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Hydrogen: working safely in a growing industry

Hydrogen is a clean, renewable fuel that can be used for transport, as a power supply, and in a range of industrial processes. It has four types:

  • Green Hydrogen – produced by the electrolysis of water powered by zero-carbon electricity (e.g. wind and solar)
  • Blue Hydrogen – produced from fossil fuels and using carbon capture and storage
  • Grey Hydrogen – typically produced from natural gas using steam methane reformation
  • Brown Hydrogen – produced from the gasification of coal.

Hydrogen is used as fuel, as a form of renewable energy storage, in margarine production, in methanol and hydrogen chloride production, and in metal production. The sector is growing rapidly and is a key part of our renewable energy future.

The Queensland Hydrogen Industry Strategy (Hydrogen industry development | State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning) outlines the government’s plan to support innovation and investment. There are over 100 current and proposed hydrogen projects in Queensland and the technology is evolving rapidly.

Hydrogen and major hazard facilities

Major hazard facilities store above threshold quantities of chemicals listed in schedule 15 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011. Facilities storing or handling more than five tonnes are “Hazardous Chemical Facilities” under the Planning Act 2016 and may be defined as major hazard facilities under the Regulation.

Major hazard facilities have specific safety requirements, including licensing, operator duties, risk identification and management, and implementing a safety management system.

Hydrogen and manifest quantity workplaces

A manifest quantity workplace (MQW) stores, handles or uses hazardous chemical quantities that exceed or likely exceed the prescribed quantities in the regulation. The prescribed quantity for hydrogen is 5000 L. A flammable gas placard is required for 200 L or more of hydrogen.

MQW obligations include preparing a manifest and site plan for use by emergency services, providing the plan to Qld Fire and Emergency Services for review, and notifying Workplace Health and Safety Queensland of certain information. WHSQ has regulatory oversight of manifest quantity workplaces and major hazard facilities.

Hydrogen and non-workplaces

Chapter 12 of the regulation applies to the storage and handling of hydrogen as a dangerous good even if it is not at a workplace or being used for work. The duty holder has a primary duty of care, must apply due diligence, must notify reportable incidents, and must preserve incident scenes. If storing or handling more than 100 L of hydrogen, specific hazardous chemical regulations under chapter 7 of the regulation apply.

Hydrogen and hazardous areas

A hazardous area is a three-dimensional space in which an explosive atmosphere is or may be expected to be present or form. As a Category 1 flammable gas under the GHS classification system and a class 2.1 (flammable gas) dangerous good, hydrogen can generate hazardous areas. Operators of facilities storing or using it must take precautions to manage the risks to ensure the health and electrical safety for workers and community. Both WHSQ and the Electrical Safety Office (ESO) have regulatory oversight.

There are specific requirements for electrical equipment in a hazardous area. The equipment must be rated and effectively earthed in line with Australian Standards. Ignition risks must be adequately controlled. An accredited auditor must inspect electrical installations in hazardous areas prior to connection or reconnection. ESO oversees hazardous areas accredited auditors.

Hydrogen as a fuel gas

The Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 applies when hydrogen is used as a fuel. This legislation is administered by Resources Safety and Health Queensland (RSHQ). A hydrogen code of practice has recently been released to explain obligations under that Act. For more information visit Petroleum and gas safety and health | Business Queensland .