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Safe Design of a Hydrogen-Powered Ship: CFD Simulation on Hydrogen Leakage in the Fuel Cell Room


Adopting proton exchange membrane fuel cells fuelled by hydrogen presents a promising solution for the shipping industry’s deep decarbonisation. However, the potential safety risks associated with hydrogen leakage pose a significant challenge to the development of hydrogen-powered ships. This study examines the safe design principles and leakage risks of the hydrogen gas supply system of China’s first newbuilt hydrogen-powered ship. This study utilises the computational fluid dynamics tool FLACS to analyse the hydrogen dispersion behaviour and concentration distributions in the hydrogen fuel cell room based on the ship’s parameters. This study predicts the flammable gas cloud and time points when gas monitoring points first reach the hydrogen volume concentrations of 0.8% and 1.6% in various leakage scenarios, including four different diameters (1, 3, 5, and 10 mm) and five different directions. This study’s findings indicate that smaller hydrogen pipeline diameters contribute to increased hydrogen safety. Specifically, in the hydrogen fuel cell room, a single-point leakage in a hydrogen pipeline with an inner diameter not exceeding 3 mm eliminates the possibility of flammable gas cloud explosions. Following a 10 mm leakage diameter, the hydrogen concentration in nearly all room positions reaches 4.0% within 6 s of leakage. While the leakage diameter does not impact the location of the monitoring point that first activates the hydrogen leak alarm and triggers an emergency hydrogen supply shutdown, the presence of obstructions near hydrogen detectors and the leakage direction can affect it. These insights provide guidance on the optimal locations for hydrogen detectors in the fuel cell room and the pipeline diameters on hydrogen gas supply systems, which can facilitate the safe design of hydrogen-powered ships.

Related subjects: Safety

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