Fire at California hydrogen filling station

Xcelsior Charge FC bus Xcelsior Charge FC bus similar to the vehicle involved in the fire incident (Photo: New Flyer)

Hydrogen has considerable potential as a clean alternative fuel for most vehicle types. But a primary concern with using the fuel was highlighted in a recent incident in Bakersfield, California.

In the early morning of 18 July a hydrogen refuelling station caught fire, partially destroying the facility, together with a hydrogen fuel cell bus.

The $3 million refuelling installation was opened in November 2022 by Golden Empire Transit. It was reported to be the first of its type in Kern County.

The company also purchased 10 fuel cell-powered buses, intended to help bring the company into compliance with California’s upcoming emissions-free operating regulations. The bus destroyed in the fire was valued at $1.1 million.

The buses were supplied by NFO subsidiary New Flyer of America.

According to a statement posted on the Golden Empire Transport website, ‘explosions were heard and seen from the tanks on the bus which had just been filled’. The statement added that the primary tanks did not ignite due to safety technology.

The statement further included a comment from company CEO Karen King: “It is too early to speculate what happened and the Bakersfield Fire Department is conducting an investigation.”

According to related reports, the transport company relies largely on blue hydrogen, which is produced from natural gas. It is stored as liquid hydrogen, but converted to gas when being dispensed.

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