You will find numerous hydrogen compressor and pump systems in use today. Types of compressors consist of diaphragm, reciprocating piston, and centrifugal. Pumping systems for hydrogen applications include various kinds of positive displacement systems. Every membrane compressor and pump system operates using various methods, and each is used for specific reasons and for particular marketplaces.

Introducing readers to this particular topic, we requested several hydrogen compressor and pump manufacturers to illustrate the systems used in hydrogen applications today.

Basic principles

Hydrogen will be the simplest and most plentiful element in the world. (See CGI, Feb. 2008, p. 52.) It is an efficient, non-polluting, renewable energy. Growing hydrogen technologies require the storage space and the usage of hydrogen at high demands.

Compressors are used to raise the stress of gaseous hydrogen (H2). In general, nevertheless, liquids are certainly not considered compressible. Pumps consequently are used to boost the pressure of fluid hydrogen (LH2) in the use point by offering a continuing flow. Restrictions and last use back pressure cause the stress increase. LH2 at high-pressure will then be changed into vapor because it passes by way of a vaporizer, and is utilized or stored on the elevated pressure. Gaseous compressors and fluid pumps are generally utilized in hydrogen applications.

Even though basics of compressing and pumping are generic to the majority of gases and liquids, you will find distinctive differences and specifications, such as safety, while confronting hydrogen. One of the largest challenges to utilizing hyrogen is its secure containment, due to the low molecular mass.


The three fundamental varieties of compressors – diaphragm, reciprocating piston, and centrifugal (also referred to as radial) – have various characteristics which make them appropriate for use in different configurations.

Diaphragm Compressors

“Diaphragm compressors,” advises Osama Al-Qasem with Pdc Machines Inc., “are the ideal choice for compressing fumes without having incurring toxic contamination in the procedure mass media or seepage of gas to ambient air.” H2 is remote from the mechanised elements of the compressor and through the atmosphere with a set of three metal diaphragms. They are clamped between two precisely contoured concave cavities in upper and lower dishes. The 3 diaphragms are nested and act with each other as one. The top diaphragm is in contact with the H2 and also the base is in touch with the hydraulic oil. A three-diaphragm set is used to make certain there is not any go across-contamination involving the hydraulic oil and also the H2 being compressed. The center diaphragm, employed for leak detection, has outlines scribed on sides. In case a leak develops in the top or lower diaphragm, or if the O-rings wear, the media will seep across the scribe outlines into an accumulator. When an accumulator pressure gets to a set limit, the oxygen compressor will instantly quit. “As fixed closes are used,” recommends Al-Qasem, “there is not any leakage of gases towards the atmosphere, and no need to purge or vent the crankcase.”

A motor-driven crankshaft connected to a piston moves a column of hydraulic fluid up and down. Pressure happens because the hydraulic liquid is forced upwards to fill up the lower oil-plate cavity, exerting a consistent force against the bottom of the diaphragm set, deflecting it in to the H2-filled gas-dish cavity above. The displacement of the diaphragm against the gasoline-dish cavity squeezes the H2, driving it out the discharge check valve. Since the piston, which movements the hydraulic fluid, strokes downward, the diaphragm is drawn back down to the lower cavity, the inlet check device opens, and also the top cavity fills with H2. The cycle is repetitive.

The key advantage to diaphragm compressors is there is not the issue for leakage similar to other compressors or pumping systems.

Stephen St. Martin of Gas & Air Systems, Inc. reviews that “Diaphragm compressors are used to compress H2 in tube trans-filling and tube trailer offloading procedures, and then for gasoline recuperation from the vapor space of cryogenic storage space vessels. Because of its high pressure capability, and inherently oil-free pressure, the diaphragm compressor is also commonly used in car hydrogen fueling stations, where demands of 10,000 psi and above are presently used.”

The hydrogen fuel cell requires extremely-wholesomeness H2 to function properly. “The diaphragm compressors,” according to Osama Al-Qasem, “are created to provide precisely this function. Hundreds of diaphragm compressors happen to be set up globally as part of the renewable energy program to discover option sources for oil.” Al-Qasem states that 85 to 90 % of the market needing diaphragm compressors were supplied by Pdc.

Diaphragm compressors are ideal for high pressure programs. It is far from surprising that diaphragm compressors are perfect for hydrogen programs, especially in the development from the growing hydrogen economy. Osama Al-Qasem pointed out one distinctive and fascinating emerging “double-green” technology. Pdc has compressors used along with wind turbines. The electrical energy from wind turbines can be employed to provide a water electrolyzer to electrochemically divided water into its elements, hydrogen and oxygen. One function that creates the marriage of those two technologies this kind of interesting match is that the electrolyzer can operate with adjustable power enter, as windmills turn at different speeds, according to the wind. Hydrogen therefore produced is compressed and kept for later use, either inside a fixed energy cell to generate electricity if you have no wind, or even to supply a hydrogen vehicle.

Hydrogen compressor programs are many. They consist of utilizing solar energy to electrolyze water to create H2, which, like the windmill application, will then be compressed and kept for later on use, either inside a fixed fuel cell to generate electricity if you have no sunlight, or energy a hydrogen car. Compressors are employed at hydrogen energy cell stations, such as those for vehicles, buses, fork-lifts, scooters, and household re-fuelers for energy cell (FC) vehicles; for filling and away-loading H2 from pipe trailers, gasoline cylinders, and storage tanks; for the compression of syngas from green resources; and then for wind and solar energy. H2 compressors are used in these disparate programs as gasoline mixing, trying to recycle, and combining, metal handling, hydrogenation of delicious oils, specialty gas filtering, float glass creation, and energy plant turbine chilling. Fumes for semiconductor, electronic devices and fiber optics manufacturing need compressors. They are also used for feedstock for chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutic industries, pressure boosting and storage space of fumes from on-site generation techniques, and then for power back-up utilizing hydrogen FC for telecom towers, as well as study and development.

Multi-phase Reciprocating Piston Compressors

Multiple-phase reciprocating piston compressors are generally employed for pressure of H2 gas. Piston compressors work on a simple theory. Rick Turnquist, with RIX Sectors instructs, “The piston inside a large cylinder forces a set level of gasoline into a smaller sized tube, thereby causing a pressure improve. This is based on the perfect gasoline legislation, which in abbreviated type is: PV=nT (pressure by volume = Moles of gasoline by temperature). Thus as volume goes down, pressure increases (note after the final stage pressure improve is forced by the back pressure in the user’s tank or piping).”

Turnquist goes on to describe that “H2 compressors are similar to these utilized to compress other gases; nevertheless you will find sometimes design differences because of the very small molecular size of the H2. These may be: an exclusive device style; unique piston ring materials; overlapping piston ring style to reduce seepage; lower compression ratios; or cylinder and head castings may have to be impregnated to stop leakages due to casting porosity. Additionally, the quality of steel found in the compression end components may have to be altered.”

Hydrogen, like all gases, is heated up by pressure. “Intercooling” from the gasoline is needed when using multiple-stage high pressure compressors.

The greatest finish-customers of multiple-stage reciprocating oil free screw compressor are refineries and chemical substance plants. Clients include this kind of companies as Air Items, Praxair, and Chevron Research. These compressors are also utilized lrnhbl some refueling applications, for syngas, pilot vegetation, and laboratory R&D.

Centrifugal Compressors

Centrifugal compressors are rarely utilized for hydrogen programs because of the molecule’s reduced molecular weight. Nevertheless, centrifugal compressors are used in cryogenic H2 applications where flow is comparatively high and also the pressure head preferred is relatively low. Barbers Nichols Inc. (BNI), designer and producer of specialty turbo-machinery, has made cryogenic H2 centrifugal compressors for just two applications. These two programs involve sub-chilling H2 by sketching down fluid boil-away gas pressure listed below atmospheric. Jeff Shull, with Barber Nichols, explains that “this creates a more dense liquid that can then be applied inside a rocket better (takes up less space and decreases overall weight). BNI utilized four separate centrifugal stages (four single stage machines each having a engine) to draw in down pressure to approximately 3 psia having an atmospheric stress outlet and runs to get a propellant densification test at NASA. BNI’s H2 cryogenic compressors employ a motor and bearings working at space heat with an overhung impeller over a hollow shaft to minimize warmth enter to the fluid. No powerful closes are utilized so designs are hermetic. BNI also has provided a number of H2 circulators in supercritical applications (supercritical H2 is more like a fluid than a gasoline, however) for cryogenic chilling.”

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