H2 Fueling Possible at Gas Stations

Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehiclesIt may be more straightforward to add hydrogen fueling stations than previously thought. One of the many challenges faced by a developing hydrogen fueling infrastructure is where to site new stations. Thus, the thought: What if hydrogen fueling could be added to existing gas stations at a more affordable cost?

A recent study by Sandia National Laboratories concludes that a number of existing gas stations in California can safely store and dispense hydrogen, illustrating that a broader network of hydrogen fueling stations may be within reach. Seventy gas stations in California – the state with the largest number of existing hydrogen stations – were examined to determine if any could add hydrogen fueling based on the 2011 NFPA 2 hydrogen technologies code published by NFPA (National Fire Protection Association).

The result? It appears that 14 of the 70 stations explored could readily accept hydrogen fuel, with an additional 17 potentially able to integrate hydrogen with property expansions. The code provides fundamental safeguards for the generation, installation, storage, piping, use, and handling of hydrogen in gaseous or cryogenic liquid form. According to Sandia, a key factor in the codes is the separation 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.

The study shows that more hydrogen fueling stations can be built if safety issues are examined within a technical framework that focuses on the real behaviors of hydrogen. Under the previous code, which was developed through an expert opinion-based process rather than the risk-informed process developed by Sandia, virtually no hydrogen fuel cell stations could be sited at existing stations. Also, the previous code was developed for flammable gases in an industrial setting, which carries different risks compared to hydrogen fuel at a fueling station.