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Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Lab Dr. Jacob Leachman

Hydrogen Compression: The Challenge

In March of 2013, it was stated by Mr. Bill Elrick of the California Fuel Cell Partnership that one of the hindrances to deployment of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) is the lack of standardization and codes.1 The U.S. Department of Energy states, “It is projected that the current state of hydrogen compressor technology will not be able to meet future infrastructure demands in a cost-effective manner.”2. Currently, the best that hydrogen compressor technology can give us is compression of hydrogen gas using methods that result in considerable wear to hydrogen compressors. Research is now being conducted to solve this problem. A team of researchers at FuelCell Energy was recognized in 2009 for the development of a single-stage electrochemical hydrogen compressor (EHC) design that is able to compress hydrogen up to 6,000 psi. The main advantage of their design is the lack of moving parts.2 Additionally, research has been done by a team of researchers in China in order to attempt to discover the root cause of reciprocating piston hydrogen compressor failure. The paper submitted by this team describes experimental validation of two hypotheses: (1) That piston sealing ring failure is due to non-uniform pressure distribution, and (2) that failure of pistons is due to severe impact. Based on these discoveries, parameters were set forth for the design of better reciprocating hydrogen compressors.3 Likewise, research has been done to try to discover the cause of failure for diaphragm compressors.4

So hydrogen compressor design is still in its early stages. New designs are being invented and older designs are being updated for use with hydrogen. In terms of reliability, our most promising design is the scroll compressor. It has the fewest moving parts and is the technology that is the farthest along in development. In terms of getting the desired pressure, the reciprocating piston design is best. This method of compression has been utilized many times and perfected. The main flaw, though, is reliability. So our challenge is to find a compressor that is both reliable and functional for our needs.



Related codes and standards:


(1) Ahmed and E. Sutherland. 2013 Hydrogen Compression, Storage, and Dispensing Cost Workshop Final Report. USDOE.
(2) “Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Award Success Story.”
(3) Yu, Wang. “Research on sealing performance and self-acting valve reliability in high-pressure oil-free hydrogen compressors for hydrogen refueling stations.” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Vol. 35, Issue 15, August 2010, pages 8063-8070.
(4) Rohatgi, Aashish. “Investigation of H2 Diaphragm Compressors to Enable Low-Cost Long-Life Operation.” DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program.

Washington State University