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Hydrogen Storage

Hydrogen Storage

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Published by Christopher Lawson
solar, Hydrogen, alternative energy
solar, Hydrogen, alternative energy

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Published by: Christopher Lawson on Jun 26, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Home Power #59 June / July 1997 
ydrogen storage is needed forhomes, businesses, and vehicles,to realize the dream of the SolarHydrogen Age. Since hydrogen gas isuseful as a fuel for cooking, heating,electricity production, and vehiclepropulsion, we need a way to store thesolar hydrogen made during the day foruse at night, and seasonally as well.
For more insight on how this wonderful fuel can beused and produced see HP# 33 and 43 for articles oncooking with hydrogen, HP# 34 for space heating withhydrogen, HP# 35 for making electricity with hydrogen,and HP# 22, 36, 39 for articles on hydrogen productionfrom PV and wind electricity.Most home energy use occurs in the evening whenthere is no solar hydrogen production occurring from ahome hydrogen plant. Over-night hydrogen storage cansolve this problem. Summer-time solar hydrogenproduction can meet or exceed home consumptionrequirements. Winter-time hydrogen demand (forheating) is maximum at the time when solar hydrogenproduction is at a minimum. Seasonal home storagecan correct this out-of-phase relationship.Vehicles require on-board storage of hydrogen fuel, andfuel providers away from home (service stations)require larger bulk hydrogen storage capacity. Storageoptions for hydrogen to be used at home areconsidered in this article.
What are some of the storage options forhydrogen?
Many different schemes have been investigated andapplied in research programs and demonstrations sincethe first “oil shock” in 1973. Some of the options arelisted below:compressed hydrogen gas (CHG) in cylinders ortankstethered balloon, “bag”, or water displacement tank(low pressure CHG)hydrogen adsorbed into metal to form metal hydride(MH)liquid hydrogen (LH
) in cryogenic tankadsorption on high-surface-area carbon powder intankencapsulation in glass micro-spheres (experimental)adsorption on carbon “nano-tubes” (experimental)in water (H
O) (not a “fuel”)
Walt Pyle
 ©1997 Walt Pyle
Above: LPG tanks used as medium pressure storage for hydrogen and oxygen.
in ammonia (NH3)in liquid hydro-carbons: gasoline, diesel fuel, alcohol,liquid natural gas (LNG), propane or butane (LPG),etc.in gaseous hydrocarbons: compressed natural gas(CNG), bio-gas, etc.The first three hydrogen storage optionsabove, CHG, MH, and LH
, are the “state-of-the-art” methods most frequentlyapplied in vehicular and stationaryapplications. The energy densityof different hydrogen storageoptions are shown below, andcompared to that of gasoline.The last two hydrogen storage options, usingliquid and gaseous hydro-carbons, are thefossil-fuels that dominate our global fuelproduction and consumption systems today.For example, a large amount of hydrogen isadded to petroleum feedstock to makegasoline. These liquid hydrocarbon fuels arewidely used in transportation because of theirextremely high energy density.In this article we are focusing on the CHG and MHstorage options, since they are the easiest to implementfor home power applications at this time. LH
production requires a large energy-expenditure forrefrigeration to liquefy gaseous hydrogen. LH
isprimarily used for transportation applications, so wechoose not to elaborate on this method now. We also“gloss over” the experimental hydrogen storage optionsin this article, since their values are still being proven.
Safety First!
If hydrogen is to be stored, it must first be made safe tostore. Hydrogen and air, or hydrogen and oxygen
Home Power #59 • June / July 1997 
mixtures are not safe to store if the O
contamination issignificant. Hydrogen has much wider flammable andexplosive limits compared to other fuels, especially inhydrogen-rich mixtures with air or oxygen. Hydrogenflammable limits are shown on page 16 and comparedto some common fossil fuels.Hydrogen should never be stored unless it is well belowthe lower flammable limit (LFL). Normally, industrystandards for storage safety call for well below 0.25LFL, (or less than 1% oxygen in the hydrogen.) To meetthis standard, some way of accurately measuring theoxygen contaminant in the produced solar hydrogenmust be available. Some hydrogen sensors are listed inthe access section at the end of this article
Hydrogen GasHydrogen GasOxygen GasHydrogenPurifierElectricPowerControllerElectricUtilityGridElectrolyteTankMakeupWaterPurifierOxygenPurifierElectrolyzer
   P   V    M  o  d  u   l  e  s
Gross Energy Densities of Various Fuel Systems
Gravimetric Energy Density (MJ/kg)
   V  o   l  u  m  e   t  r   i  c   E  n  e  r  g  y   D  e  n  s   i   t  y   (   M   J   /   L   )
Hydrogen in Metal HydridesCyclohexane/ BenzeneHydrazineAmmoniaMethanolGasolineLiquidMethaneCompressedGaseousHydrogenLiquid Hydrogen
Solar Hydrogen System
Home Power #59 June / July 1997 
Medium-pressure CHG storage tanks are characterizedas having smaller size and greater weight, for a givenstorage capacity, relative to low-pressure CHG tanks.
Safety First!
Tanks intended for use with significant hydrogenpressure should be hydrostatically tested to at leasttwice the intended operating pressure, and equippedwith a suitable pressure release device. All storagetanks for hydrogen should be installed outdoors, neverinside buildings or enclosed spaces. Aflash-backarrestor should be used on each of the tank’s input andoutput lines to prevent flame propagation, in the event aflammable mixture forms due to any mistake or systembreak-down.
High Pressure CHG Storage
This is the densest compressed hydrogen gas storageoption. Acompressor is normally used to increase thehydrogen pressure. Typical storage pressures of 140 to400 bar (2000 to 5800 psig) maximum are used inwelding cylinders, tube trailers, and composite-fibercylinders. It is possible to eliminate the hydrogencompressor by operating the hydrogen productionprocess at the desired high pressure, for example, byusing a high-pressure electrolyzer.Most merchant CHG that is used for welding or otherindustrial purposes is handled in steel cylinders thatcontain 5.7 to 8.5 m
(200 to 300 scf). These smallcylinders are about 1.4 m high and 0.2 m diameter (56inches high and 8 inches diameter). When we havevisited hydrogen demonstration projects we observedlots of these small cylinders in use. Usually, they wereall empty! When we recently filled-up one of our smallcylinders with 99.95 % welding purity CHG at our localsupplier, it cost $22.50 for the gas, or, about 10 centsper scf. Acylinder of electronic grade high purityhydrogen costs about three times as much.
Hydrogen Flammability Limits Compared to Other Fuels
   V  o   l  u  m  e   %
0102030405060708090100Hydrogenin AirMethanein AirPropanein AirGasolinein AirHydrogenin Oxygen75159.57.693.94.712.15458.918.26.3143.31.19015Flammability LimitsDetonation Limits
Compressed Hydrogen Gas (CNG)
CHG is one of the simplest methods for storinghydrogen fuel for later use. The hydrogen storagedensity becomes greater as the pressure is increased.Hydrogen production from an electrolyzer can providepressures suitable for storage at low and mediumpressures.Low-pressure CHG is the basis for balloon or “bag”storage, often seen used for weather balloons or for“bag” storage of fuel gas. The same principle is appliedto hydrogen storage that has been used for natural gasstorage at low pressure: bus roof storage bags andunderground water displacement tanks. Low-pressuretanks are widely used in China and India for storage ofbio-gas fuels.Pressures in these low-pressure CHG containers areonly slightly above atmospheric pressure, and they arecharacterized by very large volume and low containerweight.
Medium Pressure CHG Storage
This type of storage has been done using tanksoriginally designed for air or propane (LPG) service.Typically these tanks are rated for about 17 bar (250psig) maximum pressure in the intended service, andde-rated to 4.1 to 8.6 bar (60 to 125 psig) maximumwhen used for storing hydrogen.The tank alloy should be low-carbon steel or anothermaterial resistant to, or unaffected by, hydrogenembrittlement (weakening) of the tank alloy. High-carbon steel tanks are not appropriate for storinghydrogen under pressure. To avoid hydrogen tankembrittlement, avoid steels that are: a) cold-rolled orcold-forged, or b) have weld hard spots in excess ofabout Vickers Hardness Number 260.Non-metal tanks such as composite-fiber tanks avoidhydrogen embrittlement concerns and de-rating.

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