When it Comes to Hydrogen, Who Decides What is ‘Safe’?
February 12, 2022
by Rich Gottwald, President and CEO, Compressed Gas Association
Reading the news, it appears that a global hydrogen technology revolution is underway.
Every week, there are reports of developments in the industry that are drastically transforming the energy space and pushing us further towards a hydrogen-fueled economy, such as recent news about overseas transport of liquefied hydrogen, or investments in fuel cell generators.
But, if you read between the lines, you’ll see we still have a long road ahead. As I’ve previously noted, for hydrogen to fulfill its growth potential, consumers, customers, businesses, and regulators must feel completely confident in our industry’s culture of safety.
But who decides what is ‘safe’?
“For hydrogen to fulfill its growth potential, consumers, customers, businesses, and regulators must feel completely confident in our industry’s culture of safety. But who decides what is ‘safe’?”
That’s where the Compressed Gas Association (CGA), and other standards developers, come in. CGA has been a leader in developing safety standards for hydrogen production, storage, and delivery for nearly 70 years. These cover the spectrum, from basic hydrogen safety information to hydrogen production, distribution, and storage.
For example, CGA G-5, Hydrogen, first published in 1955, covers the properties, production, and use of hydrogen. Although green hydrogen produced by electrolyzers using renewable electricity remains the preferred choice, most hydrogen today is produced by steam methane reformers (SMRs). CGA has produced several publications addressing SMR operation.
As for distribution and storage of hydrogen – regardless of how it is produced – ANSI/CGA H-5, Standard for Bulk Hydrogen Supply Systems (an American National Standard), addresses both gaseous and liquid bulk hydrogen supply systems at facilities like fueling stations and includes methods to comply with model codes and standards such as NFPA 55, Compressed Gases and Cryogenic Fluids Code. And CGA H-3, Standard for Cryogenic Hydrogen Storage, covers cryogenic storage tanks used for liquid hydrogen.
When it comes to creating these standards, we pride ourselves on our laser-like focus on safety and our consensus-based approach. Our development process is open to all CGA members, drawing experts from across the industry to ensure our standards encompass a broad view. Each member company is granted one voting member on each publication; this ensures that not just one company gets to set the standard to best suit their process or bottom line.
This approach is not only what sets us apart and makes us a leading developer of standards for our industry; it’s what will ultimately show consumers that we can be trusted. Our approach shows that our bottom line isn’t about profit: it’s about safety.
Our committees of subject-matter experts are responsible for each standard from development to publication, and use a transparent process to document any changes made. The positions in CGA’s safety standards are informed by the decades of real-world experience that our members bring to the table.
This approach allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of the latest best practices, lessons learned, and technology advancements related to hydrogen to ensure we are creating standards that are effective and appropriate for this sector. Once published, our committees review and update our standards on a regular basis so that they stay up to date in a world of ever evolving and developing technologies.
“The positions in CGA’s safety standards are informed by the decades of real-world experience that our members bring to the table. This approach allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of the latest best practices, lessons learned, and technology advancements related to hydrogen to ensure we are creating standards that are effective and appropriate for this sector.”
While our committees are made up of our member companies, they understand that everyone – not just the compressed gas industry – are affected by our standards. Non-members have the opportunity to provide comments on our standards to truly ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.
Safety standards don’t just serve consumers and businesses, they also help to enable acceptance from regulators and other authorities. Standards create a vital pathway for regulatory approval by educating regulators and establishing a robust regulatory network that will allow the hydrogen energy industry to grow.
For the hydrogen economy to fully develop, consumers need to not only trust the technology itself, but the bodies that govern its safe use and applications. That’s why our transparent process is imperative to the broader conversation that needs to happen around hydrogen safety. Our work with federal regulators, industry leaders, engineers, and CGA members to craft trusted safety standards is what will help usher in a cleaner future with hydrogen technology.
CGA membership is open to any company engaged in the manufacture, sale, transportation, or distribution of gases, equipment, materials, or supplies used in connection with the industrial and medical gas industry, and to companies engaged in providing services specifically to the industry. Many of our long-time members have extensive operating experience with hydrogen. As the hydrogen economy continues to develop at a rapid clip, our membership is expanding to include fuel cell manufacturers, hydrogen fueling station operators, and more.
CGA maintains a library of nearly 375 publications to provide critical safety information and essential resources for our members and those within the wider compressed gas industry.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on the LinkedIn platform.