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PNR for safety of hydrogen driven vehicles and transport through tunnels and similar confined spaces


The scope of the proposed project shall be confined to traffic infrastructures, in particular tunnels according to the implementation of EU directive 2004/54/EC and the effectiveness and interaction of conventional and innovative safety measures in case of accidents with hydrogen-powered vehicles or hydrogen transport in tunnels. For providing guidance and suitable performance based requirements to regulatory bodies, technology suppliers and operators, an experimental program shall be designed and executed to analyse the interaction of hydrogen, its mixing and combustion behaviour, with conventional extinguishing agents, such as water sprays, water fogs, and foams, to investigate the influence on and effectiveness of ventilation and concerned ventilation strategies, to test the functionality and effectiveness of conventional safety installations and measures and if necessary to provide additional requirements for technical improvements regarding specific prevention and innovative mitigation techniques. The potential accumulation of hydrogen in air ventilation ducts, apertures and chambers and the specific hazards imposed by late ignitions and subsequent explosions shall be taken into consideration. Beyond that, the project shall also address the opportunity to support with the new data the validation of already existing models and quantitative risk assessment tools Thereby the results of the project will be available not only for safety evaluations of tunnels systems but also for similar confined traffic infrastructures like parking garages etc.. It will make the safety assessments more robust and potentially reduce costly over-conservatism. The analysis should also provide suitable data and information to instruct first responders for revision and improvement of their intervention strategies as well as of the general accident management. So the project activities should encompass:

  • Review of the current knowledge (state of the art) concerning safety in confined traffic infrastructures (especially tunnels) and its underpinning experiments as well as situation related to RCS in Europe;
  • Definition, characterisation and delimitation of EU tunnels as well as confined spaces in subcategories pertaining to the relevance of hydrogen vehicles and transportation (e.g. by length, cross section, ventilation rate, traffic throughout, hydrogen present per km, existing fire management facilities etc.) to aim on detailed understanding of fire and safety issues by category;
  • Identification and prioritisation of relevant knowledge gaps and scientific results (data) compared to the scope above;
  • Definition and realisation of necessary experiments, to investigate the interaction of hydrogen and hydrogen flames with conventional mitigation systems and strategies to prove effectiveness of conventional safety measures and/or deviate mitigation techniques and concepts;
  • Identification and evaluation of innovative safety strategies and engineering solutions to prevent and mitigate potential accidents with hydrogen powered vehicles in confined infrastructure with an initial focus on tunnels;
  • Check, and in case develop further intervention strategies and tactics for first responders providing conditions for their life safety at an accident scene and to maximise property protection;
  • Derive guideline for the proper use of mitigation systems and draft recommendations for standards developing organisations (SDOs);
  • Establish communication channels with other research communities worldwide and involved international SDOs for the sustainable implementation of the project outcomes;
  • Collaboration with FCH 2 JU safety panel and identified experts worldwide.

Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) dedicated mailbox, which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD.
Test activities should collaborate and use the protocols developed by the JRC Harmonisation Roadmap (see section 3.2.B ""Collaboration with JRC – Rolling Plan 2018""), in order to benchmark performance of components and allow for comparison across different projects.

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution of EUR 2.5 million per project would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
A maximum of 1 project may be funded under this topic.
Expected duration: 3 years.

It is a long standing finding of the research community that hydrogen behaves very benign in free environment. Confinement and congestion, however, promote more severe accidental consequences. The Network of Excellence (NoE) project HySafe derived from this the strong need for improving the principal understanding of and the development of validated risk assessment tools for the accidental behaviour of hydrogen in tunnels and summarised the state-of-the-art in the HyTunnel study [23]. Facing the intended accelerated deployment of hydrogen powered mobility on one side and the steadily increasing part of traffic infrastructure, which is established in tunnels or in similar confined spaces on the other side, will urge any new standard or regulation for transport systems to address also the specific safety issues involved with this new alternative fuel in tunnels and similarly confined space, like underground parking etc. Serious fires in some road tunnels in the Alpine countries during the years 1999 and 2001 triggered the issuing of the European tunnel safety directive 2004/54/EC [24]. National implementations of this directive are due by 2019 [25]. Neither this directive nor any other international regulation, codes or standards, e.g. PIARC 1999 [26] or NFPA 502 [27], provide specific guidance for evaluating the appropriateness of conventional mitigation technology (ventilation, water spray or fog, foams, etc.), conventional safety management and established first responders strategies in case of a tunnel accident with an hydrogen vehicle or hydrogen transport involved. The referred methodologies (FMEA, CFD, etc.) are rather generic and lack validated models for evaluating the effectiveness of the quite expensive tunnel equipment.
Therefore, the aforementioned European regulation related to tunnel safety and safe efficient supply of the alternative fuel hydrogen (AFI Directive) and the related safety assessments urgently require a sound scientific basis and a better understanding underpinned by experimentally generated validation data. Obvious knowledge gaps concerning the interaction of hydrogen dispersion and in particular combustion with existing safety installations have to be filled with pre-normative research, relying equally on experimental proofs and numerical extrapolations. The generated knowledge and tools should be translated to similar scenarios, including railway tunnels and underground or multi-storey car parking.


[23]: HyTunnel Internal Report, NoE HySafe

[24]: European Directive 2004/54/EC on minimum safety requirements for tunnels in the Trans-European Road Network

[25]: Richtlinie für die Ausstattung und den Betrieb von Straßentunneln‘‘ (RABT), German Implementation of the European Directive 2004/54/EC

[26]: World Road Association (PIARC) (1999). Fire and smoke control in road tunnels. World Road Association, Paris, France

[27]: NFPA (2004). NFPA 502 – Standard for Road Tunnels, Bridges, and other Limited Access Highways, (a) 2004 ed.; (b) 2008 ed. National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, Massachusetts

  • Unique experimental data concerning the interaction of hydrogen with tunnel safety equipment and the special geometries of confined infrastructures will be available;
  • Deeper knowledge of the relevant physics will provide better hydrogen safety engineering to underpin the development of innovative prevention and mitigation strategies;
  • Experimental data to support further development and validation of relevant physics models, simulation and risk assessment tools;
  • Recommendations for prevention and mitigation concepts for inherently safer use of hydrogen vehicles and safer transport of hydrogen in tunnels, and other confined infrastructures, such as underground parking;
  • Analysis of effectiveness of conventional safety measures in tunnels and other confined infrastructures like underground garages etc.;
  • Potential reduction of over-conservatism and increased efficiency of installed safety equipment will save costs;
  • More appropriate intervention strategies and tactics for first responders to tackle potential accidents with hydrogen powered vehicles in tunnels and underground parking etc. will protect life of first responders, people and property;
  • Commonly agreed, scientifically based recommendations for the update of relevant RCS will lead to a more harmonised normative landscape and level up the safety culture in general;

Type of action: Research and Innovation Action
The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 3.3 and in the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018– 2020 which apply mutatis mutandis.