Questions & Answers

Are there any detailed guidelines or requirements regarding the specific types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that should be worn by technicians maintaining fuel cell vehicles (FCVs)?

The Hydrogen Safety Panel is not aware of any detailed guidelines or requirements.  There are general requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) in relevant codes and standards, but these often defer to the manufacturer’s requirements or a material safety data sheet (MSDS) for specifics.  Ultimately, PPE selection is a matter between the employer and the employee and may need to consider state and federal regulations, company policies and the employee’s work assignment.  The information below is provided for consideration when working fuel cell systems equipped with hydrogen storage tanks and related hydrogen piping systems.

In general, the pressurized gaseous hydrogen system should be defueled and the high-voltage electrical system de-energized1 (in accordance with standard operating procedures) before any maintenance is performed.  If this is done, then the PPE will likely need to be similar to repair garage activities for other (non-hydrogen) vehicles, and may include:

  • Safety shoes
  • Safety glasses
  • Hand protection (to avoid cuts and abrasions)
  • Long sleeve shirts and full length pants (Note: Personnel should avoid wearing clothing made of nylon or other synthetics, silk, or wool because these materials produce charges of static electricity that can ignite flammable gas mixtures.)
  • Hard hats (when necessary)
  • Hearing protection (when necessary)

If the portion of the hydrogen system to be repaired can be isolated (preferably by at least two means) and defueled prior to any maintenance activity, then it may be possible to avoid defueling the entire pressurized hydrogen system on the vehicle.   In this case, additional PPE may be required depending on the proximity to other systems that are still pressurized:

  • Flash fire resistive garments
  • Safety glasses with side shields, goggles or face shields

It is important to consider that the above guidance will not cover every activity or circumstance.  Specific activities should be evaluated by safety professionals to determine the necessary engineering controls, work practices and PPE.

Note 1:  Since all FCVs have high voltage systems additional PPE may be needed if working on an energized high voltage electrical portion of the vehicle.

Which ASME B31 piping code should be used for repair and alteration of hydrogen piping systems?

The code used for repair and alterations of an existing system depends on the code used for construction as well as on the requirements imposed by the jurisdiction.

Code of Construction

Generally Accepted Code for Repair and Alterations

ASME B31.1

ASME B31.1, Nonmandatory Appendix V – Recommended Practice for Operation, Maintenance, and Modification of Power Piping Systems

ASME B31.3

API 570 – Piping Inspection Code: In-Service Inspection, Rating, Repair and Alteration of Piping Systems

ASME B31.12

ASME B31.12, Chapter GR-5 – Operation and Maintenance

Other Code

Unless otherwise specified, the same as requirements for new construction.

Note that getting a permit from the jurisdiction may be necessary for an extensive alteration.

Which ASME B31 piping code should be used for changing the rating of hydrogen piping systems?

The requirements of the code used for the original construction apply. The piping may meet the requirements of more than one code. In which case, the code used for changing the rating may be different than the original code of construction. In any case, the re-rated system should meet all of the requirements of the selected code. Note that if the original proof test of the system was not high enough meet the requirement for the new service, the piping will have to be tested at the higher pressure.

Which ASME B31 Code should be used for the construction of hydrogen piping systems?

At least three of the ASME B31 piping codes are logical choices:

  • ASME B31.1, Power Piping
  • ASME B31.3, Process Piping
  • ASME B31.12 Hydrogen Piping and Pipelines

Considerations for code selection include:

  • Requirements imposed by the authority having jurisdiction, whether by direct reference or by reference from another applicable code or standard.
  • Code(s) used for other piping systems at the site. The people who have to operate and maintain the piping will be better served with fewer piping codes. The piping codes are complex and have different requirements. The people who have to operate and maintain the piping will likely be more successful if they have to learn requirements from fewer codes.

In the absence of these factors, ASME B31.12 is probably the most logical choice.

All three codes are suitable for liquid and gaseous hydrogen at pressures 15,000 psi (100 MPa) and higher. For pressures higher than 15,000 psi (100 MPa), the designation of high pressure fluid service in accordance with Chapter IX of ASME B31.3 may be a more economical choice and should be considered.