Using hydrogen as an alternative energy carrier raises questions about its safety aspect. Its unique properties that differ hydrogen from other gas, such as low ignition energy and wide explosive range, among many others, require further engineering controls to ensure its safe use. Because of this fact, understanding hydrogen hazards is critical so that we can take early precautions, such as designing a reliable system for various applications.
As a part of the “Hydrogen Safety Challenges for the Energy Transition” Panel Debate, we are interviewing the panellists to know their thoughts on hydrogen safety challenges before the event.
Linda Febvre, the Hydrogen HSE Manager at Engie, is responsible for oversight of all the projects within the Engie H2 Business Unit Portfolio, both in the French market and internationally. Her role has been a rewarding opportunity as she has innovated and developed the HSE approach to transition energy projects. Linda is also an active member of the International Hydrogen Safety Council.
In this interview, Linda explains her view on challenges that the industry is facing in developing a reliable hydrogen production and storage system.
Q: Can you briefly describe what we need to consider when designing a reliable and safe hydrogen production and storage system?
Linda: Just like any other flammable gas, it’s crucial to handle hydrogen with care. Therefore, the key considerations when designing a reliable hydrogen production and storage system are similar to those gases, which include understanding its hazards and consequences as the top priority. Even though hydrogen has advantageous properties when considering safety, such as its nontoxic nature and its ability to disperse very fast when released into the open, it has also dangerous properties that require careful safety measures. Other concerns involve location, layout, equipment, material selection, operational procedures, prevention and mitigation measures, and personnel preparedness.
Q: What challenges do we face in developing such a system?
Linda: The hydrogen production and storage system itself is not a new technology. It’s been around for a few decades in many industrial processes, such as petroleum refinery, fertilizer production, chemical processing, and fuel cell for spacecrafts.
However, we are now facing new challenges in designing a safe and reliable production and storage system due to three recent trends.
The transition of hydrogen use from a component in industrial processes to an energy vector raises the first challenge. The change in applications means that the industry needs to adjust the hydrogen use and handling procedures.
Second, hydrogen as an energy vector brings hydrogen hazards from the industrial to the public domain. There are hydrogen refueling stations in many cities, and some of them are associated with production and storage facilities. There are also hydrogen-fueled vehicles and trains.
The industrial use and increased public use results in the third challenge: scaling up hydrogen production and storage quantities to meet the demand.
These trends are changing the hydrogen industry rapidly, and we are trying our best to keep up with it, including to fulfill the knowledge gaps that still exist in the safety aspect.
Q: How do you see Engie’s role as we advance in addressing these challenges to promote a safe hydrogen industry?
Linda: Our vast portfolio means Engie has a range of experiences from previous projects. As I’ve mentioned, the hydrogen system is not a new technology, and our team has been handling hydrogen in many projects.
Engie is also involved in the Hydrogen Council, and our employees are active in several international hydrogen communities, such as HySafe and the Fuel Cells and Joint Undertaking (FCH JU). Being a part of these communities enables every member to share and solve challenges together.
Our R&D arm is a member of the expert Working Groups which write the standards related to H2 safety (ISO, CEN) and a member of the French working group related to Hydrogen regulation.
A more detailed discussion between Linda and the other experts from Gexcon, Shell, and Wales & West Utilities will be presented during the “Hydrogen Safety Challenges for the Energy Transition” Panel Debate. To register to the event, please click on the button below.