Hydrogen Balloon Inflation

Hydrogen Balloon Inflation


Problem: Inflation of balloons with hydrogen is prohibited by the Fire Codes such as the International Fire Code.  Yet, the use of hydrogen makes sense in some applications – such as weather balloons.  Alternative gases such as helium are much more expensive, relatively rare on Earth, and are not able to be generated on site like hydrogen can be.

Solution: FP2 has developed an automated safety system called the Hydrogen Inflation Safety System that can be used to safely inflate balloons with hydrogen.  For certain applications, such as weather balloons, inflation with hydrogen can be done safely.  FP2 can justify this operation to local code authorities with an analysis developed by Martin Gresho, a licensed Fire Protection Engineer, with both hydrogen and fire safety experience.  Through use of this approach, hydrogen inflation can be done both safely, and in compliance with applicable fire codes.

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National Weather Service

FP2 has successfully performed hydrogen conversions (helium to hydrogen) for the National Weather Service at multiple locations.

Cost Savings: The annual operational savings for these sites is approximately $35,000 per year per site due to the lower cost of hydrogen gas resulting in a payback on construction costs of about 3 years.

This work has included:

  • Code Analyses at Upper Air Inflation Buildings used to inflate weather balloons and justify either continued use of hydrogen or conversion from helium to hydrogen for inflation.
  • FP2 has also designed and installed Hydrogen Inflation Safety Systems at 4 NWS sites in the NWS Eastern Region. This works included design, procurement, assembly, programming, testing, installation and construction of a Hydrogen Inflation Safety System (HISS) that adds automatic safety features to the inflation process. The conversions also include relocation of a hydrogen gas supply to the building exterior.
  • Closure of any open gas related fire code issues upon completion.  All sites are code compliant upon completion.

Download an Informative Question and Answer document.

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