National Physical Laboratory

Hydrogen Purity Analysis


UK hydrogen economy in 2030

Hydrogen is set to become a crucial part of the UK's future energy matrix as the Government strives to meet challenging targets for reducing greenhouse emissions. One application of hydrogen is to power fuel cell vehicles - these vehicles are emission-free at the point of use, and fossil fuel usage is eliminated if the hydrogen is generated from renewable energy sources. According to a report by UK H2Mobility the number of operational refuellers in the UK will rise to 1,100 by 2030, which will be supplying ultra-pure hydrogen to 1.6 million vehicles. This will require a considerable amount of hydrogen to be produced; it is estimated that 254,000 tonnes a year will be required by 2030. The report can be found here.

Setting the standard

Image courtesy of iStockphoto
Image courtesy of iStockphoto

Various studies have been performed that have specifically investigated the effects of hydrogen impurities on fuel cell lifetime and, more recently, the international standard ISO 14687-2 has been published, which provides a list of the maximum levels of impurities that can be present in hydrogen used to power proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell vehicles. The proposed EC Directive on the deployment of an alternative fuels infrastructure sets out that "hydrogen refueling points shall comply with the relevant EN standard, to be adopted by 2014, and, pending publication of this standard, with the technical specifications included in the ISO 14687-2:2012 standard." If hydrogen is therefore to be used as an energy vector for commercial fuel cell vehicles, it is essential that reliable measurements of the purity of hydrogen are available.

NPL's hydrogen purity laboratory

NPL hosts a comprehensive suite of gas analysers for performing purity analysis of fuel cell hydrogen, as specified in ISO 14687-2 (click here for more information). As the UK's national measurement institute, our aim is to provide traceable measurements against the most accurate gas standards available. Some of the measurements can be tricky (due to the very low amount fractions that need to be detected, reactive substances, etc.), but we have the expertise to tackle these issues. Full details of the work we have carried out with regards to developing offline analytical methods are available in NPL report AS 64 Adobe Acrobat PDF file

Collaborative research

In addition to providing quality assurance of fuel cell hydrogen, we are keen to use our expertise and capabilities to support projects that aim to progress hydrogen technologies, and we are currently participating in the following collaborative research projects (this PowerPoint presentation provides more details about the work we are carrying out in these projects):

UK hydrogen economy in 2030

Our paper detailing NPL's hydrogen impurity enrichment device can be found here.

Contact us

For further information on this research, or to request the purity analysis of a sample of hydrogen, please contact us:

Customer enquiry tel: +44 20 8943 6372

Last Updated: 12 Nov 2014
Created: 28 Nov 2013


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