National Physical Laboratory

Hydrogen refuelling station

Questions & Answers

Questions and answers on the proposed hydrogen refuelling station at NPL.

Will it be safe?

Hydrogen is no more or less hazardous than other high energy content fuel such as petrol or methane. For more than a century, it has been produced, stored, and used safely following well established practices in a variety of industrial applications. A particular advantage of hydrogen is that, because of its low density, it tends to dissipate rapidly upwards through the air in the unlikely event of an accident.

The equipment to be installed complies with stringent EU safety codes and standards. Hydrogen will be generated by electrolysis of water and stored in tanks for dispensing to fuel cell vehicles. The amount of hydrogen stored will be relatively small. Hydrogen sensors and shut-off valves will be employed as standard in such facilities.

What will the impact be on local residents?

The installation is low rise and will be out of the line of sight of neighbouring houses and far enough away to ensure minimal disturbance. It essentially consists of three portable containers, as well as a protective firewall, which are easy to install and remove.

Based on the limited number of fuel cell vehicles involved in the project (53 in the London area), the number of vehicles using the site is anticipated to be of the order of 1-3 per day, which will have negligible impact on local traffic volumes. In addition, fuel cell vehicles are inherently silent. Unlike petrol, the hydrogen is produced on-site, so the fuel does not need to be transported in by trucks or tankers.

Some local residents may be able to participate in the project and experience for themselves the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Why has NPL agreed to host the refuelling station?

The HyFIVE project is a high profile public demonstration of an exciting new alternative energy technology. NPL already carries out cutting-edge research in hydrogen, fuel cell and electrolyser technologies. We provide measurements of hydrogen purity for other demonstrator projects and having an operational source of hydrogen for transport applications on site will benefit the development of new measurement instruments and devices. We also apply world-leading diagnostics expertise to real world measurements of fuel cell and electrolyser performance in collaboration with ITM Power and other partners.

Why do we need a hydrogen fuelled vehicle demonstrator project?

There are a number of strategic drivers for change in the transport sector and across the wider economy as a whole. Many countries now have firm carbon emission reduction targets (e.g. the UK has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050), and are seeking to improve energy security by reducing reliance on fossil fuels. In addition, emissions from conventional vehicles are also causing significant air quality issues in many locations, particularly in urban areas.

Fuel cell electric vehicles (fuelled by hydrogen, a gas that can be produced from a range of renewable energy sources) have been identified as a promising technology to help achieve these strategic goals with minimal impact on the driver in terms of functionality or convenience.

This project seeks to place large numbers of vehicles with drivers who will use them for regular day-to-day activities. It will also develop early networks of refuelling stations and thus prepare the market for the commercial introduction of these innovative zero emission vehicles over the coming years.

Who is ITM Power?

ITM Power is a UK company, based in Sheffield, which designs and manufactures hydrogen energy systems for energy storage and clean fuel production. ITM Power will install and manage the hydrogen refuelling station at NPL.

ITM Power has extensive experience of installing hydrogen refuelling stations at a large number of sites nationally. During ITM Power's Hydrogen on Site Trials the Hydrogen Refuelling Station unit was demonstrated at 21 commercial sites, including Stansted Airport, DHL, Marks and Spencer, Vestas and Centre Parcs. In addition ITM Power has recently been granted consent for a similar facility in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Find out more about ITM Power

If you have any further questions about the HyFIVE project or hydrogen-powered vehicles in general, please visit the Q&A section on the HyFIVE project website

Energy transition report

Read our report, Energy transition: Measurement needs within the hydrogen industry, which highlights and prioritises the current measurement challenges facing the hydrogen industry

NPL Annual Review 2016

Read our Energy transition report on hydrogen


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