scientists on designing and building a better hydrogen gas sensor that would be more reliable, work faster and cost less than commercially available sensors currently in use.

The collaboration resulted in a cooperative research and development agreement between Apollo and Battelle, which operates PNNL as a Department of Energy lab.

Battelle licensed the patent applications in May 2006, and Apollo applied for the global patent on the new hydrogen gas sensor in September.

Having a gas sensor that is fast and reliable is the key to taking advantage of developing hydrogen-based energy and power systems, Briscoe said.

The button-sized sensors can detect hydrogen in minute amounts in parts per million, which is important because concentrations of the gas of only 4 percent can result in an explosion, Briscoe said.
Briscoe said Apollo created a a new division, Apollo Sensor Technology, to help develop a market for the sensors and find the right high-tech company to help make the items. He expects they will be priced between $100 and $200 each, which is less than one-tenth the cost of the best hydrogen gas sensors available today.

"What makes our sensor different from others is it has a large range or spectrum of detection sensitivity, and can respond with a reading in less than one second," Briscoe said.

Apollo's Russian-designed sensor also has very little cross-sensitivity to other gases which would give false positive readings, and it is more durable than other sensors, not requiring frequent recalibrations, he said.

The sensors would be ideal for safety detection systems in futuristic hydrogen-powered cars, but that potential is at least 10 to 15 years a way, Briscoe said.

A better market for the sensors already exists where hydrogen is the fuel for internal combustion engine power plants, such as with emergency backup systems used at microwave towers, radio stations and hospitals in the event of conventional power system failures.
Briscoe said the demand for hydrogen sensors in those areas could be 10,000 to 12,000 units a year.

The sensors also would be valuable safety units at petroleum refineries where hydrogen gas is involved in processing heavy crude to light crude.

Briscoe said if the commercialization and marketing goes well, the Apollo Sensor Technology product could be selling 100,000 units annually by 2011.

Because of the collaboration through PNNL with the Russian scientists, the profits would be split three ways, he said.

Reprinted with permission. Original article:http://www.advancedimagingpro.com/article

Copyright (c) 2006, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News. For reprints call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

Fuel Cells Enable Emergency Contact
Miranda Vagg, Associated Press

The Fuel Cells for Emergency Communications program is a combination of efforts from the New York Power Authority and the New York State Police. The $434,000 program will be used to set up fuel cell technology enabling backup power at 22 public safety communications facilities, including one in Albion. 

"These fuel cell installations will keep state communications on-line when they are often needed the most, during power outages and other emergency situations," said Timothy S. Carey, NYPA's president and chief executive officer in a statement released Thursday. 

The implementation of hydrogen backup power for state communications facilities across New York will work to keep people informed during power failures. 

The New York State Department of Transportation tower located in Albion is a communications tower utilized by both the State Police and DOT, said DOT Assistant Engineer Rich Lovelace. 

The facility handles communications in Western New York and was disabled during the October snow emergency. The use of fuel cell backup power in the future would allow communications facilities to operate as normal in the event of a power outage. 

"Part of it is they'll be able to generate electricity for the tower in the event of a power failure," Lovelace said. 

The hydrogen fuel would be brought to the site in a container comparable to a propane tank, which is then hooked into a unit on the energy transmitter, converting hydrogen into energy, according to Lovelace. 

Currently New York State is also working on building a statewide wireless communications network so state workers don't have to depend on Verizon, Cingular or other wireless providers, according to Lovelace. The network would allow for open communication between crews that would otherwise not be available if communication towers are disabled and left without a backup energy supply. 

"It's been in the works for a while," Lovelace said. "I think a lot of people are going to do this throughout the country. (Hurricane) Katrina was a pretty good lesson learned." 

The fuel cell technology that would be used to power the communications tower is a clean energy technology, according to Carey. 

"The Power Authority has undertaken more than a dozen fuel cell projects, in various types of applications using different fuel sources, to demonstrate reductions in air pollution and the advantages of distributed power supply," he said. 

Unlike traditional technologies, which can be "unpredictable, expensive to maintain and harmful to the environment," the fuel cells offer backup power without damaging the environment through emission, Carey stated. 

Funding for the FC4EC program will be provided from Petroleum Overcharge Restitution funds. The money comes from proceeds of court settlements relating to oil company violations of federal price controls in the 1970s and 1980s.

Reprinted with permission. Original article: http://www.journal-register.com/local/local_story_001235206.html

The International Code Council World Headquarters Has Moved
Chicago District Office Unchanged

The International Code Council will move its world headquarters to the heart of Washington, D.C., and into a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building in the nation's Capitol.
"Our new world headquarters will be just two blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building," said Code Council CEO Rick Weiland. "Having our offices in a LEED-certified green building in D.C. shows our corporate commitment to respect the environment. Green technology is going to play an important role in our collective future-not just in the United States but around the world."

The move will elevate the Code Council's profile, according to Weiland. It also will enhance relationships with the Federal government, and national and international organizations that have a presence in D.C., including the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the building owner.

"Last year the Board directed staff to find appropriate office space for our new headquarters," said ICC Board President Wally Bailey, who is Director of Development and Construction for Fort Smith, Ark. "It was a big plus that the best space available turned out to be a green building. This move fits in perfectly with our mission of safeguarding the public and demonstrates our commitment to good corporate citizenship." 

The NAR building is one of Washington's greenest office buildings, having achieved a silver rating using the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building rating system. Among its green features are energy efficiency, rainwater collection, high-efficiency HVAC and lighting systems, water-efficient fixtures and waterless urinals, excellent day-lighting and views, and use of recycled content materials.

"The combination of location, features of the building, energy and environmental performance, and accessibility makes it the right move for ICC," said Senior Vice President of Government Relations Sara Yerkes, who along with Chief Operating Officer Dominic Sims are overseeing the move.

"This organization is about our members and about our mission," said Sims. "Visitors need to feel the quality of the I-Codes and the stability of our organization when they enter our offices. They'll get that in our new headquarters where we'll be better able to accommodate visitors and meetings."

Michele Vernon of VOA Associates, Inc., a Chicago-based design firm with an office in D.C., led the team that designed the build-out of the new space. 

"ICC had its own process and criteria including the importance of the location, functionality of the space, room for growth, and the health and well-being of its staff and those visiting and using the offices. The NAR space fulfills all that and more," said Vernon. 

The International Code Council, a membership organization dedicated to building safety and fire prevention, develops the codes used to construct residential and commercial buildings, including homes and schools. Most U.S. cities, counties and states that adopt codes choose the International Codes developed by the International Code Council.

Reprinted with permission. Original article:http://www.iccsafe.org/news/hq-move.html

NFPA Committee on Hydrogen Technology Seeks Members

The NFPA Committee on Hydrogen Technology is seeking members in all interest categories. This Committee is responsible for proposed NFPA 2, Hydrogen Technologies Code.

For information and an application form, please visithttp://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?categoryID=820&
TechnicalCommittees/ CallforMembers&cookie%5Ftest=1