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Solutions for Hydrogen Movement and Dispensing Podcast

by , , | Sep 8, 2022 | Flow, Sustainability

Jim Cahill

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Social Marketing Leader

Colorado Hydrogen Network: Moving & Dispensing Hydrogen with EmersonHere is the second HydrogenNowCast episode with the Emerson team, Moving and Dispensing Hydrogen Interview with Emerson. You can find the first episode in the post, Hydrogen Movements Challenges and Solutions Podcast. In this episode, Emerson’s Brandon Bromberek and Marc Buttler join Colorado Hydrogen Network host Brian DeBruine to discuss the measurements in moving and dispensing hydrogen through the supply chain.

Give the podcast a listen as Brandon and Marc discuss the challenges and solutions in safely, reliably, and efficiently addressing the movements of hydrogen as an energy carrier for the global energy mix.

Visit the Measurement Instrumentation section on Emerson.com as well as the links added in the transcript for more on the technologies and solutions for hydrogen movement and dispensing.


Brian: Hello, everyone, and welcome to episode 60 of the HydrogenNowCast for September 2. 2022. The HydrogenNowCast is sponsored by New Day Hydrogen, who’s helping fleet owners meet their zero-emission vehicle needs. If you’re with a fleet or transit operator and your fleet is wondering how to convert to zero-emission vehicles but still meet your operational needs, New Day Hydrogen can give you the option of fuel cell vehicles by providing public hydrogen fuel stations near you and showing you the available fuel cell trucks, vans, and busses. To find out more information about both vehicles and fueling, visit the NewDayhydrogen.com website, where you can also submit requests on the contact page.

Well, the podcast today is the second episode of a two-part interview with a company, Emerson. In the first Emerson podcast, we talked about measuring hydrogen. In this episode, we’re going to focus on moving and dispensing hydrogen. So to tell us all about that, as well as Emerson’s products and services around hydrogen, today, we have two guests, and our first guest is Brandon Bromberek, who is the vice President in Emerson’s Measurement Solutions Group. Brandon, welcome to the show!

Brandon: Hi, Brian. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

Brian: So happy for you to spend time with us today, Brandon. And our second guest is Marc Buttler who is the Emerson Applications Innovation director. Marc, welcome to the show!

Marc: Thank you, Brian. I’m also glad to be with you.

Brian: Well, thank you as well for spending some time with us.

There’s a lot that we want to talk about in this episode. Both moving hydrogen and dispensing hydrogen are pretty complex subjects. So maybe what we ought to do is start out by talking about moving hydrogen, for example, tanks and pipelines, and then we can follow that with the subject of dispensing hydrogen, which we did touch on a little bit in the last episode.

Now, to give you listeners and appreciation of some of the difficulties of moving and dispensing hydrogen, I’d like to mention that when it comes to moving hydrogen, helium, and neon, those are the three gases that behave a little bit differently from other gasses. And specifically, these three gases actually heat up when they expand instead of cooling down like most other gases. And this effect is called the Joule-Thompson effect, and it can sort of complicate efforts to move hydrogen, but hydrogen also presents other challenges as well. So, Brandon, do you want to maybe start us off with an overview of some of these issues and the expertise that Emerson possesses to address some of these challenges?

Brandon: Sure, Brian. I guess I’ll start by just reminding everyone of where hydrogen sits on the periodic table, and that’s in the top spot, so it’s the lightest gas in the universe, and there are some things that this affects and how we deal with it as an energy carrier compared to other gasses such as methane or natural gas, hydrogen’s, energy density by mass is extremely efficient. However, when we look at it by volume, not so much. Which means we have to compress hydrogen significantly to capture that energy and to move it efficiently and so on. And when we do that, we also start to deal with pressures that can get quite high. When you add to that the fact that the hydrogen molecule itself is extremely small, we also face issues like permeation through materials that, again, in dealing with other gases, we wouldn’t have to think about. And finally, when we look at the lower and upper explosive limits of hydrogen or that band of concentrations that can become combustible or flammable, it’s a pretty wide range. So there are some different challenges and risks that arise. Now, I should remind everyone that hydrogen is the most abundant gas in the universe as well.

So in some respects, we’ve been safely dealing with it for quite a long time. When we look at Emerson’s involvement with hydrogen, the first point to make is that while there is significant investment going on in the hydrogen space in the last few years, as the world becomes more aware of climate change, hydrogen is not new at all for Emerson. Our experience started somewhere around 30 to 35 years ago – at least that’s what we can find that’s documented – primarily in the metering space and in the refining industry where it’s for a long time been used to remove things like sulfur from diesel fuels and other fuels. When we look at our footprint and capabilities today, we really cover the entire value chain of hydrogen from the production side, whether that’s green hydrogen or blue hydrogen to transport using various means and types, either pure or blends, really to end use, and the fuel cell dispensing that Brian you touched on earlier.

Brian: Okay, well, thanks, Brandon. The other thing too, to think about is that, as our listeners know, hydrogen can be made at point of use by splitting water molecules with electricity, which is a process called electrolysis. But there’s probably a lot of situations where it’s better to generate the hydrogen at the source of the renewable energy, for example, wind or solar array, and then transporting the hydrogen. And of course, there’s other sources of zero carbon hydrogen, like either the natural hydrogen wells or hydrogen that’s derived from old oil wells using underground hydrogen separation. And these last two likely cannot be performed at the point of use, which also means that hydrogen needs to be transported either in tanks or by pipelines.

So, Brandon, why don’t we talk about some of the options for moving hydrogen and discuss some of the cost tradeoffs between this energy penalty, which comes from combining hydrogen with other molecules, which you would, of course do to make hydrogen easier to transport versus maybe just transporting hydrogen that’s a gas or liquid. And what those transportations costs are that compared to the energy losses that we have when we translate hydrogen into other forms.

Brandon: Sure, yeah, as you touched on there, we can really break down the movement of hydrogen into what I like to think of as two groups, the pure form and then, as you mentioned, using some type of carrier to move the hydrogen. So if we start with the pure form and go a little bit deeper, we can break that into two groups as well. First is as gas. And when we’re moving hydrogen as a gas, we’re usually doing it either by a pipeline or a tube trailer that’s been trucked. Obviously smaller amounts can be done more economically by truck and trailer where larger amounts pipeline starts to make sense. And as I mentioned earlier, that gas is incredibly light, which means in order to move a reasonable amount in a gas state, we must compress it significantly. So you’ve got some energy there that needs to go into compressing the gas. And when we talk about hydrogen pipelines, specifically, there are some out there, but not exactly millions of miles in today’s landscape. And the pipelines that are out there for other fluids may or may not be suitable, for hydrogen. So there’s sort of an additional effect there of all the energy that might need to go into a dedicated hydrogen infrastructure.

If we look at the liquid side, we’re talking about cryogenic hydrogen, which is cooled to negative 250 deg Celsius and then transported by cryogenic tanks, by road, or here we can add marine vessels to the mix and -253 degrees. C is pretty darn cold. We’re talking 20 degrees above where molecular motion essentially ceases. And so, if you think about the energy needed to cool hydrogen to that level and then to keep it cool, especially if you can imagine marine transport over long distances, it’s not insignificant. If we look at hydrogen carriers, we also sort of have two groups. We have that group in which we convert the hydrogen into some other chemical compound like ammonia or methanol or some other type of liquid organic hydrogen compound or LOHC as you may have heard it called. And then we separate the hydrogen back out on the receiving end. So again, some energy input there to make those conversions on both sides. And then finally a carrier that maybe has been out there and discussed a little bit more mainstream is to talk about blending hydrogen with natural gas. And in this way, we may be able to use existing pipeline networks to move that blend the same way we move natural gas today.

Brian: Well, that’s right. And as some of the listeners may know, there are ways to – once you’ve added hydrogen to natural gas – to separate that out.  How does that really impact the gas measurements though? It seems like things will get a little bit complicated. So why don’t we talk about trying to measure these blends and these things that we’re doing.

Brandon: Sure. You mentioned that there are really two routes of consumption, we either separate that hydrogen back out or in some cases, or we can potentially consume that blend directly. Now, there are limits when we’re going to directly consume that blend. There are some studies out there that say some traditional appliances or process units can consume blends of 20% to 25% hydrogen and still run relatively efficiently. So typical fired appliances. And so you can start to understand that understanding that compositional analysis becomes that much more important if we are not going to be able to consume that blend downstream if it’s not on spec. And so understanding that blend spec, confirming the quality, understanding what type of injection amounts we are injecting into that pipeline, and then measuring the blend after the injection is done becomes even more important. In addition, we need to look at things like material compatibility. And so, as I mentioned earlier, traditional pipelines may not be suitable for hydrogen even in that blended form. And so understanding what’s going on with the pipeline there itself or the carrier vessel is also critically important. And then finally, I touched earlier on the fact that hydrogen has a pretty wide combustion range. And so safety measurements or understanding the presence of that usually pressurized blend is incredibly important as well when we’re dealing with that blend.

Brian: Interesting. Thank you. Well, what are people doing today in order to measure hydrogen going into pipelines?

Brandon: Sure. Well, if we start with metering, we are seeing that there are a couple of different meter technologies that customers are looking at and that Emerson provides. The first is Coriolis technology where we’re essentially able to meter up to 100% hydrogen. Additionally, we have seen that customers are interested in understanding what can be done with ultrasonic meters. And there they’re typically looking at larger line sizes and where that hydrogen composition is less than 30% or so of the total volume. They’re also looking at leak detection technology, where we play, as Emerson here is, with a wide array of technologies that can help customers understand where they have leaks from ultrasonic measurement, where we’re listening for the leak to point gas or even open pass type devices, where we’re looking across a physical section of space for a release. And then we can also run virtual leak detection type measurements where we use flow meters to measure the mass balance on two ends of the movement. In addition, we have folks talking to us about wanting to look for hydrogen flames which are invisible to the naked eye. And so you need to employ some different type of technology there to get ahead of some type of upset or safety issue. And then again, finally, corrosion is a hot topic in the space. And so making sure we’re measuring the effects hydrogen can have on certain materials of construction is also important.

Brian: There’s a lot to it. Well, thanks Brandon. Well, Marc, why don’t we turn to you now to talk a little bit about the regulations around transport and measuring and dispensing hydrogen.

Marc: Yeah, that’s a very interesting area to discuss as well, Brian, so thanks for bringing that up. I would say that from what I’m able to observe through our interactions with helping to develop standards around the world, that there are really two main areas around the measurement standards that impact how hydrogen is transported and dispensed, and those tend to fall into areas of either high pressure or lower pressure. And then the third area as well would cover what Brandon touched on earlier in terms of the cryogenic liquid measurement. So it all has to do mainly with the state of the hydrogen as it’s being measured. The good news is that the high-pressure gas measurement and sale of hydrogen gas and the high-pressure state, which is essential for fueling hydrogen-powered vehicles, are pretty far along in their development and have been around since 2010 and earlier, and these are all around the world. They’re published by organizations like our NIST in the US. And OIML for international standards. And the other area that these standards are helping in is helping to define and regulate and bring consistency to how truck loading is done as well. So in addition to fueling vehicles that are going to use the hydrogen on board as the fuel for making the vehicle go, there’s also a growing need to be able to fill high-pressure tube tanks on trailers with hydrogen for transportation. And even though it’s not being used as a fuel, these tend to fall under the same regulations that govern the vehicle fuel dispensing. The other area where it’s a little bit lower pressure is what I think Brandon was referring to earlier when he mentioned that a lot of hydrogen is being blended with natural gas and shipped in pipelines as well. And these tend to be covered by a different group of standards, but it’s still mainly the same standards organizations that are helping to review the existing standards and update them as necessary. It looks like most of those standards are pretty well set for hydrogen measurement as they are, but there might be a few minor tweaks, and the entire world is working together to identify and make these updates as necessary.

Brian: Okay, thanks, Marc. Well, you mentioned dispensing, and maybe we’ll kind of continue to talk about that. And of course, if you’re going to dispense something, you want to be able to measure it so you can charge people for what you’re dispensing. And we’ve got to look at quantity, as we talked about in the last Emerson podcast, unlike a liquid, the quantity of gas changes with variations in temperature and pressure. So it does make it a little bit more tricky to do than measuring a liquid. What challenges exist in metering hydrogen, and what products does Emerson have for that?

Marc: Well, I’m glad you asked. This is an area that’s very important to us because we have had a long history of working together with the agencies that help to define and standardized measurement practices that directly affect consumers. And consumer confidence is the ultimate goal here. We all want to be able to go out and buy products that are sold to us by measurement and be confident that those measurements are done in a way that’s always going to be fair and equitable, so that we are charged the right amount for that product we receive. And some of the challenges that are pretty unique to hydrogen are similar to challenges that we’ve learned about for dispensing compressed natural gas. But maybe even on a greater scale. Because the hydrogen is compressed to even higher pressures than natural gas in order to fit more into a vehicle storage tank so that the range of that vehicle before it needs to be refilled can be as good or greater than your typical gasoline-powered or CNG-powered vehicle. And so there are some engineering measures that are made to enable the dispensing equipment and the vehicle that’s receiving the hydrogen to receive the optimum amount while still keeping it in a safe state. And that involves a couple of things that are unique to hydrogen, including pre-cooling of the hydrogen so that as it’s compressed into the vehicle storage, it doesn’t heat up too much. And also, again, as I mentioned, compressing it to an even higher pressure than you would normally find for compressed natural gas, and definitely much higher than liquid fuels that were used to with gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles. So those unique characteristics of the hydrogen make measurement a little bit more challenging, because in that high pressure and precooled state, it tends to flow at very high flow rates and then slows down as the dispensing cycle is completed. And flow metering technologies that can handle that kind of dynamic measurement throughout the entire delivery cycle to guarantee that the total amount that was delivered is represented accurately, is the challenge.

Brian: Well, there’s no question that hydrogen is a very tricky substance to handle, and it’s good to know that Emerson’s got a lot of products around that. So we’ve talked a little bit about the gas and the high temperatures and the flow rates and things. What about other types of dispensing, like for liquid cryogenic hydrogen?

Marc: Brandon had mentioned earlier that hydrogen is one of the coldest liquids when it’s in cryogenic liquid state by being just 20 degrees Kelvin above absolute zero. It makes it challenging from a measurement perspective because that cold of temperature can have ancillary effects on the metering equipment. But the good news is that especially with the Coriolis technology, which is favored for these applications, the modifications in order to make the meter remain accurate at those very cold temperatures are fairly easy to accomplish. And so, combined together with the same type of technology that makes Coriolis technology very capable for those dynamic and high-pressure applications, we have a pretty complete set of product solutions that can be used for these dispensers.

Brian: All right, well, kind of carrying with that idea how have the measurement devices adapted and developed, really to meet these unique needs of hydrogen dispensing?

Marc: I’m glad you asked, because although the solutions are in place, it does require a certain knowledge of how the technology works. And Brandon touched on this earlier when he mentioned the importance of material compatibility. And so the high-pressure hydrogen gas as a vehicle fuel is offered to consumers at two different pressures, and these are 350 bar and 700 bar. And the reason that there are two pressures offered is so that the vehicles that need to be able to go farther can employ the 700-bar filling cycle. But those vehicles that are doing short-term commuting and able to refill more frequently only need to fill up to the 350 bar. In either case, the challenge for meter design to be compatible with both of those different pressures and still have good material compatibility sent us on a search for different types of alloys.

And one of the most common alloys that are very compatible with hydrogen are stainless steels. And there’s one specific version of stainless steel that’s called XM 19, which is an austenitic stainless steel that adds greater strength in the material properties and still maintains that good compatibility with hydrogen so that it’s not subject to the attack that those small hydrogen molecules can have on other materials. And that higher strength is important for Coriolis meter design because we use it in the vibrating flow tubes that are the heart of any Coriolis meter in order to maintain the strength necessary to adapt to either of those two high pressures and still have very good measurement sensitivity with the flow tubes designed optimally using this XM 19 material. And this gives us good reliability, which is what many of the dispenser manufacturers are looking for, because they want these dispensers to be able to be installed and operated on a daily basis without the need for maintenance. And this is one other really desirable characteristic of the Coriolis meters that are the meter of choice for these applications, is that they don’t require ongoing maintenance and they operate for years without really any need for attention at all once they’re installed and commissioned. In fact, some other types of technologies have been tried. And ultimately, for CNG and hydrogen dispensing applications, it’s been determined that the Corolla solution is really the only one that is capable of the very dynamic measuring conditions while still providing the extremely good reliability over time to keep those dispensers operating for years on end with no need for maintenance.

Brian: Excellent. Well, I’m thinking that when it comes to measuring something, of course, you always want to make sure that you’re within calibration. And it sounds like maybe Coriolis meters are inherently pretty accurate. They don’t tend to drift, things like that. But is there some kind of a master meter or something that’s used to really check dispensing. I know whenever you go to a gasoline or a diesel fuel pump, there’s a sticker on the side that’s usually provided by the state saying they’ve certified, that if you’re getting a gallon of gas, you’re really getting a gallon of gas. Is there some kind of a master meter? And how does that work?

Marc: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And I don’t know if consumers really fully appreciate the amount of protection that we all receive from those organizations that are out inspecting gas pumps and scales and grocery stores and all the other equipment that’s used to sell us products and goods by measure. And the challenge of testing a hydrogen dispenser is very similar to the challenge of measuring the hydrogen in the first place. So the gas pumps that you mentioned before are easy to test. You can take out a measured can and fill it up with five gallons of gas and see if it’s really five gallons. Well, it’s not that simple with hydrogen because it’s a compressed gas. So you’ve got to capture that, and there are multiple different ways to do that. But what seems to be the easiest and safest way to do it is to use the same kind of meter that’s inside the dispenser, that is to say, another Coriolis meter. But in this case, as what we like to call a field reference standard or a master meter, it’s under the control of the regulating authority whose job it is to come out and verify that not only are these dispensers measuring accurately, but they stay accurate over years and years. And so there are a whole army of people around the world who travel around and do this testing and for hydrogen dispensers, and also, as it turns out, CNG dispensers. By being able to use the same type of Coriolis metering technology as a controlled field reference standard, they’re able to improve the safety and efficiency of their work.

Brian: Well, thanks, Marc. That’s one of those things that seems so obvious when you stop to think about it. But until you do stop to think about it, you don’t realize that there’s some technology there and this could be an issue. Well, I think as we start to wind this down, I want to thank Marc, you and Brandon for being with us today. Maybe I’ll give you both a chance if some ideas have occurred to you or something we missed talking about before you wind it down. I know. Brandon, have you got any other thoughts? And then after you’re done, maybe Marc can jump in as well, if there’s any last ideas.

Brandon: Yeah, sure, Brian. I’ll just leave everyone with a point that I started with. I mentioned earlier that we at Emerson have been dealing with hydrogen for 35-plus years. But that being said, we’re also learning. In fact, the whole world is learning as hydrogen continues to develop. And so I’m looking forward to engaging with some of the listeners here in the future and working together to continue to take the hydrogen economy forward.

Brian: Okay, thanks, Brandon.

Marc: Yeah, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you both enjoyed being on this podcast together. And the only thing that I would add is that it is an exciting time and as I’m reading and learning more and more about all the different innovative ways that people are coming up with to produce hydrogen and deliver it to consumers. It’s exciting for us to be able to take the technology and the capabilities that we have to help with the solutions that are needed for transporting and then dispensing and helping with the custody transfer part of the hydrogen delivery chain.

Brian: Thank you very much. Marc. Well, there’s no question that renewable electricity alone is not going to replace fossil fuels, so we’ve got to turn to hydrogen for those other cases, and it’s good to know that everybody is working on ways to handle it safely and efficiently and accurately. Well, Brandon, why don’t we finish up with you giving us the Emerson website specific to hydrogen and also if listeners want to reach out to you or to Marc, what’s the best way to contact either one of you?

Brandon: Sure. Well, you can certainly head to our landing page Emerson.com and use the menus there to navigate towards hydrogen, but I’d really say search is your friend. So whether that’s Emerson Hydrogen production or Emerson hydrogen fuel, dispensing, whatever area the value chain you’re interested in, that’s probably the fastest way to get right to some of the expertise and solutions that we provide in terms of reaching out. You can find Marc and I on LinkedIn or if you want to reach out directly by email, our Emerson emails are pretty easy set up as [email protected], so for myself, that’s [email protected]. Or if you want to reach out to Marc, it’s just [email protected].

Brian: Right. And Buttler has got two T’s in it. And I will also put your emails as well as the Emerson website into the show notes for the podcast. Well, again, thank you both of you, for your time to be with us today. It’s been really interesting. And listeners, if you enjoy listening to the HydrogenNowCast, please consider subscribing to the podcast and also give us a rating in your podcast app. Good rating does help us be discovered by other people and of course, word-of-mouth recommendations are really important. So consider letting people in your own network know about the HydrogenNowCast. So once again, I’d like to thank New Day Hydrogen for sponsoring the HydrogenNowCast. New Day Hydrogen is working to build out and deploy hydrogen infrastructure to enable any of us to convert to zero-emission vehicles. And lastly, if you’d like to contact me, as always, I’d love to hear from you and you can reach me through the website at Colorado-Hydrogen.org or on LinkedIn. So until next time, this is Brian DeBruine wishing you health and prosperity. Goodbye.

-End of transcript-

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