Today, hydrogen – the world’s most abundant element – is receiving unprecedented interest and investments, generating a strong push towards the development of advanced high-performance technologies to optimize storage performance and minimize the total cost of ownership. Hydrogen will play an increasingly important role to store and distribute renewable energy (to offset its fluctuating availability). Unlike electricity, hydrogen can be transported and stored in large quantities over long periods of time. With these capabilities hydrogen can facilitate an accelerated uptake of renewable energies into the overall energy system.
Hydrogen use as a fuel for transportation is in its beginning stages, but North America seems to have big plans as part of its de-carbonization path. In particular, the state of California has been the frontrunner for hydrogen station and fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) deployments.
Tenaris has participated in the milestone development of the state’s first hydrogen truck refueling network, which aims to reduce emissions along an area that connects the Port of Los Angeles to a major warehouse complex inland. Partnering with Nel Hydrogen, a global company dedicated to the development of hydrogen technologies, Tenaris supplied high pressure hydrogen storage systems to be installed by Shell in Long Beach.
Nel Hydrogen chose Tenaris not only for the high performance and reliability of its products, but also for the on-site customer support, in particular for the assistance provided in the assembly of the large racks for the vessels, which made the difference in assuring high quality levels. Tenaris supplied 132 large vessels for three heavy-duty hydrogen fuel stations.
The challenging project began in 2018 when Tenaris brought together its solid technical expertise, research and development know-how, and vertical production capabilities to develop a unique solution. Hydrogen storage environments are especially demanding because material suffers a degradation due to embrittlement. As a result, project complexity extends from material selection and components design to assure a robust product during its entire life cycle, as well as structural designs to assure resistance from California’s seismic conditions and for compliance with product and safety norms and regulations.
The car and truck markets are today settling on two pressure levels for the on-board storage of hydrogen: 700 bar and 350 bar, respectively. This implies hydrogen storage pressures in service stations up to pressures of 1000 bar.
Tenaris had to address the needs of the market, reducing the complexity of managing components and material design plus the testing and certifications, and, at the same time, providing a complete portfolio of hydrogen products for storage and transportation. Tenaris’s product development team has focused on designing flexible and reliable solutions to ensure maximum performance with the highest operating pressures required by the market.
With Tenaris’s decades of experience in compressed hydrogen, the company developed a technology able to withstand the embrittlement effect – Thera™ technology – or Tenaris Hydrogen Embrittlement Resistant Alloys. It integrates materials with testing, life assessments, connections and numerical designs to enable storage systems in such severe conditions.
Thera™ technology offers storage and transportation hydrogen systems customized for industry needs. Storage systems are designed typically in the range of 200 up to 1000 bars. These systems are used in many applications such as hydrogen refueling stations, tube trailers or buffer accumulators for renewable sources and many other needs that may appear.
Tenaris has been awarded two other projects in California for 15 fueling stations that will be installed during 2021-2022.
The main benefits of using the Thera™ storage system is that it is fully customizable, has a verified fatigue life, is long lasting and completely recyclable. Together with THERA™ technology, Tenaris provides a wide range of engineering services such as dedicated design and service life verification, with detailed fatigue life and calculation pressure intervals. Along with its Product Engineering team, they can support for compressor-large vessel pairing. Furthermore, Tenaris provides design and in-house production of high-pressure bull plugs for ASME applications and for rack systems can execute design and seismic verification of assembly including local authority approval.
Tenaris recently announced a plan to reduce its emissions by 30% by 2030. Aligned with this commitment, Tenaris sought to have its large seamless vessels, used in applications like hydrogen storage and transportation systems, certified with an Environmental Product Declaration. The EPD state a product’s environmental data and performance based on a life-cycle assessment.
About the author and Tenaris
Erick Escorza is Tenaris Industrial & Process Technology Senior Director. Tenaris is a leading global supplier of steel tubes and related services for the world’s energy industry and certain other industrial applications. Tenaris products include Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG), premium connections, offshore line pipe, onshore line pipe, sucker rods, coiled tubing, as well as a full range of tubular products to support hydrocarbon processing, power generation, industrial, mechanical and automotive applications.