The hydrogen value chain has very complicated factors interplaying between stakeholders, thus it is crucial to monitor hydrogen quality across the supply chain to ensure the fuel’s purity and cleanliness. Hydrogen has a dynamic life cycle, from multiple modes of production, to distribution, storage, and end-use. As hydrogen goes from point to point across the supply chain, it must stay contamination-free.
While the supply chain can be described as shown in the diagram above, below is a simplified adaptation that shows the energy input or source of the production, along with the upstream, midstream, and downstream segments of the value chain. Let’s consider these areas in general:
Energy input: the source of energy that is used to convert different raw materials into hydrogen, such as nuclear energy or renewable energy.
Upstream: Refers to the production method, such as steam methane reforming (SMR) or electrolysis. To denote the production method, often hydrogen colors are used, such as ‘green hydrogen’ for hydrogen produced from renewable energy with electrolysis.
Midstream: Refers to how the hydrogen is distributed before going to the end-users or further, such as via pipelines or non-pipeline methods (such as LOHC). Sometimes, this step is skipped if production occurs on-site before end-use.
Downstream: Refers to how hydrogen is being used by the final consumers, such as to supply power, industry processes, heating in buildings, or to supply fuel cell-based transportation such as heavy-duty vehicles.
It is important to note that based on where you are in the value chain, you will have different needs for monitoring hydrogen quality.
For example, the method of hydrogen production affects the type of hydrogen contamination. If you produce hydrogen from SMR, you are more likely to see contaminants that are carbon-based like CO and CO2. On the other hand, if you produce hydrogen from electrolyzers, you are more likely to see contaminants like oxygen, and water residues like humidity. So based on where you are in the value chain, you have different needs and motivations when monitoring hydrogen quality!
Examples of Monitoring Hydrogen Quality in the Supply Chain
As mentioned previously, based on where you are on the hydrogen supply chain, you have different needs and motivations for monitoring hydrogen quality. Here are some examples:
Hydrogen production: Quality must be ensured in order to confirm compliance with high hydrogen purity standards. Given that there is a requirement to comply with hydrogen quality standards, monitoring can be achieved through: in-house labs or in-line continuous monitoring, or some combination of both. With these two methods, you can ensure that the hydrogen you sell is clean and in compliance with the relevant standards.
Hydrogen-based transport and fuel cells: For hydrogen users like fleet managers and fuel cell operators, the topic of hydrogen purity and fuel cells is very important because they need to confirm that the hydrogen being used is in compliance with ISO in order to keep their assets safe, efficient and performing optimally, preventing damage from possible contaminations. Since the hydrogen supply is often bought and sold, it is crucial that they know the fuel is clean. These users periodically measure with lab tests, but since it is not frequent, this means they can risk contamination to occur.
Logistics, storage and distribution: For logistics, storage, and distribution, quality monitoring is both a space and time issue meaning that contamination can occur because of long-storage periods or because that hydrogen has passed through different instructions like cylinders, compressors, and heat exchangers, all which can affect quality. There is no way to continuously monitor the hydrogen while it is being moved or stored. The only thing that can be done here is a periodic lab test.
Hydrogen refueling stations: Last but not least are the hydrogen refueling stations which have high liability towards the end-users. Most often hydrogen refueling stations do not produce the hydrogen on-site but have it arrive from different sources and because of this they need to ensure that the hydrogen being provided is good to use as contaminations impact the integrity of the fuel cell. For the purpose of monitoring hydrogen quality, hydrogen refueling stations rely on periodic lab tests where on-site sampling from the supply poses a contamination-risk.
All in all, hydrogen quality monitoring is an important topic given that hydrogen contamination can occur at any point of the supply chain. Poor hydrogen quality can affect the entire value chain, including by reducing operations, such as when contamination occurs during production, halting the operation of refueling stations, damaging fuel cells, and ultimately affecting consumer trust towards hydrogen. If you need to monitor hydrogen quality in real time, please contact us today.