Federal Progress to Date

Federal Progress to Date

Table 3.1 provides additional information on the technical aspects of progress to date.

There are many private and public sector interests working to facilitate the nation's transition to a hydrogen fueled economy. Within the Federal Government, the lead agency is the Department of Energy. The Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also serve as key contributors in this Federal initiative.

DOT Research and Achievements

In FY 2009, the Department of Transportation conducted hydrogen research, worked to develop the necessary safety codes and standards including emergency response training, and undertook other activities to better understand the impacts of hydrogen-fueled vehicles. The most active of these were the Research & Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).


RITA was appropriated $0.5M in FY 2009 for hydrogen research focused on creating the Federal and international standards needed to ensure the safe transport of hydrogen and effective response by the police and other emergency workers where this fuel is being used. The bulk of these funds supported safety codes and standards work. They were used to develop training materials for emergency responders and training police and firefighters.


Pipeline Safety Office

PHMSA is the primary Federal regulatory agency responsible for ensuring the safe, reliable and environmentally sound transportation of energy products by pipeline including hydrogen. PHMSA's Pipeline Safety Office has been regulating pure hydrogen gas pipelines since 1970 via 49 CFR Part 192. There are approximately 700 miles of DOT-regulated hydrogen transmission pipeline. Hydrogen pipelines were included as part of the integrity management requirements in 2003 to bolster the awareness of threats to safety and the continuity of service for these lines.

Partnerships between PHMSA's Pipeline Safety Office, pipeline industry operators and partners, other Federal and State agencies and the emergency first responder community are rapidly addressing infrastructure challenges and removing the technical and regulatory barriers for transportation of some alternative fuels. These initiatives are critical for enabling alternative fuel usage to grow nationwide and reach government production targets.

The Office works to ensure that hydrogen is transported safely, even though its hydrogen-related expenditures, particularly for research and development (R&D), are relatively modest compared to other organizations, both government and private. Given that PHMSA is responsible for ensuring pipeline safety, its work is likely to be a key factor in the successful and timely commercialization of hydrogen as an energy carrier. The results of R&D funded by others will provide most of the inputs for establishing the codes and standards used for these regulations.

As hydrogen moves from concept to reality and the public depends on hydrogen availability to meet significant power and/or transportation energy demands, the ability to safely and reliably transport and store larger quantities will become increasingly important. Currently, existing hydrogen pipelines mostly serve industrial demand and hydrogen is transported at constant, relatively low pressure. Confidence in the design, materials of construction, and performance of hydrogen pipelines should remain consistent regardless of the number of miles of pipeline. Given the public's stake in the uninterrupted movement ofcommodities throughout the nation, the ability of the hydrogen infrastructure to withstand natural disasters and accidents is a major agency interest area.

PHMSA has identified the following nine critical hydrogen research and development gaps in technology, general knowledge or codes and standards that could potentially delay a hydrogen economy:

Understanding of the correlations between pressure, temperature and loss of mechanical properties for pipelines used to transport hydrogen;

  • Loss of mechanical properties due to pressure and temperature interactions can lead to failure. Research and testing are needed to provide more definitive guidance for codes and standards developers;
  • Development of an improved knowledge base and understanding related to the transport of compressed hydrogen at pressures above 2,500 psi;
  • Development of improved knowledge base and understanding related to transport of liquefied hydrogen and effects of hydrogen purity;
  • Investigate and validate the loss of fatigue resistance and impact strength in pipelines;
  • Research on fatigue crack growth;
  • Research and testing to improve understanding of the entire pipeline system using high strength steels to enhance performance in a hydrogen environment;
  • Assessment to understand the effects of hydrogen on pipelines currently in use, such as those now used for transporting oil and natural gas;
  • Research on corrosion control, including coatings, cathodic protection, electrical isolation and interference currents, while developing guidelines and standards for purging, cleaning and maintaining hydrogen pipelines.

In FY2009 PHMSA, Pipeline Safety Office issued a public research solicitation to further address alternative fuel gaps including the nine identified above. All PHMSA research is coordinated with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). ASME is crafting a new piping standard addressed in these areas. To facilitate communications about hydrogen pipelines, PHMSA also has created the DOT/PHMSA Pipeline Safety Stakeholder Communication website, which can be found at: http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/hydrogen.htm


NHTSA initiated a safety research program in 2006 to assess fuel system integrity of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) in crashes. Current Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) set performance criteria for fuel system crash integrity for vehicles using liquid fuels, compressed natural gas, and battery drive systems. However, these standards do not currently exist for hydrogen fueled vehicles despite industry interest to facilitate their introduction into the marketplace.

To this end, NHTSA has initiated a research program to assess the safety performance of HFCV fuel systems under similar crash conditions to those prescribed in the existing FMVSS, and to identify and assess any additional life-cycle safety hazards imposed by these unique propulsion systems. Examples of such hazards are rapid release of chemical or mechanical energy due to rupture of high pressure hydrogen storage and delivery systems, fire safety issues, and electrical shock hazards from the high voltage sources, including the fuel cell stack and ultracapacitors. This research supports possible rulemaking to set minimum performance requirements to prevent leakage, fire, or rupture caused by failure of the hydrogen containment system and to prevent electrical shock caused by loss of electrical isolation of the high voltage system.

NHTSA also is working through the auspices of the United Nations on an internationally harmonized safety regulation for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles - UN/ECE WP29.


FTA is working with DOE on about $14 million in demonstration projects to better understand the performance of fuel cell and hydrogen commercial vehicles in real operating conditions.

DOE Research and Achievements

The U.S. DOE Hydrogen Program works in partnership with industry, academia, national laboratories, Federal and international agencies to:

  • Overcome technical barriers through research and development of fuel cell technologies for transportation, distributed stationary power, and portable power applications, as well as hydrogen production, delivery, and storage technologies;
  • Address safety concerns and develop model codes and standards;
  • Validate and demonstrate fuel cell and hydrogen technologies in real-world conditions;
  • Educate key stakeholders whose acceptance of these technologies will determine their success in the marketplace.

DOE's Hydrogen Program is a cooperative effort involving the Offices of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Fossil Energy, Nuclear Energy, and Science. These offices work with industry, national laboratories, universities, government agencies, and other partners to overcome barriers to the widespread use of fuel cells and hydrogen fuel. Activities include R&D focused on advancing the performance and reducing the cost of these technologies, a market transformation element dedicated to facilitating hydrogen and fuel cell adoption, and activities focused on addressing non-technical challenges such as codes, standards and public awareness. The program addresses infrastructure challenges through its work in developing and improving hydrogen production and delivery methods and via its vehicle and station learning demonstrations.

In the long term, fundamental science is a key component in attacking the technology challenges outlined above. Therefore, DOE funds basic research of relevance to issues underpinning the production, storage and use of hydrogen for advanced energy applications. The topical areas covered are novel materials for hydrogen storage, membranes for separation, purification and ion transport, design of catalysts at the nanoscale, solar hydrogen production, bio-inspired materials and processes, biological hydrogen production and cross-cutting science.

Since 2002, DOE's R&D activities have:

  • Significantly reduced the cost of automotive fuel cells (from $275/kW in 2002 to $73/kW in 2008, based on projections of high-volume manufacturing costs);
  • Doubled the durability of fuel cell systems in vehicles operating under real-world conditions (data in 2006 showed 950-hour durability-today, this number is more than 1,900 hours, equivalent to approximately 57,000 miles of driving);
  • Reduced the cost of producing hydrogen from both renewable resources and natural gas (DOE has validated a projected cost for hydrogen produced at high volume from natural gas of $3.00/gallon gasoline equivalent, which is cost competitive with gasoline when considering the efficiency gains of using a fuel cell);
  • Verified compatibility of hydrogen for fiber reinforced polymer pipe for hydrogen pipelines;
  • Doubled the capacity of tank trucks for bulk hydrogen delivery (developed manufacturing capability to produce 38 ft by 42 inch diameter cylinders designed for ISO packaging specifications, and have passed burst tests at 3600 psi);
  • Successfully opened and operated 20 hydrogen stations (over 88,000 kg of hydrogen produced or dispensed) as part of the Hydrogen Learning Demonstration; and,
  • Achieved refueling times of 5 minutes or less for 5 kg of hydrogen at 350 bar.

DOE's R&D roadmap establishes the following technical targets:

  • For light duty vehicles, reduce the cost of fuel cells to $30/kW;
  • Develop an automotive fuel cell with 5,000-hour (150,000-mile) durability;
  • Develop on-board hydrogen storage technologies to enable more than 300-mile driving range across all vehicle platforms, without compromising passenger/cargo space or performance;
  • For stationary fuel cells, reduce the cost of fuel cells to $750/kW and develop a distributed generation polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell system with 40,000 hours durability and 40% electricalefficiency; and,
  • Reduce the delivered cost of hydrogen to $1/gallon gasoline equivalent.

Table 3.1 highlights some of the cutting edge progress the Federal Government and other stakeholders have made.

USDA Research and Achievements

USDA incorporates its hydrogen activities throughout its alternative fuels programs. USDA's alternative fuels efforts are focused through four programs.

The first is Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy for agricultural producers and rural small businesses through grants and loan guarantees. Eligible renewable energy projects include commercially available wind, solar, biomass and geothermal; and hydrogen derived from biomass or water using wind, solar or geothermal energy sources. Congress has allocated it: $55 million for FY 2009, $60 million for FY 2010, $70 million for FY 2011, and $70 million for FY 2012. USDA is developing regulations to implement the program.

The second USDA program is Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grants Program that is funding an effort to develop a system for the biological production of hydrogen from agricultural resources.

The third program is the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). ARS research serves to bring coordination, communication, and empowerment to about 1,000 projects including those affecting hydrogen and climate change. Every single ARS research project is peer reviewed by scientific panels arranged through its Office of Scientific Quality Review.

The final USDA program is the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. Its Biofuels and Biobased Products Program Area also is developing technology to produce hydrogen from biomass. Eligibility is limited to small (less that 500 employees) US owned and operated businesses. Its Rural Development Program Area supports research and development of technologies that will provide hydrogen-generated power to rural communities.

EPA Research & Achievements

The EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan participated in the early Hydrogen Economy efforts by installing hydrogen refueling infrastructure at their facility, and partnering with United Parcel Service and DaimlerChrysler in demonstrating a fuel cell urban delivery truck. This demonstration lasted for three years and successfully demonstrated both vehicle and refueling operations in colder climates. During this period the EPA also developed safe fuel economy testing capability and protocols, and officially certified the first fuel cell vehicle in America, the Honda FCX. The UPS/DaimlerChrysler partnership is now concluded, and EPA is concentrating its hydrogen activities in vehicle certification testing and continued participation in the California Fuel Cell Partnership.

Federal Interagency Coordination

To better leverage Federal research and other activities, a staff-level Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Interagency Working Group (IWG) under the National Science and Technology Council has held monthly meetings since 2003. More than 10 Federal agencies use the IWG as a forum for sharing research results, technical expertise, and lessons learned about hydrogen and fuel cell program implementation and technology deployment. The IWG also facilitates coordinating related projects to ensure efficient use of taxpayer dollars. IWG members include the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, State and Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and U.S. Postal Service.

Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT, section 806) mandated the creation of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Interagency Task Force (ITF). The ITF is comprised of senior-level representatives from the agencies participating in the IWG. The ITF has the ability to make departmental decisions that can influence the development and implementation of hydrogen and fuel cell programs. Work resulting from decisions by the ITF is complemented and supported by the staff-level IWG. To date, the ITF has focused its efforts on Federal leadership of early technology adoption and opportunities for interagency partnerships to demonstrate and deploy hydrogen fuel cell technologies in early market applications. In 2005, the task force created a website at www.hydrogen.gov to provide information on all Federal hydrogen and fuel cell activities.