75 years ago, just one year after the end of the Second World War, Hans Bauer started to produce compressors at his parent’s property. Never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined that he was laying down the foundation for a global corporation that today has 350 accredited sales partners and 600 service centres worldwide.

Born out of a single-plant operation in Munich, when the original product designed and sold by Bauer Kompressoren was a compressor block positioned on the back of a tractor and used to inflate tyres, the company now continues to innovate and has progressively adapted its compressor offering to fit with many different applications.

Bauer’s first global expansion came in 1976 with the foundation of Bauer Compressors in Norfolk, Virginia. And today, its expansive product offering for breathing air and industrial compressors supports the following segments: fire stations, military installations, industrial manufacturing, oil & gas, biogas, CNG for transportation, helium recovery, nitrogen generation, gas assist injection, and others.

Speaking to gasworld in a recent interview, Brice Jones, Vice-President of Industrial Sales at Bauer, said, “Having 75 years of compressor manufacturing experience, which we continually build upon and innovate from, is what allows us to provide the most technically advanced compressors within the segments we serve. Bauer Compressor’s overarching aim is to build a better tomorrow for future generations by offering outstanding and innovative products.”

Helium compressors

A resource that’s limited here on Earth, helium, and the helium market, is a key focus for Bauer, with the company’s helium compressor limiting the waste of the resource through the use of recycling. 

“Even though helium is thought to be one of the most abundant elements in the Universe because of the fusion reaction that happens in stars, it’s exceedingly rare on Earth and comprises only 5.2 ppm of Earth’s atmosphere. The major sources for helium on Earth are natural gas deposits that can contain up to 2.7% helium. Because helium is a limited resource, users of helium are motivated to recycle helium if at all possible,” Jones explained.

“For cryogenic applications, a closed loop recirculation system to re-compress helium which comes out of the exhaust gas of the system is the preferred method. This is where Bauer Compressors factors into the equation. Our helium compressors make this recycle loop possible.”

Bauer first became involved in the helium market in Europe due to the lack of natural resources available. Jones explained that back then, there weren’t many natural gas deposits in Europe from which helium could be extracted so the market was heavily motivated to recycle as much helium as possible. As a result of this, Bauer started selling helium compressors to the European market a number of decades ago with the first applications being for reclamation of helium for University research.

Today, Bauer’s current VERTICUS G-Series line of helium compressors are at the heart of its helium-focused applications, with its line of compressors ranging from 7.5 HP (5.5 kW) all the way up to 350 HP (260 kW).

“Our G-Series compressors have a maximum allowable discharge pressure of 5,000 PSIG (345 BAR) for helium, but this is always dependent on the application and what suction pressure is available to the compressor. Our standard electrical drives for the US market would be in either 230V/1PH/60Hz or 230-460V/3PH/60Hz,” Jones explained.

He continued, “Our helium compressor line is specifically designed to compress helium with the tolerances for this gas being much tighter than for air or nitrogen. Our internal material selection is also affected by the higher operating temperatures of helium during compression.”

“Our compressor designs also include a combined high-pressure stage guide/compression piston that utilises state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. Also, with Bauer locations in 20 countries, we have the ability to build to any standard for any country worldwide. For these reasons, Bauer’s compressors are the current gold standard for helium compression in the industry.”

Applications

Continuing the conversation with gasworld, Jones explained that universities still remain a big customer for Bauer’s helium compressors. For research labs, the Bauer’s helium compressors are reclaiming helium used during the process of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, which relies on superconducting magnets and liquid helium.

Alongside supplying universities, Jones also identified recovery and compression systems for liquid cooling used in research institutions, particle accelerators, nuclear medicine, aerospace, and military missile applications as other key markets for the company.

Helium recovery and compression are also used in general industrial applications, component leak testing, commercial merchant gas filling plants, heliostat applications, helium mining, and manufacturing of semiconductors.

Market trends and new product releases 

Teasing new product launches, Jones said Bauer is currently focused on larger system designs that include water cooled, heat rejection systems. According to Jones, the higher flow systems will be used in the helium mining process and will include outdoor enclosures and hazardous zone capabilities.

“The compressor blocks are already designed, and our focus now is on completing the overall package designs,” he enthused. “It’s important to note that our water-cooled systems do not require an external source of water supply and associated cooling towers. Our water/glycol systems will be closed loop and integrated into the overall package. These will be high spec, high flow systems offering a nice complement to our existing line of helium compressors.”

“We see demand for helium increasing throughout 2021 and the years ahead as the Pandemic begins to subside. With the shortages in helium, we saw before the Pandemic, there is already a push to find new supplies, and we’re hearing about new deposits in Canada, Russia, & Qatar. Of course, helium mining in the US will continue to be strong and this is why we’re focusing on adding larger systems to our portfolio that will allow higher volumes of helium to be compressed and stored as part of the mining process.”

“The industry needs long term reliable supply sources of helium so it’s encouraging to hear about these other projects that will be happening in other countries. Along with the increase in supplies, there will still be a portion of the market that hasn’t forgotten about the previous supply shortages and increase in pricing. Our hope is that there are more and more customers that decide to install helium recovery systems to recycle every bit of helium they can. There will also continue to be strong demand from the semiconductor industry, so we want to continue to support that customer base with industry leading products.”

“Overall, we’re excited about the helium outlook for the foreseeable future, and we’ll continue to deliver compression systems that allow our customers to get the most out of this very limited resource.”