Electrostatic Discharge Safety Requirements for Hydrogen Producers

22 09 2011

Researchers from SRI International, working in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, have confirmed the mechanism that can cause hydrogen to ignite during particulate electrostatic discharge.  

In the rare event of an uncontrolled hydrogen release, even in the absence of a known ignition source, electrostatic discharge can be enough to trigger hydrogen to ignite.

Hydrogen is typically stored in a pressurized system into which particles can be introduced if the storage vessel or connections are contaminated, corroded, or not cleaned properly. During an accidental hydrogen release, particles can accumulate charge if they move quickly against a vessel’s wall.

The ignition happens when there is a sudden release of accumulated charge, and the discharged energy is more than required to ignite hydrogen in a hydrogen-air mixture.

Static control is therefore increasingly important if you operate in an industry where hydrogen is also stored, too.

Static electricity is, put simply, electricity at rest. Static electricity is caused when there is an imbalance between non-conductive insulators of electricity, such as plastics, becoming negatively or positively charged.

Copper does not gain or lose electrons, which is why it is ideal for the use of conducting electricity. Plastic on the other hand is generally a poor conductor so it is relatively easy for it to charge with friction or heat, for example.

Static control is the common term used for the implementation of measures to lessen the effects of static electricity. In any workplace where electrical equipment is in use, there is a risk of static electricity being created.

There are a number of active and passive ways in which companies can implement static control. Popular methods include removing or neutralizing static electricity via induction, as well as ensuring that all electrics and machinery used are well grounded to help lessen the risk of high electrical charges.

Static Protection

There are two basic rules for handling static sensitive components in the workplace. The first is to ensure that the handling of all static sensitive components is carried out within and Electro Static Discharge (ESD) Protective Area (EPA). Secondly, transportation of all static sensitive components should take place in a static shielding container.

For the right level of protection it is vitally important to make sure that both of these rules are followed. Static damage in the form of degraded or softened devices could be the weak link in your chain and reduce the effectiveness of your in-house measures.

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