In a world increasingly turning its attentions towards hydrogen and LNG as fuels of the future, the equipment that makes these resources tick as a viable alternative is as important as ever.

Both hydrogen and LNG are seen as potentially hazardous and costly resources, yet they are also held in high regard across the globe as future energy solutions.

For the former, it’s thought that there’s still a long way to go to prove its safety and viability. As for the latter, much of the battle has already been won, with LNG-fuelled economies becoming commonplace throughout different corners of the world.

Ensuring this resource is ever more efficient and delivers value-added payload is an ongoing challenge. If knowledge and expertise are key to this goal, then industrial gas and equipment companies like Cryostar SAS could unlock the fuel’s potential even further.

Cryostar has evolved from a European cryogenic pump company to a global powerhouse, increasingly involved in clean energy and LNG – alongside its commitments to major industrial gas and hydrocarbon projects.

LNG ships have been the main driver for recent Cryostar growth, thought to be due to a boom in ship construction in recent years and the introduction of reliquefaction units for larger ships – which had significantly boosted Cryostar’s turnover. Revenue for such technology was thought to be 4-5 times that of previous Cryostar scope for smaller LNG ships.

This was a subject gasworld discussed with Cryostar President Daniel Meyer in winter 2008.

Back then, Meyer suggested that there would be a slowdown in LNG ship demand beyond 2009, yet also hinted at new opportunities on the horizon and ‘other applications around LNG and natural gas that Cryostar can pursue’.

More specifically, Meyer told gasworld of other exciting potential uses for reliquefaction technology going forward, but remained tight-lipped beyond that suggestion.

Fast-forward two years, and we may now have a much clearer idea about Cryostar’s developments in the field of on-board reliquefaction technology for LNG ships. In our interview of the month with the company’s Director of Process & Shipboard Products, Bernard Mann, we learn that Cryostar has made significant breakthroughs in value-added LNG carrier propulsion.

Mann explained how Cryostar’s experience and ‘long history in LNG Carrier Cargo Handling machinery and plants’ puts it in a ‘very strong position’ to provide world class solutions for regasification applications. He pointed to Cryostar’s customer open day just a few months ago, as a demonstration of its healthy capability in this area.

Showcasing success
October 2009 saw the company open its doors in Hesingue, France and welcome customers and classification societies alike, to witness the operation of a high pressure pump and vaporization system for natural gas fuel supply to 2-stroke diesel engines.

Such a Marine engine-gas injection (ME-GI) engine system was developed to allow marine vessels to be powered by LNG or boil-off gas on LNG carrier ships. To that end, Cryostar’s high pressure pump offers a simple and highly efficient way to increase the pressure in fuel gas supply, to the levels required for injection.

But that wasn’t the only development on show at the company’s headquarters in Hesingue.

Mann explains to gasworld, “It was the biggest customer event we organised this year (2009) to present two new systems (pilot plants). In fact, we invited around 40 decision makers from the whole LNG shipboard world for a two day presentation.”

“We demonstrated, during those two days, new processes and equipments for LNG high pressure pumping and injection in the vessel propulsion engines and the second one, for the re-vaporisation of HP LNG on-board LNG carriers.”

The latter demonstration, of an on-board LNG regasification plant named EcoVap-SW, was thought to have impressed onlookers and appears set to thrust itself to the forefront of the LNG ship market in the future.

The open-loop EcoVap-SW process uses seawater as a heating medium, with propane as an intermediate fluid. The LNG carrier market entered the on-board regasification era in 2003 with the ‘Energy Bridge’ concept, which allowed regasification to be carried out offshore or alongside. Early vessels were equipped with steam/glycol water plants, but in order to enter this market with a compact plant with low operating costs, Cryostar developed the EcoVap-SW.

The now Linde Group-owned company constructed a test plant for demonstration and process tuning purposes, installed at its head office in Hésingue and shown to shipowners, shipyards, consultants and classification society representatives. The 1 MW capacity plant was used to vaporize liquid nitrogen during the testing, with the propane loop installed and operated under typical conditions. Water was supplied from Cryostar’s state-of-the-art test facility for the testing.

Mann is keen to emphasise that the EcoVap-SW system offers high reliability and maintainability and boasts a number of key features, including excellent rangeability due to pump configuration, modular construction for easy scaling, a skid design which provides versatile installation options, and the very fact that it is manufactured from proven components.

He reflected, “The additional interesting aspect in these two new developments is the fact that we mix our two main business activities, which are Air Gases and our LNG business, to fulfil these challenges. We use the air gas pumps adapted to the LNG use for both applications.”

At the same time as showcasing its EcoVap system, Cryostar unveiled an innovative solution to a traditionally difficult pumping application.

RVP pump design
Cryostar first introduced its famous multi-stage VP range of pumps in 1992, to the airgas industry. These units have proven their high reliability and easy maintainability with over 800 units installed worldwide.

Operating in many different applications, pumping liquefied oxygen, nitrogen, methane and other compounds, discharge pressures exceed 140 bar and flows of over 2000 m3/h are possible, Mann enthuses.

Now, Cryostar has used its extensive knowledge of marine codes, as well as the LNG market, to develop a fully class-approved version of this pump family specifically for use on board LNG regasification vessels – the RVP pump. Special marine requirements have been studied and implemented, fully complying with the needs of this particular application.

The unique feature of this pump design is that the drive motor is located outside the liquid and therefore its bearings and associated loads are treated according to normal engineering practices. “This simple difference ensures far longer pump life and the unit is very easy to maintain. Lifetime of five years is expected before routine maintenance,” Mann said.

Cryostar uses an API-based seal design commonly used in methane applications. First-hand experience of these seals in methane applications has produced excellent results, with reference units reportedly operating entirely trouble-free for a number of years.

Showcasing the new technology breakthroughs during such a difficult year was clearly a proud achievement for Cryostar. The somewhat soured economic climate of 2009 gave rise to low business activity in the industrial gas & equipment market, so much so that our hard-to-track-down interviewee himself was engaged in a busy timetable of business trips all around the world.

Yet, the demonstration of the new pump, together with Cryostar’s EcoVap regasification plant, shows both the compatibility of this design to the exact standards required, and a commitment to innovation upheld throughout even the most difficult of business climates.

Before moving on to another business trip on foreign shores, Mann concluded, “Cryostar is very proud of its success with the VP pump. It has changed the face of the air gas industry, becoming the benchmark product against which all others are compared.”

“The proven hydraulics and superior sealing system makes this a natural choice for pumping LNG on regasification vessels. The RVP pump is a natural development of our product in yet another new environment.”

“Our experience with installations in many different land-based plant configurations, as well as our long history in LNG Carrier Cargo Handling machinery and plants, puts us in a very strong position to provide a top-class solution for this application.”

He closed, “We see these challenges as vital in keeping our products engineered and manufactured to the highest standards.”