With the increasing demand of energy, the limited fossil fuels resources and the greenhouse gas emissions from combustion of carbon-based fuels like wood, coal, oil and natural gas we are forever being driven towards the development of alternative sources of power generation with nuclear energy and hydrogen at the forefront of the alternatives.
Supplying hydrogen to industrial users is now a major business around the world. Demand for hydrogen, which has grown more than threefold since 1975, continues to rise. A big driver for hydrogen is of course to being more economically friendly, aiming for the target of “Net Zero” carbon emissions. This is expected to bring about a decline in the use of fossil fuels and possibly some of the other unrenewable energy sources.
Hydrogen use today is dominated by industry, namely: oil refining, ammonia production, methanol production and steel production. Virtually all of this hydrogen is supplied using fossil fuels, so there is significant potential for emissions reductions from clean hydrogen.
In transport, the competitiveness of hydrogen fuel cell cars depends on fuel cell costs and refuelling stations, while for trucks the priority is to reduce the delivered price of hydrogen. Shipping and aviation have limited low-carbon fuel options available and represent an opportunity for hydrogen-based fuels.
In buildings, hydrogen could be blended into existing natural gas networks, with the highest potential in multifamily and commercial buildings, particularly in dense cities while longer-term prospects could include the direct use of hydrogen in hydrogen boilers or fuel cells.
In power generation, hydrogen is one of the leading options for storing renewable energy, and hydrogen and ammonia can be used in gas turbines to increase power system flexibility. Ammonia could also be used in coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions.
At MGA Controls we already have a successful track record supporting the hydrogen industry, namely in hydrogen production via electrolysis, consumption via fuel cells, storage of high-pressure hydrogen in cylinders and distribution of hydrogen through refuelling stations.
Electrolysis is carried out at much lower pressures than the refuelling and tends to see pressures of up to 60 bar max. Refuelling stations operate at much higher pressures depending on the size of vehicle that is being filled, but these can be required to operate from 350 up to 700 bar.
As Hydrogen can be handled in both its gaseous and its liquid forms, temperature can vary depending on which form it takes, liquid being much colder than the gas, making the application cryogenic in some cases.
We have worked extremely closely with Baumer UK in offering a range of process sensors, covering the measurement of temperature (TCR6), pressure (PBMN), and level (LBFS). We have also successfully deployed high pressure solenoid valves for isolation (Buschjost 83830 range), as well as directional control solenoid valves from Maxseal (ICO4S & ICO3S). We have also provided the Thompson Valves range for relief valves (X855) and safety valves (S153), as well as high-pressure regulators (D973 & J50) and filters (W11/12 & F581).
One of the most suitable materials for working with hydrogen tends to be 316L, as it is resilient to the embrittlement that hydrogen can cause.