British firm boosts hydrogen compression and storage

A British firm is hoping to spur small-scale hydrogen production by making it easier and cheaper to compress and store the gas.

RE Hydrogen has developed a device that it claims can compress hydrogen to the high pressures needed for storage at just 30 per cent of the cost of existing equipment.

The company believes the compressor will make it easier to produce hydrogen from water and electricity using small electrolysers because, unlike most conventional equipment, it can raise the pressure of gas with a small flow rate to 350 bar in a single step.

‘There are very few manufacturers in the world for hydrogen compressors and the cost is often almost higher than an electrolyser,’ RE Hydrogen’s chief executive officer Dr Amitava Roy told The Engineer.

‘You can get large compressors that run at atmospheric pressure, but then you need to have a large electrolyser to work with it. Apart from the high capital costs and low efficiency there is also a high maintenance requirement.

‘We’re focusing on the conventional gas compressing market not just hydrogen, but it will help the hydrogen economy significantly having a low-cost hydrogen compressing device.’

Small-scale hydrogen production is a potential way to capture and store energy from renewable sources and provide fuel for hydrogen-powered vehicles in place of large-scale infrastructure, as well as for industrial usage.

RE Hydrogen has already developed an electrolyser that operates at up to 5KW at atmospheric pressure and is more than 90 per cent cheaper than most conventional models. Its latest compressor is designed to increase pressure from 1 to 350 bar in a single step.

Most conventional devices would either require around five stages of compression with cooling in between to get up to the levels needed for storage or need the hydrogen to be produced at a higher pressure increasing the cost of the electrolyser.

Roy said RE Hydrogen’s technology uses a non-mechanical-based method of compression with few moving parts. It avoids the need for cooling by utilising the heat naturally produced by the compression process and containing it within the system.

The firm has produced a working model of the technology and is now looking for private investment to commercialise it. ‘Most of the parts we buy from the market so the scalability is very straightforward,’ said Roy.