Towards a CO2-neutral factory

The Bilfinger Hydrogen Project. Image courtesy of Spolchemie.

The potential for industry and environment is enormous and the hydrogen boom has long since begun – billion-dollar investments have already been made or are in the planning stages.

Text and images by Messe Düsseldorf

Valves and actuators play a key role in those billion-dollar investments, as they are used along the entire hydrogen process chain. However, the market has such a high dynamic that the definition of a European standard for hydrogen is still lagging behind, and there are currently programmes to investigate the hydrogen compatibility of existing valves. Still, the valve sector has plenty of experience dealing with the medium of H2 already – and can really put their foot down as it is.

“The hydrogen market is very broad,” explains Thomas Weisschuh, Director Product Management and Innovation at AS-Schneider Group. Applications range from generation, storage and transport to use. In electrolysis, in addition to H2, the media of water and oxygen must also be treated. Therefore, valves are very different as far as requirements are concerned – in terms of pressure, temperature and media handling.

Hartmann Valves has already supplied hydrogen wellheads with integrated ball valves for salt cavern storage. Image courtesy of Hartmann Valves.

A great potential that needs leveraging – with regards to the goal of accelerating the energy transition and independence from Russian gas as well. This, for instance, makes pipelines for hydrogen necessary. By 2030, for example, around EUR 2.5 billion are expected to be spent on creating a line from Barcelona to Marseille. Up to ten percent of the EU’s expected demand for green hydrogen could flow through ‘H2Med.’ “The maximum capacity of the Mediterranean pipeline will be two million tons of hydrogen per year,” reports Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI). The pipeline is now to be extended to Germany.

Appropriate controls are required

The hydrogen industry is also increasingly shaped by digitisation and automation. “For us, this means that there are constantly new developments in control solutions for valves,” explains Peter Wegjan, sales engineer for special ball valves at Hartmann Valves. Here, they work together with actuator suppliers “to be able to offer controls tailored to the application.”

One supplier of actuators is AUMA. “Our explosion-proof actuators are suitable for hydrogen,” emphasises Kai Ewald, Head of Sales Oil & Gas. AUMA actuators are used, for example, in the power-to-gas plant of Windgas Haßfurt, where excess wind energy is converted into H2.

With its material suitability testing, Hartmann Valves offers a test enabling checks of existing valves for application with hydrogen. Image courtesy of Hartmann Valves.

They are used for feeding hydrogen into the gas network. The market is booming – with consequences for dimensioning, too. Corresponding systems, modules and pipelines are therefore getting larger and larger. Waldemar Pruss Armaturenfabrik notes a trend towards the increasing importance of systems being maintenance-free.

They are therefore offering special valves for hydrogen applications, which on the one hand meet standards and norms, yet on the other also dispense with maintenance-prone components made of elastomers.

Big things are awaiting the industry

Some things still need clarifying – that is why the regulations of the German Association of Gas and Water (DVGW) are being revised and adapted to the future use of hydrogen. The project’s aim is to investigate the possible applications and limitations of shut-off valves with regards to their H2 impermeability.

In addition, standardisation in Europe is relatively unclear. Some companies apply international standards and databases – such as ASME B31.12 for hydrogen piping and pipelines – and develop an internal standard from this. However, the dynamics of the hydrogen market will also give a strong boost to standardisation. After all, the valve sector is expecting great things in terms of its potential.

About this Featured Story

This Featured Story is an article from our Valve World Magazine, August 2023 issue. To read other featured stories and many more articles, subscribe to our print magazine. Available in both print and digital formats. DIGITAL MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE NOW FREE.

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