Hydrogen: BAM sets up digitally networked research filling station to increase safety of technology

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The Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) is building a digitally networked research filling station for hydrogen at its test site in Horstwalde near Berlin. The aim is to increase the safety and economic efficiency of such facilities and thus of the entire hydrogen infrastructure in Germany and to create trust in modern hydrogen technologies. The pilot project is being funded with about 8 million Euros by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action as part of the Quality Infrastructure Digital (QI-Digital) initiative.

With the digitally networked research filling station, BAM is also pushing ahead with the establishment of a test centre for modern hydrogen technologies on its twelve square kilometres test site in Brandenburg. A test platform for hydrogen and hydrogen-natural gas pipelines is already under construction there. Also planned are a high-pressure test stand up to 1000 bar, a test field for liquid hydrogen and a test hall for hydrogen storage.

The rapid expansion of a hydrogen filling station network is an important component of the German government's national hydrogen strategy. This is intended to ensure the long-term safety and availability of supply of hydrogen in the mobility sector.

Even today, the operation of a hydrogen filling station places special demands on its safety and quality. Hydrogen as an energy carrier is delivered by transport vehicles at up to 500 bar and stored in pressurised gas containers. Before re-fueling, the gas is compressed to 1000 bar and then cooled to minus 40 degrees Celsius to enable rapid filling. All these processes are associated with great stresses on the components involved and their materials.

To ensure the operational safety of a hydrogen filling station, compressed gas storage tanks, pipelines, compressors and refrigeration systems are checked at regular maintenance intervals. For this purpose, individual parts must be removed. Currently, such inspections are associated with downtimes of several days and correspondingly high costs. For customers, the filling station is not available during the maintenance period - a particular disadvantage given the currently poorly developed filling station network.

With a continuous digitalisation of the pressure technology, the inspection times could be intelligently controlled and thus the economic efficiency, the safety and at the same time the availability of hydrogen filling stations could be further increased. In order to demonstrate how the previously analogue methods can be replaced by digitally supported quality assurance, BAM is building a research filling station for hydrogen on its test site 50 kilometres south of Berlin.

For the first time, all components will be digitally networked with each other, the data collected with sensors will be centrally evaluated and the entire filling station will be mapped in a digital twin. In this way, innovative maintenance concepts, such as structural health monitoring and adapted inspection, can be used, which in the future may shorten or completely replace the previous analogue maintenance methods. At the same time, the knowledge gained is to be incorporated into standards and regulations to be able to apply the researched digital approaches in a quality-assured and legally compliant manner.

The research project is part of the initiative "Quality Infrastructure Digital", with which the participating institutions - in addition to BAM, the Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle (DAkkS), the Deutsche Institut für Normung (DIN), the Deutsche Kommission Elektrotechnik (DKE) and the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are represented - want to pave the way for modern digitally supported quality assurance. The aim is to secure Germany's global competitiveness.

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