Value Of Seals & Materials In The Hydrogen Value Chain
Hydrogen Sealing Technologies
By Christophe Valdenaire (February 2023)
Sharing a long history, the energy industry and hydrogen technology have experienced remarkable growth in recent times. As the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen is proving itself as a positive contribution to the energy mix: generating power to our communities; fueling our transportation (automobiles, trains, trucks and ships); and helping decarbonate hard to abate industries such as steel and glass.
According to the IEA (International Energy Agency, January 2023: Hydrogen patents for a clean energy future), “in response to government action and raised expectations for the competitiveness of clean energy, more capital is flowing to key hydrogen technologies.”
Leading companies are tapping into this hydrogen potential in order to realize a cleaner, more efficient, and sustainable future.
1. Linde plc: Headquartered in the U.K. and Dublin, Ireland, the global chemical company is one of the largest industrial gas companies, specializing in distributing and producing nitrogen, oxygen, acetylene, argon, and process gases, including hydrogen and helium. In September 2022, the company announced it will build a 35-megawatt PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) electrolyzer for green hydrogen production in Niagara Falls, New York. The largest electrolyzer plant installed by Linde globally, the plant is expected to double their green liquid hydrogen production capacity in the United States.
2. Air Liquide International S.A.: A top hydrogen generation company based in France, offering commercial services in technology, gases, and healthcare services. Air Liquide and TotalEnergies are working together to produce renewable and low-carbon hydrogen at the Grandpuits Zero Crude Platform, supporting France’s focus to increase its sources of renewable energy.
3. Messer Group GmbH: Germany-based hydrogen generation company, Messer Group GmbH specializes in industrial gases such as nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, argon, shielding gases, hydrogen, helium, and medical gases. In 2021, they partnered with Siemens Energy to boost green H2 projects for mobility and industrial applications.
4. Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.: Headquartered in Pennsylvania, United States, the company specializes in industrial gases and chemicals. They partnered with the Government of Canada and the Province of Alberta to construct a net-zero hydrogen energy complex.
5. Reliance Industries Ltd.: Based in Mumbai, India, Reliance Industries Limited works in natural gas, petrochemicals, energy, telecommunications, retail, and textiles. In 2022, the company announced plans to invest $76 billion into clean energy projects. They recently showcased a hydrogen-run truck at India Energy Week.
6. Cummins Inc.: Founded in 1919, Cummins Inc. is a U.S. corporation that manufactures, designs, and distributes diesel engines and power generation products. A few years ago, they completed the acquisition of Hydrogenics Corporation, a developer of fuel cell and hydrogen generation technology.
Going Beyond In Hydrogen: A Range Of Color Possibilities
You may have heard of green, blue and even gray hydrogen but were you aware of others such as yellow, turquoise, black/brown, and pink hydrogen? This color spectrum is used within the energy industry to differentiate the various types of hydrogen. Let’s explore these possibilities.
• Blue hydrogen is produced mainly from natural gas through steam reforming, bringing together natural gas and heated water; however, carbon dioxide results as a by-product. The use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) is essential to trap and store this carbon.
• Green hydrogen produces unharmful greenhouse gas emissions using clean electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power in order to electrolyse water. Electrolysers split water into hydrogen and oxygen components, emitting zero-carbon dioxide. Due to expensive costs, green hydrogen is not as prevalent as the use of blue hydrogen but there is hope of lowered pricing as it becomes more common.
• Grey hydrogen is the most common form of hydrogen production at present, created from natural gas (methane) via steam methane reformation but does not capture greenhouse gases.
• Black and brown hydrogen use black coal or lignite (brown coal). As the opposite of green hydrogen, they are the most environmentally damaging.
• Pink hydrogen is made from electrolysis using nuclear energy (also referenced as purple hydrogen or red hydrogen).
• Turquoise hydrogen, a newer addition in the hydrogen spectrum, is made using a process called methane pyrolysis. This hydrogen still needs to be tested but could be a low-emission hydrogen depending on the thermal production and carbon storage process.
• Yellow hydrogen is also a new hydrogen type made through electrolysis using solar power.
• White hydrogen uses naturally-occurring geological hydrogen found within underground deposits and made in the fracking process. Presently, this is an area that has been relatively unexplored.
Exploring The Hydrogen Value Chain & The Value Of Sealing Solutions
There are typically three areas involved in the hydrogen value chain: 1) production, 2) storage and distribution, and 3) refueling stations. Each area is highly specific and requires expertise to effectively handle safety, costs, and compliance with regulations, codes, and standards (RCS). There are major challenges in all of these areas, and companies in the carbon-free / renewable / hydrogen energy industries are looking to incredibly knowledgeable engineers and scientists for support and guidance.
1. As mentioned earlier, hydrogen is produced in various ways, but the most aligned with the net zero roadmap are: green hydrogen using renewable electricity sources and electrolysis; and blue hydrogen from natural gas through steam reforming with CO2 capture and storage.
In hydrogen storage and transmission, hydrogen is transmitted or stored in liquid or gaseous form. Sealing solutions such as Omniseal® polymer and metallic parts from Omniseal Solutions provide reliability and tightness performance that match with the requirement of these challenging applications.
An example of this durability is our spring-energized seals being qualified in the world's first Liquefied Hydrogen (LH2) loading arm in the receiving terminal at Kobe, Japan, airport island.
2. Hydrogen Refueling Stations (HRS) contain several key components that operate at very high pressure and temperature ranging from 20°K to 300°F, creating technical difficulties that are pushing the limits of existing sealing solutions. In response, our business has conducted extensive testing to improve material and sealing solutions in order to address the most challenging applications up to extreme pressure of 110 MPa in hydrogen gas or liquid.
3. In hydrogen energy and material applications (fuel cells, battery systems, hydroelectric, etc.), qualified operating companies and component manufacturers are expected to understand requirements and conditions related to high-pressure, high temperature / cryogenic equipment; safe operations of hydrogen; and conformity of parts, equipment, and plant.
Omniseal Solutions is collaborating with many key businesses to design and manufacture a complete range of polymer and metal sealing components as well as advanced materials to meet various technical challenges within the hydrogen value chain.
For example, our Rulon® fluoropolymer gaskets address the needs of PEM or alkaline electrolyzers, and our Omniseal® polymer and metal seals meet the transport/storage and distribution of hydrogen gas or liquid at extreme pressures. All our precision parts are customized to provide superior chemical resistance and reliability over traditional sealing solutions.