Optimizing clear hydrogen production with mass flow meters
As hydrogen is generated from diverse sources such as electrolysis, oil and gas refining, natural processes, and more, researchers use color-coded names, referenced as the hydrogen rainbow, to differentiate among the specific hydrogen production methods.
Some of the least sustainable methods for hydrogen production are blue and grey hydrogen which originate from steam reforming during oil and gas processing as well as brown and black hydrogen which originate from coal processing. Although these are currently the most prevalent hydrogen production methods, producing 95% of all current hydrogen, they also rely on fossil fuels as inputs and produce CO2 which is either released to the atmosphere or stored, mitigating the positive effects of hydrogen production on climate change.
More renewable sources of hydrogen include green, pink, and red hydrogen which use clean energy sources such as solar, wind, and nuclear energy to power them. Naturally-derived processes which generate hydrogen underground and can be powered by renewables include white, orange, and gold hydrogen that each involve processes of natural extraction, CO2 sequestration, and microbial sparging.
Adding clear hydrogen to the hydrogen rainbow
Proton Energy Systems, a Canadian-based company, has emerged recently to integrate a new color, clear hydrogen, into the hydrogen rainbow which offers some unique advantages relative to the other colors including:
- Lowest claimed cost of hydrogen production around $0.25/Kg
- Zero carbon emissions
As like gold hydrogen, Proton’s clear hydrogen is produced from hydrocarbon deposits in abandoned oil wells. In contrast to gold hydrogen which is made by injecting bacteria that convert residual hydrocarbons into CO2 and H2 gases, clear hydrogen works by injecting oxygen into these residual hydrocarbons to drive chemical and geothermal reactions that produce hydrogen. Once this H2 is produced, it is then collected for storage, transport, or use through selective hydrogen membrane filters.
As like gold hydrogen, clear hydrogen allows “second use” of old oil and natural gas assets, extending the profitability of drilling projects and allowing oil and gas companies to find new revenue sources as hydrogen’s use increases and hydrocarbon use decreases over time.
For the first time ever, the world invested as much money to replace fossil fuels as it spent on oil, gas and coal in 2022 at 1.1 trillion dollars. In the US, the Inflation Reduction Act has recently brought large investments into the hydrogen industry, as companies can receive up to 3 dollars in tax credits for each Kg of hydrogen produced. In the EU, billions of dollars have been distributed for hydrogen research via the IPCEI Hy2Tech initiative. As a result, the timing is perfect for clear hydrogen and other renewable hydrogen colors to emerge as global leaders in the hydrogen economy.
Potential uses of Alicat flow metering for natural hydrogen production process
In order to scale clear hydrogen production, mass flow meters and controllers could be integrated to perform hydraulic tests on geological sites, to precisely track the inflow and outflow of oxygen, hydrogen and other gases, to calibrate other flow devices, and to automate industrial processes.
By knowing exactly how much oxygen and hydrogen flow occurs using an M-Series mass flow meter, companies generating, storing, or flowing clear hydrogen or other natural hydrogen generation methods can automate industrial processes based on real-time temperature, flow, or pressure data from the meter. Alicat’s M-Series provides real time, near-instantaneous multivariate data for mass flow, volumetric flow, pressure, and temperature which can be integrated into a PLC or computer system for data analysis, automation, and control of other system components such as electronic valves and heaters.
Compared to other mass flow meters for this application, Alicat’s M-Series is advantageous for:
- Superior flow rate accuracy, measurement range, and repeatability
- Batching and totalizing features
- Comprehensive automation and communication options
For calibration purposes, Alicat’s M-Series can be used as an all-in-1 solution with NIST-traceable accuracy up to ±0.5% of reading or ±0.1% of full scale. M-Series also offers a superior flow measurement range of 0.01% to 100% of full scale (10,000:1).
M-Series features and specs include:
- Full scale ranges of 0.5 SCCM to 5,000 SLPM
- Measurement range of 0.01% – 100% of full scale
- Accuracy up to ±0.5% of reading or ±0.1% of full scale, whichever is greater
- Pressure rated up to 160 PSIA (11 barA)
Alicat’s devices are widely used within the hydrogen industry for fuel cell test stands, leak testing, hydrogen production, storage, and transport, as well as many additional research applications. In total, Alicat devices have been cited in over 1,000 peer-reviewed papers and used within additional industries such as aerospace, glass manufacturing, chromatography and spectroscopy, chemical vapor deposition, and bioreactor manufacturing.