Safety Critical to Delivering on Hydrogen’s Sustainability Promises

By Dave Meyers, H2scan President and CEO

During the month of October, the US Department of Energy celebrates Hydrogen Week in recognition of hydrogen’s status as a next-generation fuel source worthy of special commemoration and visibility. From hydrogen fuel cell-powered delivery vehicles to hydrogen-powered buses and even entire homes, this area of the economy is rich with experimentation and innovation.

As a company in the hydrogen energy space, we are keen to see wider adoption of hydrogen as an energy source and as a way of equitably bringing about a clean energy future. Fortunately, a growing number of elected leaders recognize hydrogen’s potential to support the vital work of decarbonizing the transportation and energy sector.

On October 13th, President Biden announced seven regional clean hydrogen hubs that were selected to receive $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to accelerate the domestic market for low-cost, clean hydrogen. This is a welcome down-payment on the future, and a recognition of the mobility and carbon-reduction potential of hydrogen vehicles.

One essential task for those of us who support these investments is to make sure that safety concerns are addressed up front. While hydrogen power’s potential is exciting, we should also be mindful of the risks as with any energy source.

This summer, a hydrogen bus costing $1.1 million was destroyed while refueling at a hydrogen fueling station. In 2019, a chemical plant explosion disrupted hydrogen supplies across the Bay Area, leaving drivers of hydrogen cars unable to refuel. Just days later, a fueling station accident in a suburb of Oslo, Norway, similarly deprived drivers of refueling options.

These incidents speak to the importance of proper safety equipment– not only to protect infrastructure and the safety of workers and bystanders, but also to ensure that consumers’ confidence to opt for hydrogen-powered automotive and home energy products is not damaged in the bargain.

We have a once-in-a generation chance to get this right. Let’s make sure that the leaders who are paving the way for a more diversified energy mix are accounting for safety from the outset. One immediate, practical measure they can take is to insist that proper area monitoring devices and other safety equipment is a part of all new hydrogen energy production, delivery, and distribution facilities. Retrofitting existing facilities to bring them up to the same standard would be another good investment in the resiliency of this vital infrastructure, leading to increased uptime and helping reduce the risk of injury to the people who work in and around these facilities– as well as a way to prevent devastating secondary impacts, such as wildfires.

Without these investments, America’s nascent hydrogen industry, with the exciting job creation, clean energy, and economic development potential it represents, is at risk of being stalled in its infancy. As we celebrate the promise and potential of this emerging energy source, please join me in asking our elected leaders to ensure that safety standards are accounted for up front, so that we can set up our hydrogen economy for the longevity it deserves.

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