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Case Study

Safety – hydrogen fuel cell explosion risk assessment

Project Lead:
Dr Simon Rees
+44 (0)117 325 0769

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Hydrogen fuel cells are a promising technology for small to medium sized power, particularly for road and rail freight.  However, hydrogen has a wide flammability range and its deflagration-to-detonation distance (the point at which a low grade explosion becomes a destructive supersonic detonation) is poorly characterised.  Our client needed to know the containment vessel for their design of fuel cell would withstand such an explosion.

We have considerable experience of explosion risk assessments from our work in the offshore gas industry and addressed this challenge in three parts. Firstly, we used chemical equilibrium modelling to establish the peak deflagration and detonation pressures for a range of internal leak and ignition scenarios. We then applied these pressure to a model of the vessel to determine whether it would fail. Finally, we used a missile fragment energy assessment method from the nuclear energy to establish whether these fragments would pierce the outer containment.
Our work

We identified that even if we assumed detonation conditions, which was unlikely in the length scales of the vessel, that the failure probability was acceptably low.  Our client has been able to progress with development of their fuel cell.

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