As the world seeks to limit the effects of climate change, hydrogen produced with renewable energy is anticipated to become a major source of cleaner energy not only to provide heat to domestic buildings and industry but also hydrogen to fuel cars, airplanes, trains, and ships. Hydrogen as an energy source for industry is new technology which brings many layers of economic and technical complexity. In particular, a common idea is that the transition will include at least one intermediate step, blue hydrogen, on the journey from grey to green. Each stage of the transition will present a set of technical and commercial challenges.
It is fortunate that infrastructure for compressed gases, including hydrogen, has already been developed for chemical and petrochemical operations.2 Victrex polyether ether ketones (PEEK) based components have performed critical sealing, isolation, compression, storage, and distribution functions for many years. It is anticipated that translation and adaptation of PEEK-based technologies will enable accelerated development of future hydrogen supply chains.
HYDROGEN SUPPLY CHAIN
For hydrogen as a fuel source to be cost competitive, secure, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly, options for technology need to be carefully considered. A future hydrogen supply chain will likely be complex – there may be multiple means of production, conversion, storage, transport, and end use (Figure 1).
Common goals for these multiple pathways are anticipated to include:
- Reducing emissions (lower permeability)
- Increasing efficiency (high strength-to-weight ratio, low friction and wear)
- Increasing reliability and service life (chemical resistance, temperature resistance)
- Mitigating EH&S risk (reduced emissions)
From production of gas to usage there are multiple stages of storage and offloading, each of which demands accurate and safe transfer of hydrogen. Here polymers and elastomers are essential components of the supply chain, from liquefaction to gasification. 1,4
Figure 1. Production, distribution, and end-uses of hydrogen.3
VICTREX PEEK POLYMER SOLUTIONS
VICTREX™ PEEK and its formulations provide a unique combination and range of high performance properties – its structure from molecular to macroscopic scales contributes to high strength/ toughness at extreme temperatures, low permeability, low friction, and high wear resistance needed for seals, valves, and packings.
- Extreme Temperature: strength/toughness at very low (cryogenic) to high temperatures.
- Weight Reduction at Equivalent Stiffness: up to 70-85% lower weight at equivalent stiffness compared to some metals. Higher strength-to-weight ratio enables higher efficiency.
- Tribological Performance: ability to perform in hydrodynamic, mixed friction, boundary lubrication, and even dry conditions.
- Stable Properties: retention of properties in corrosive, contaminated, and low/high temperature service conditions.
- Tunable Properties: PAEK and PEEK polymers are thermoplastic and consequently can be melt formulated with additives to enable design of properties for purpose.
PEEK APPLICATIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF HYDROGEN
Relating the needs of the hydrogen supply chain to steps within the infrastructure suggests potential value PEEK may bring to specific applications (Table 4).
Table 4. Potential PEEK solutions in the Hydrogen Supply Chain
Victrex PEEK-based components have been used in existing infrastructure for distribution of gases including hydrogen for many years. Adaptation of existing PEEK-based sealing, isolation, and compression technologies is anticipated to be a practical means to realize the energy transition to hydrogen on an accelerated timeline. These benefits, technical attributes, and an existing manufacturing base of processors/moulders, tier 1 suppliers, and OEMs should enable rapid scalable production. With over 40 years of experience, Victrex expertise can support the development of the next generation of components needed for the hydrogen supply chain.
- Barth, R.R., Simmons, K.L., San Marchi, C.W. (2020, April) Heading for Hydrogen DNV.GL, https://www.dnv.com/oilgas/hydrogen/heading-for-hydrogen.html
- “Hicks, S., Gross, P. (January 20, 2016) Hydrogen for refineries is increasingly provided by industrial suppliers - Today in Energy - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=24612#:~:text=Hydrogen%20for%20refineries%20is%20increasingly%20provided%20by%20industrial%20suppliers,-Source%3A%20U.S.%20Energy&text=Refineries%20use%20hydrogen%20to%20lower,regulations%20have%20become%20more%20stringent
- Staffell, I., Scamman, D., Velazquez Abad, A., Balcombe, P., Dodds, P.E., Elkins, P., Shah, N., Ward, K.R.(2019) . Energy Environ. Sci., 12, 463
- Aarnes, J., Eijgelaar, M., Hektor, E.A. (2018) Hydrogen as an Energy Carrier [white paper] . DNV.GL, https://www.itm-power.com/images/NewsAndMedia/Reports/New_energy_value_chains_Hydrogen_as_an_energy_carrier_DNV-GL_November_20.pdf
About the author
Erin Coates, Segment Technology Manager, Energy
Erin joined Victrex in 2013 as a scientist and is now the Segment Technology Manager for the Energy business unit, driving material research, testing and analysis across multiple Energy segments. She holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc), Chemistry from the University of Leeds and is a Member Chartered Chemist of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK.