When a Chevrolet Volt undergoing crash testing caught fire in a delayed fashion last year, the airwaves filled up with (incorrect) reports of how dangerous battery-powered vehicles are. Now, fears of a "catastrophic" explosion involving another gasoline alternative, hydrogen, are putting plans for a new, $3-million refueling station project at San Francisco airport on hold.
Airport director John Martin wrote a report to airport commissioners in which he advocated cancelling the project. Specifically, he wrote: "A hydrogen explosion in close proximity to active runways and a highway could be catastrophic and result in significant loss of life. ... These risk factors portend an incompatibility for a hydrogen fuel station near active runways and major roadways." Well, yeah.
It's good to be careful, but an hydrogen re-fueling station explosion like this hasn't happened. Also, remember that, in a June 2010 report from the National Fire Protection Association (PDF), "In 2003-2007, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 287,000 vehicle fires per year," and we're pretty sure airplanes burn fuel. Still, the region does have some experience with explosive hydrogen. Earlier this year, in Emeryville, a hydrogen fuel tank at a bus yard leaked and caused a small fire, forcing evacuations.
SFO will likely stop plans for the H2 station since Linde, which was supposed to build the station, "rejected airport officials' demand to accept full legal responsibility for any mishaps on the wedge-shaped site near Millbrae Avenue," writes the Mercury News.