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Ammonia, Methane, Hydrogen Oh My! – Understanding Hazards from Alternative Power to Gas Options
Presented on Wednesday, 17 November, 2021 @ 15:00 – 15:25 GMT
The energy and transportation markets are changing substantially as the world rebounds into a post COVID-19 economy. Several major oil companies have announced plans to move beyond their core refining and petrochemical-based business models and become major players in carbon-neutral technologies. Airplane, automotive, and turbine manufacturers are planning to leverage hydrogen and/or ammonia technologies to provide carbon-free options to global markets.
The idea of using hydrogen as a fuel source is not new. Author Jules Verne postulated that in 1874 hydrogen and oxygen would one day be used to “furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light.” NASA used liquid hydrogen as well as hydrogen fuel cell technologies to put a man on the moon over 50 years ago. More recently, industry leaders, regulatory bodies, and research institutions have come together to begin to develop the infrastructure and technological framework required to allow hydrogen to become a significant fuel source.
History has shown that successful market and technology transitions are not guaranteed. Major accidents such as the one that occurred at Three Mile Island (1979) can create a public outcry to ban, or significantly curtail, a given technology, even if accidents do not result in fatalities. Proper understanding of hydrogen and ammonia hazards is one of the key requirements for ensuring public safety and avoiding the derailment of these key components of a carbon neutral economy.
Ammonia and hydrogen represent opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to the potential blast loading resulting from an accidental vapour cloud explosion (VCE), although some in industry have expressed doubts as to whether either of these fuels actually poses a VCE hazard. Ammonia is sometimes discounted as a VCE hazard due to the perceived difficulty in igniting an ammonia-air mixture and/or because of its low laminar burning velocity. Hydrogen is sometimes discounted as a VCE hazard due to the ease with which a hydrogen-air mixture can be ignited and/or because of its buoyancy. This paper discusses these perceptions and presents results from relevant unconfined ammonia, methane, and hydrogen VCE tests.
“Developments and Uncertainties in Hydrogen Fuels Risk Assessment”
Presented on Wednesday, 17th November, 2021 @ 15:30 – 15:55 GMT
The widespread adoption of hydrogen fueled vehicles as part of the transition to low-carbon energy consumption is reliant on the development of a comprehensive infrastructure able to supply hydrogen fuel in an accessible, reliable, and safe manner. Whilst organisations such as ISO and IEC are developing standards for this technology, for many countries this is lagging or in parallel with the design, siting, and operation of many fueling facilities. While hydrogen has obviously been present in industrial environments for many decades, the risks associated with its use as a consumer fuel still have many uncertainties.
Risks are defined as the cumulative combination of all possible failure outcomes and the frequencies of those outcomes. In the context of the hydrogen fueling infrastructure, uncertainties in calculating risks include:
- (a) incomplete understanding of hydrogen explosion phenomena,
- (b) highly variable experiences with the ignitability of hydrogen releases, and
- (c) very limited experience with the consumer interaction at hydrogen fueling facilities.
Regarding hydrogen explosion phenomena, research is showing that hydrogen explosions occur at higher energies than were previously expected compared to explosions of other chemicals. This reflects not only the higher fundamental burning velocity of hydrogen, but also the extension of the energy input to the explosion beyond the boundaries of confined/congested spaces in the area of the release, as verified by full scale testing conducted at BakerRisk’s test facilities but still not widely acknowledged in industry.
Subject matter experts also disagree wildly on the probability of an ignition for a given hydrogen release situation in industrial environments. Experiments over the past decade or so have demonstrated why these varying experiences may have occurred, and suggest how these insights may, rightly or wrongly, inform the discussion of hydrogen ignitions in a consumer fuel environment. This paper reviews these opinions, experiments, and the results of recent field testing at BakerRisk facilities.
Since the hydrogen consumer fuels industry is relatively nascent compared to hydrogen as an industrial commodity, failure data for consumer fuel station components such as fueling nozzles, as used by members of the public, are very limited. The shortcomings are discussed, along with some potential surrogates for component failure rates that might be used until more definitive data are developed. These are compared to events that have already occurred at existing public hydrogen fuel stations.
This paper explores the above uncertainties – what is known and what is still obscure, the path forward for resolving the unknowns, and the potential consequences of failure to adequately understand and address in risk analysis studies during the design, siting, and operation of hydrogen fueling facilities.
Fight or Flight: What’s your Fire Response?
Presented on Thursday, 18th November, 2021 @ 14:30 – 14:55 GMT
The concept of a Fire Hazard Analysis (FHA), or Fire Risk Assessment (FRA), is referenced in many standards, practices, and guidance documents. However, the standards and guidance documents are often somewhat subjective when discussing methodology application. Many facilities simply default to a prescriptive, area-based firewater coverage calculation. Using a real petrochemical facility case study, this paper helps bridge the gap between the subjective language in standards and an actual fire hazard study by applying a semi-quantitative method for determining the maximum credible firewater demand for a major hazard site.
An FHA/FRA, or fire hazard and mitigation analysis (FHMA), involves identifying credible fire scenarios and determining whether those scenarios are manageable if existing fire mitigation systems are used, to the extent reasonably practicable. It is critical to consider the available fire protection systems (both passive and active), the site fire-fighting philosophy, and the fire hazards when determining firewater demand. This balanced approach is not common practice for an area-based approach, which may either significantly under or overestimate the required maximum firewater demand when applied in isolation. For example, if a site has limited fixed or mobile response equipment, it may not be able to physically deliver the amount of water calculated using the area/density approach. On the other hand, a site with numerous fixed systems that would likely all be activated in the case of a fire, may require significantly more water to feed those systems than what would be calculated based on the area/density approach.
There is no “right” answer to what the fire-fighting philosophy should be; however, it is critical to ensure that it aligns with the site’s actual capabilities. A site that plans to rely heavily on fixed protection must ensure that fixed protection is designed, installed, and maintained to ensure successful suppression. If the site relies on an emergency response team (ERT) response, the ERT staffing, equipment, and training plans must support that intent. Since most philosophies and related systems rely heavily on an adequate and reliable firewater supply, ensuring there is enough water available to supply the fixed and mobile systems, the water can reach the intended locations, and that supply components have a high degree of reliability and redundancy is critical.
This paper will use the case study described above to highlight the importance of determining a corporate and/or site-specific philosophy for fire protection which is supported by fire protection systems and emergency response plans available.