For several centuries , oil, coal and gas have powered advances and improvements in the social and economic conditions of world’s population. Conversely, the burning of these fossil fuels has led to an increase in atmospheric CO2, with all the negative consequences that this implies for our planet, including climate change. However, a new alternative is emerging that may contribute towards decarbonizing the economy: green hydrogen. In addition to being the most abundant chemical element in nature, the main advantage of hydrogen is that its combustion does not emit CO2, only water vapor. If it is also produced by electrolysis of water (breaking of the water molecule by applying an electric current), unlike the most widespread method (methane reforming), CO2 is not emitted during this process either. And if the electricity is generated by renewable sources, that is when hydrogen is called green or renewable.
Bielefeld hydrogen station
Companies are increasingly leveraging the benefits provided by this clean and renewable energy. One of them is Framatome, a leading European corporation in the nuclear industry. With subsidiaries in 23 countries, more than 15,000 employees, and annual sales of more than €3.3 billion, the company is strongly committed to the development of technology, innovation, R&D, and economy decarbonization.
Vicente Soler, green hydrogen and energy storage manager at Framatome Spain, explains: “Greenhouse gas reduction and decarbonization of the economy are top priorities for our company in order to help stop climate change. The design and development of technology and turnkey projects for renewable hydrogen production, storage and supply are key activities for Framatome.” In fact, the company has been developing technology and projects in the fields of renewable hydrogen, energy storage and Smart Grid for more than a decade.
During that time, Framatome has designed, developed, integrated and commissioned facilities for the production, storage and supply of renewable hydrogen, especially HRS for the mobility sector. With mobility in mind, the company has developed a green-hydrogen filling station for sustainable buses in the German city of Bielefeld. Specifically, this hydrogen station has a storage capacity of 1,000 kg of hydrogen, compression from 50 to 500 bar, and dispensing at 350 bar for the new Mobiel buses 24 hours a day.
These hydrogen buses prevent carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air every day with the use of clean, sustainable and environmentally friendly energy. Hydrogen compressor This hydrogen station could not operate without the KS95 hydrogen compressor provided by Spanish company Hiperbaric, the first compressor of its kind for the international market with technology fully developed in Spain.
Located in Burgos, Spain, Hiperbaric initially worked in the high-pressure water business, but has since diversified its portfolio to offer hydrogen-related solutions too. “There are very few companies worldwide focused on high-pressure hydrogen compression, currently one of the major challenges for the success of hydrogen as an energy vector, in order to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and natural gas,” states Alejandro Blanco, sales manager at Hiperbaric.
Hiperbaric’s experience in hydrogen technology resulted in Framatome’s initial contact. “Being a highly recognized world leader in fluid compression systems and having developed equipment capable of compressing hydrogen up to 950 bar, we contacted them to get to know the company, its capacities, and the equipment for hydrogen,” says Soler. “Our decision to acquire a Hiperbaric compressor was simple. It is a solid company with long and successful expertise in the fluid-compression market and has developed robust equipment capable of compressing hydrogen up to very high pressures; exactly what we were looking for.”
Hydrogen must be compressed to extremely high pressures, between 200 and 950 bar, in order to be utilized in a fuel cell vehicle. Blanco explains: “Hiperbaric’s compression-technology solutions include two high-quality, resilient and reliable components that use materials with advanced properties in order to achieve the maximum endurance and a safe operation.”
Specifically, the compressor is a KS95, which has an inlet pressure of up to 20-40 bar and a H2 outlet pressure of up to 950 bar. It includes elements specially designed to compress hydrogen, including a two-stage intensifier cylinder, a hydraulic system, a refrigeration system, a vent circuit, a pneumatic circuit, and the instrumentation and control panel. “The most relevant component of the compressor unit is the high-pressure multiplier. Hiperbaric technology is based on two-stage multipliers, with high hydraulic and cooling efficiencies,” adds Blanco.
Rockwell technology comes into play
Hiperbaric has been using Rockwell Automation technology in its pressurized water machines for many years, and the hydrogen compressor includes several Rockwell components too. “As soon as we started the hydrogen compressor production project, we asked for support from Rockwell Automation, a dependable provider we’ve known for a long time. We feel at ease collaborating with them.”
In this project, in particular, they have opted for a complete Rockwell Automation control system solution with additional security capabilities, something essential in a hydrogen compressor, because it is a very unstable gas. In addition to this, according to Blanco: “It is important to also add the Rockwell communications ring, which allows Rockwell equipment to be interconnected, from the main PLC to the secondary PLCs. This is extremely helpful for us in managing a network with several units with the same equipment. We appreciate the Rockwell programming environment too,” he adds, “especially the easy-to-use interface, and its quick support when we have queries and questions. “
All this technology and the experience of Hiperbaric in the high-pressure market makes it easier for us to meet our goal of creating hydrogen compressors, which offer the most efficient solutions and use less resources for each kilogram of hydrogen compressed,” states Blanco.
Framatome was interested in putting the facility into operation as soon as possible. “This has been achieved thanks to the help and readiness of Hiperbaric, who also streamlined the agreement for the unit supply and delivery,” comments Soler. “Peace of mind comes from working with a company with the experience of Hiperbaric, something very relevant in the first projects of an emerging industry.”
In conclusion, the Bielefeld hydrogen station project is a milestone for the Framatome renewable hydrogen roadmap. “It’s the first project we addressed in the turnkey EPC hydrogen segment, assuming the responsibility as main contractor – and I’m pleased to report that it’s been very successful,” concludes Soler.