The success of the Presidents vision for a hydrogen economy will rely largely on the capability of a multi-modal hydrogen delivery infrastructure to supply needed quantities of hydrogen at competitive costs. Concurrently, there needs to be sufficient demand for fuel cell and other hydrogen-powered vehicles and power generation devices. Public acceptance of this new transportation and power technology will depend on the publics confidence in the safety of those vehicles and power systems, as well as their supporting energy delivery and storage infrastructure.

The infrastructure to support hydrogen fuels production, distribution, storage, and delivery to hydrogen-powered vehicles and power generation devices will likely evolve in stages. In the near term, a transition to a hydrogen economy can be expected to rely on an infrastructure that supports on-site production of hydrogen, limited use of regional hydrogen pipelines for large industrial users, and some shipments of hydrogen by highway and other selected transportation modes. Future distribution and delivery systems will be determined by market forces and the technologies to support them, but could be expected (at sufficient levels of demand) to evolve towards an efficient and extensive pipeline delivery network similar to natural gas.

Ensuring the safety of the infrastructure for transporting, storing, and delivering hydrogen will be critical to the success of a hydrogen economy, as demand increases during the transition from industrial hydrogen (used mainly for hydrogens chemical attributes) to more widespread consumer applications based on hydrogen as an energy carrier.

For example, the current U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) packaging system which addresses small-scale use of hydrogen may require substantial modifications to accommodate increased hydrogen demand. There is already evidence that even a small variance in demand due to evolving changes in technologies will have significant implications for the existing hydrogen transportation infrastructure.

In support of demonstration activities, industry has begun developing new packaging technologies and delivery systemssuch as mobile refueling stationsto increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of deploying hydrogen to consumer end use applications. Many of these technologies involve packaging that uses new materials or operates at increased pressure over traditional industrial uses. DOT has regulatory responsibility for the validation, testing, and certification of many such new uses under the Hazardous Materials Regulations, as a prerequisite for deploying them in transportation. DOT is already experiencing an increased need for R&D in order to keep pace with and respond to industry requirements and innovation. This demand on regulatory resources is expected to grow in advance of the commercialization of hydrogen-powered vehicles, the growing use of novel portable fuel cell power devices, and the expansion of the hydrogen delivery and storage infrastructure.

To enable successful introduction of hydrogen and fuel cells into the marketplace, the development of appropriate technical codes, standards, and regulations providing high levels of safety and environmental protection should proceed in parallel with the substantial pace of new technology development that is underway. This development process requires a sound technology base. If appropriate technical codes, standards, and regulations are not developed in pace with new technology development, the risks are twofold:

  1. The lack of appropriate safety requirements could result in delayed technology introduction, lowered technology adoption rates, or unnecessary additional costs to deploy new technologies.
  2. Technologies could be introduced and adopted which, to some degree, pose unnecessary safety and/or property risks.

The purpose of this project is to identify gaps in the current hydrogen technology base and to recommend solutions for closing these gaps.