In order to maximize the potential for decarbonization throughout the metropolitan area, hydrogen specialists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are collaborating with the Port of Seattle, Seattle City Light, and Sandia National Laboratories to evaluate hydrogen storage risks.

The two-year initiative, which began late last year, serves as a springboard for educating the Port and utilities about the dangers of hydrogen in the urban-industrial setting and providing advice on how to mitigate those dangers. The assessment’s findings will contribute to building a solid technological foundation for the safe deployment of clean hydrogen energy in Seattle’s almost 500,000 households and businesses as well as the maritime industry.

Case Study: Port of Seattle

Understanding the operational needs for hydrogen at the Port and utility and evaluating the dangers of large-scale hydrogen deployment are the main objectives of the team’s research. The team is specifically assessing liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs) such as methanol, ammonia, and formic acid as well as gaseous or compressed hydrogen storage methods for hydrogen. For instance, components in gaseous and liquid storage technologies may become embrittled, and the compounds used in LOHC technologies may be poisonous or combustible. All of these dangers provide safety concerns.

Arun Veeramany, the senior scientist in charge of PNNL’s portion of the project, stated that “We are partnering with the Port as the case study for this research.” The risk assessment will be useful for comprehending how each of the technologies—gaseous storage, liquified storage, and LOHC—will function while maintaining the security of the general public and the facilities.

Veeramany adds “What can go wrong, how likely can it go wrong, and what are the repercussions if it does go wrong? These three questions make up our definition of risk. These are the inquiries we are addressing during our evaluation.

The potential for hydrogen

Large-scale hydrogen use at the Port would have a number of clean-energy advantages, including refilling the fleet of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that service Port buildings, support for ferries and tugboats of the future, and better fuels for ocean-going ships. Also, it would increase operations’ resilience in the event of a severe incident, such as when powerful storms knock out power.

“Car refueling, power production, grid resilience—these operational modes and more are being examined for dangers to the grid, both physical and cyber,” said Veeramany. “Then, we’ll make suggestions for safety as well as cybersecurity standards.”

In order to gain support for long-term hydrogen storage, the team is using the risk assessment to educate key stakeholders, including the local population, fuel suppliers, and terminal operators.

“We anticipate that green hydrogen will play a part in our Port’s clean energy future,” said David Fujimoto, senior environmental program manager for the Port of Seattle. The safe storage and use of hydrogen and hydrogen carriers like methanol and ammonia are being studied by ports all around the world. In addition to accelerating the delivery of sustainability advantages, early coordination and partnership between PNNL and Seattle City Light on safety, infrastructure, and planning also place a crucial emphasis on the general well-being of the communities we serve.

Two complete reports summarizing the findings will be released as the project’s final products, the first in 2023 and the second in 2024.

The research is funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies and is a component of the DOE’s Hydrogen Shot initiative, which was started in June 2021 and intends to lower the price of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per kilogram in ten years, or “1 1 1.”

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