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National Hydrogen Day Activities and Events 2016

NREL's Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research: Year in Review

Eric Parker

This week the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) joins others across the United States to celebrate National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day on Oct. 8—10.08—a date chosen to represent the atomic weight of hydrogen (1.008).

To kick off the celebration, on Oct. 3 NREL joined the Colorado hydrogen community for a National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day event at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. This event marked two significant announcements—a proclamation from the governorproclaiming Oct. 8, 2016, as Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day in Colorado, and the adoption of a new retail hydrogen fueling station regulation in Colorado, an important first step in bringing consumer hydrogen fueling stations to Colorado.

One year ago NREL dedicated its new advanced hydrogen fueling station on the first National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day. The lab built this research station to address an urgent need for high reliability and lower-cost fueling station technology. As we celebrate the second National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day this week, let’s take a look back at the activities and accomplishments at the hydrogen fueling station in its first full year of use.

The state-of-the art fueling station is part of NREL's Hydrogen Infrastructure Testing and Research Facility(HITRF) at the Energy Systems Integration Facility. The HITRF supports research and development projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy as well as partnership projects with hydrogen station operators, fuel cell vehicle manufacturers, hydrogen component suppliers, and state and regional agencies. NREL is also using the HITRF to develop and demonstrate innovative technologies for future high-demand stations through the Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST) project led by NREL and Sandia National Laboratories and supported by FCTO.

In the last year, NREL produced more than 1,000 kilograms of hydrogen and dispensed more than 200 kilograms for 70 fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) fills, with less than 5% system downtime. Some of the key research impacts include: 

  • Validating the H2FIRST Hydrogen Station Equipment Performance (HyStEP) device and enabling successful deployment in California. The new testing device is helping California meet its ambitious goal of commissioning as many as 44 new fueling stations by the end of 2016. As recognition of the significance of this achievement, H2FIRST won a regional Federal Lab Consortium Award for outstanding partnership in 2016 for the HyStEP project. 
  • Publishing new composite data products that show how infrastructure reliability relates to the number of fills and the amount of hydrogen dispensed—for example, station failure rates begin to decrease below the rate of 20 fills per failure after accumulating 2,000 fills. By benchmarking station reliability, NREL can measure and understand the impact of reliability improvement strategies. 
  • Validating the performance of a novel hydrogen leak-detection product with Element One and publishing the Passive Leak Detection Using Commercial Hydrogen Colorimetric Indicator report. Passive leak detection can provide valuable safety monitoring for hydrogen stations. This project was supported by NREL's Commercialization Assistance Program for clean energy small businesses. 
  • Proposing a reduced hydrogen storage setback distance for key exposures—from 34 feet to 16 feet—as chair of the National Fire Protection Association Hydrogen Storage Task Group, which should allow for a significant expansion in the number of sites that have the required space for hydrogen fueling systems. 
  • Performing thousands of simulated fueling events using a robotic arm to accelerate and evaluate the wear and tear on a high-pressure hydrogen fueling hose under real-world conditions. Results from these high cycle rates are revealing insights into leak patterns and characteristics of all 700-bar fueling equipment. View our YouTube video about dispenser hose reliability
  • Gathering vital real-world data from fueling and driving FCEVs on loan from vehicle manufacturers to understand how to optimize the FCEV-station interface as well as vehicle and station performance. NREL also uses the FCEVs to transport visitors around the lab's campus and showcases them at a variety of public events.

The initial HITRF capability was designed with basic functionality and flexibility to grow with research needs. NREL has built on that foundation for a variety of research projects ranging from production to dispensing and support for other hydrogen demands for other R&D laboratories at NREL. Some of these new capabilities include: 

  • A vehicle simulator device that can test a hydrogen station's ability to perform five back-to-back fills, without requiring actual fuel cell vehicles to come to the station, and enable research on system controls for improved reliability and performance. 
  • A hydrogen flow meter validation device that allows hydrogen flow meter manufacturers to assess and improve flow meter accuracy and ensure that drivers are getting what they pay for when they fill up with hydrogen. 
  • An electrolyzer test bed that allows NREL to produce about 50 kilograms of hydrogen each day, enough to fuel more than 10 FCEVs per day and provide hydrogen to the research labs in the Energy Systems Integration Facility. View our YouTube video about house hydrogen
  • An alternative fueling protocol, MC Method, that enables validation of the SAE fueling protocols and prepares NREL to develop and validate new fueling protocols, controls, and dispensing systems with lower cost and improved performance. 
  • Component energy and power monitoring for studying the effects of operation strategies on system operation and maintenance costs.

View the HITRF animation to learn more about these integrated capabilities.