5 General Truths About Hydrogen ICE to Know Before Jumping In

September 25, 2023 - Author: Mike Daugird - Engineering Manager, Facilities Engineering, Matt Jorgensen - Director, Facility Engineering and Site Management

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Hydrogen internal combustion engine (ICE)

Crucial Factors Regarding the Testing of Hydrogen ICE

Through our extensive work on hydrogen testing, we regularly come across five crucial factors regarding the testing of hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) prototypes and products. Factors that often go unnoticed by many companies during their decision-making process whether to move forward with a hydrogen ICE project.

As more companies show interest in exploring the development of their own hydrogen ICE R&D, we hope sharing them here help guide the internal discussions whether or how hydrogen internal combustion engine testing could fit into your company’s future.

#1: The Hydrogen ICE is Versatile

The use of hydrogen internal combustion engines extends beyond automobiles. They are extensively tested for a diverse range of heavy transport, including aircraft,18-wheelers, construction equipment, among other transport modes. The adaptability of hydrogen ICE positions it as a potential solution for reducing emissions across various sectors of transportation and industry.

#2: Hydrogen Fuel Cells are More Sensitive to Impurities

The hydrogen internal combustion engine is less sensitive to fuel impurities, potentially offering an advantage over hydrogen fuel cells. Catalysts downstream of the ICE in the exhaust can be used to remove unwanted emissions species in the exhaust caused by impurities in the fuel. On the flip side hydrogen fuel cells require a much higher level of purity of hydrogen to convert the hydrogen into electricity efficiently and avoid contamination.

Because the hydrogen ICE handles impurities better than the fuel cell, it provides these advantages over the hydrogen fuel cell:

  • More reliable and versatile since the hydrogen internal combustion engine can handle hydrogen from a wider variety of sources.
  • Longer operational life of the hydrogen internal combustion engine catalyst reduces downtime and maintenance costs.

#3: You Probably Can’t Reuse Storage and Delivery Systems Designed for other Fuels

You might have storage tank farms and delivery systems for gas, diesel, or natural gas. It’s unlikely that you could convert these for hydrogen.

Hydrogen molecules are much smaller and highly reactive. Because of these unique properties of hydrogen, your facility will need specifically designed storage and delivery infrastructure to manage them safely.

The storage and delivery systems must be made with tanks, pipes, valves, and other equipment rated to abide by hydrogen safety standards.

Additionally, your existing storage system may be too close to your other facilities, or not even outside. Hydrogen’s high combustibility requires it to be situated code specified distances away from other buildings. The separation is needed to protect the rest of your facilities – and people – from potential hydrogen-related hazards.

#4: Building Codes Might Not Address Hydrogen

Hydrogen’s emergence as an alternative fuel source is a relatively recent development. The applicable building safety codes in your area may not adequately address the unique risks associated with hydrogen. Simply adhering to standard building safety regulations doesn’t necessarily guarantee adequate safety measures for storing, delivering, and testing hydrogen.

Our approach prioritizes best practices rather than relying solely on code compliance. We draw upon our expertise and experience in designing and building hydrogen projects to ensure the safe operation of hydrogen testing facilities. This encompasses everything from preventing accidents to effectively managing and mitigating potential hazards.

#5: Hydrogen isn’t the Only Alternative ICE Fuel Out There

While hydrogen is a promising alternative fuel for internal combustion engines, the horizon extends beyond it. Researchers and industries are also exploring other alternatives like ammonia, carbon dioxide and Dimethyl Ether (DME). The broader exploration highlights the evolving landscape of alternative fuels, with each option offering unique advantages and challenges. If you’re considering hydrogen, you might want to consider some other options before making a decision.

Making a Considered Decision about Getting into Hydrogen ICE R&D

The hydrogen internal combustion engine holds significant promise and opportunities. As the interest in hydrogen ICE as an alternative fuel continues to surge, it’s easy to push forward without a solid understanding of the project’s intricacies. Navigating the options and requirements of building test facilities for hydrogen ICE research and development isn’t simple. Let us assist you in making informed choices and considering all aspects as you consider hydrogen or other alternative fuel projects.