Sandia National Laboratories and industrial gas giant Linde LLC have signed an umbrella Cooperative Research & Development Agreement (CRADA) that is expected to accelerate the development of low-carbon energy and industrial technologies, beginning with hydrogen and fuel cells.

The CRADA will kick off with two new research and development projects to accelerate the expansion of hydrogen fuelling stations to continue to support the market growth of fuel cell electric vehicles now proliferating among the major auto manufacturers. On 17 November Toyota became the latest to unveil a fuel cell electric vehicle.

Last week, Linde opened the first-ever, fully certified commercial hydrogen fuelling station near Sacramento with support from the California Energy Commission.

Kickoff projects will help increase H2 fuel station openings

A recent Sandia study, funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), determined that 18% of fuelling station sites in high-priority areas can readily accept hydrogen fuelling systems using existing building codes.

The development of meaningful, science-based fire codes and determinations, such as those found in that study, shows that focusing on scientific, risk-informed approaches can reduce uncertainty and help to avoid overly conservative restrictions to commercial hydrogen fuel installations.

Continuing down this path, the first project in the Sandia/Linde CRADA will be demonstrating a hydrogen fuel station that uses a performance-based design approach allowable under the National Fire Protection Association hydrogen technologies code, NFPA 2. The project will include support from the DOE.

California’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program states that Linde expects to open new fueling stations in late 2015.

NFPA 2 provides fundamental safeguards for the generation, installation, storage, piping, use and handling of hydrogen in compressed gas or cryogenic (low temperature) liquid form and is referenced by many fire officials in the permitting process for hydrogen fuelling stations.

“Sections of NFPA 2 are typically not utilised by station developers, as they instead have focused more on rigid distance requirements for fuel dispensers, air intakes, tanks, storage equipment and other infrastructure,” explained Sandia risk expert and fire protection engineer Chris LaFleur.

“We know we can get hydrogen systems into more existing fuelling facilities if our risk analyses show how they meet the code,” she said. “This will help boost the developing fuel-cell electric vehicle market significantly.”

The project, LaFleur added, will provide a foundation for the hydrogen fueling industry to implement the performance-based approach to station design and permitting, leading to sustained expansion of the hydrogen fuelling network. The pilot demonstration, she said, will provide clear evidence that a performance-based design is feasible.

Infrastructure, safety the focus of second project

“Linde’s business interests in building and operating more hydrogen fuelling stations for retail use align perfectly with our research goals aimed at accelerating clean and efficient energy technologies into the marketplace,” said Chris San Marchi, lead researcher in Sandia’s hydrogen safety, codes and standards program.

“We expect our investment with Sandia will lead to a broader consortium of other commercial partners,” said Nitin Natesan, business development manager at Linde. “We’re happy to lead the way for industry, but ultimately we need others on board to join the effort to address barriers to entry of hydrogen fuelling infrastructure.”