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What Is Hydrogen Quality?


Key to the green transition for energy is utilizing hydrogen as an energy source and with that comes hydrogen quality. Hydrogen purity for certain market segments (electrolyzers, hydrogen refueling stations, and fuel cells) can potentially limit market growth as hydrogen impurities can cause irreversible damage to infrastructure and materials. Existing hydrogen monitoring solutions can be cumbersome with regards to the sampling procedure and the time it takes to get results. Most of the time, analysis must be carried out offsite in remote labs and results are not immediate. In some cases, while the purity sampling and analysis occurs, the hydrogen supply must be completely shut off until the results come back clear. The discontinuance is a disruption to the system which is ultimately costly and inefficient.


What Affects Hydrogen Quality?

So hydrogen, as a fuel and gas, in order to be used, it must be clean and pure.

The purity level is defined by:

  1. the concentration of the hydrogen, usually expressed in a percentage and the level of contaminants expressed in ppm/ ppb.

  2. contaminants which are any molecules that are not hydrogen, such nitrogen, humidity, carbon monoxide, sulfur etc.

The different trace levels of impurities are usually defined according to a risk assessment related to different factors in hydrogen production, transportation, storage and use.

Hydrogen quality is already defined by different standards, one of them is the ISO-14687. In order to ensure that hydrogen quality meets the set standards, hydrogen purity testing is necessary.


What Sectors Are Most Impacted by Hydrogen Quality?

Hydrogen quality is an issue that can happen anywhere across the value chain, thus it affects everyone. For example, if contamination occurs during production, this can impact the operation of refueling stations, pose a threat to fuel cell integrity, and ultimately affect consumer trust towards hydrogen.


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, let’s consider production. 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.



The following sectors of the hydrogen market are vigilant about hydrogen quality control:

  1. Hydrogen production: There is a requirement to comply with hydrogen quality standards that are typically monitored through in-house labs, in-line continuous monitoring, or some combination of both.

  2. Hydrogen-based transport and fuel cells: users like fleet managers and fuel cell operators need to confirm that the hydrogen being used is in compliance with ISO in order to keep their assets safe, efficient, and performing optimally. These users periodically measure hydrogen quality with lab tests, but since it is not frequent, there is a greater risk of contamination going unnoticed.

  3. Logistics, storage, and distribution: Here, quality monitoring is a space and time issue meaning that contamination can occur because of long-storage periods or because hydrogen has passed through different steps like cylinders, compressors, and heat exchangers which can affect quality. There is no way to continuously monitor the hydrogen while it's being moved or stored. The only thing that can be done is a periodic lab test.

  4. Hydrogen refueling stations: While hydrogen refueling stations don’t produce hydrogen onsite, the hydrogen comes from different sources. Because of this, it is crucial to ensure that the hydrogen they supply is being provided is good to use because there is a liability to the end-user. Hydrogen refueling stations rely on periodic lab tests where the sampling process poses a risk of contamination.


Conclusion

As you can see, hydrogen quality is an issue that can happen anywhere across the value chain, thus it affects everyone that has a stake in hydrogen, from producers to consumers that need to refuel their hydrogen vehicle. Hydrogen purity testing relies on lab testing but learn more about how you can adopt VOCID H2Confirm in your operations as your hydrogen purity measurement solution.



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