Center for Hydrogen Safety: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

Above: Nick Barilo (center, front row) at the launch of the Center for Hydrogen Safety at the 2019 AIChE Spring Meeting and 15th Global Congress for Process Safety.

The Center for Hydrogen Safety is celebrating its two-year anniversary today, April 2. We sat down with CHS director Nick Barilo to take a look at how the Center got its start, to understand what progress has been made, and to learn what the future holds for CHS.

How did CHS get started?

It’s an amazing story how CHS came to be. The idea for the Center emerged from 2003 work at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), an important incubator for applied hydrogen safety resources. PNNL’s work in hydrogen safety was clearly benefitting DOE hydrogen research, as well as their demonstration projects and commercialization efforts for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. As early as 2013, we recognized that hydrogen safety resources held significant potential beyond DOE.

Over the next four years, we discussed the concept with key stakeholders. During a 2017 meeting in Washington, DC, an industry representative suggested that PNNL consider AIChE as a possible partner to ensure sustainability and broader impact. Throughout the next year, PNNL and AIChE met to explore a potential partnership. A meeting with industry representatives in Orlando at AIChE’s Spring Meeting kicked off the concept of the Center for Hydrogen Safety. The end result went well beyond the original idea and aimed to connect hydrogen safety experts with a global community in need of this specialized knowledge. In addition, the Center took on the goal of developing comprehensive safety guidance, outreach, and education materials, while also providing a forum where the global community could partner on technical solutions.

What are some of CHS’s key milestones from the past two years?

The growth of our membership and successful deployment of key resources has far surpassed anything we imagined! As of today, membership is now twice what we anticipated. Also, there is growing interest in our hydrogen safety resources. One example is our first responder training courses which have been completed by over 1,000 people. We’ve also been able to provide straightforward access to the highly respected Hydrogen Safety Panel.

In addition, by hosting conferences on applied hydrogen safety, we’re leading the way for communicating hydrogen safety at established events worldwide. We have also formed member working groups, which enable CHS and its members to work on timely or critical hydrogen safety issues in a collaborative and supportive manner.

Who can benefit from being a member of the Center for Hydrogen Safety, and what will they gain by joining?

Any organization that is working with hydrogen can benefit from CHS resources and activities. Membership provides an opportunity for these organizations to:

  • Be part of a global safety community that shares knowledge and works together to address safety issues in a collaborative setting, thus reducing the demands on an individual organization working with limited resources.
  • Access to experts (Hydrogen Safety Panel) who can support development plans and help manage risk appropriately.
  • Develop internal expertise through educational courses, a credentialing program, webinars, workshops, and conferences.
  • Demonstrate their commitment to safety, thereby ensuring that safety is not a significant impediment to stakeholder and public acceptance of their hydrogen technology.

Could you share with our readers some of CHS’s future plans?

There are many new users and stakeholders that have limited experience or expertise with hydrogen. Providing fundamental safety information, best practices, and lessons learned will be critical to the successful transition to hydrogen’s use as a fuel. With this in mind, educational courses and resources are a high priority for CHS into early 2022. We are currently moving a set of fundamental courses through our review process, which involves extensive evaluation by the Hydrogen Safety Panel as well as a diverse group of CHS members.

The information developed in these courses will serve to update existing content and develop new content for the public Hydrogen Tools website for best practices. We also intend to release a fundamental hydrogen safety credential around the end of this year — hopefully the first of many credentials on hydrogen safety. Other significant activities include in-depth safety webinars and discreet high-impact workshops.

Learn more about the Center for Hydrogen Safety.