With the surging demand for clean and efficient energy storage solutions, hydrogen has emerged as a promising candidate. This has led to a significant increase in the demand for PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) electrolysis stacks, which play a crucial role in the production and storage of hydrogen. As the market for PEM electrolysers continues to expand, manufacturers have an exciting opportunity to capitalize on this trend.
Manufacturers looking to win (and retain) customers must be able to closely monitor a number of parameters in order to maintain the safety and performance of their electrolysers:
Read the in-depth article below to find out about the importance of the tie rods holding the stacks within the hydrogen electrolyser together and how the force operating on them can easily (automatically and economically!) be monitored.
Demand for hydrogen is on the rise across the globe, as the world finally begins to recognize the enormous potential of green hydrogen. In fact, PwC predicts that demand will sit somewhere between 150 million and 500 million metric tonnes per year, depending on how fully governments and industries embrace green hydrogen as a clean energy source.
Even if we don’t meet the upper end of that lofty prediction, that’s still a major boost in hydrogen production. A boom in demand for PEM electrolysis stacks is certainly on the way, too.
PEM electrolyzers can be temperamental beasts; the very nature of hydrogen production leaves your equipment vulnerable to malfunctions and inefficiencies. Many of those inefficiencies are almost impossible to identify, evaluate and track using purely manual processes. Uncovering an issue means putting parameters like pressure, temperature, and hydrogen production under constant, granular surveillance.
One element in particular needs to be watched closely; the force operating on tie rods or bolts, which hold the stacks within a hydrogen electrolyser together.
This need for detailed, accurate, real-time monitoring – and the difficulty of gathering this kind of information manually – is why PEM electrolyser manufacturers are exploring how advanced equipment and clever automation can get them the insight they need.
Specifically, manufacturers are increasingly using force washers to monitor bolts and deliver information seamlessly to their PLC system. Before we discuss the specific technology, let’s explore why this kind of insight is essential for manufacturers.
High temperatures, high pressures, explosive materials – hydrogen production can be a dangerous and volatile process. And PEM electrolysis stacks are vulnerable to a number of their own specific issues.
This is why manufacturers must absolutely reduce the possibility of explosions occurring. Especially when it comes to the tie rods that hold together the anode plates, cathode plates and membranes of the electrolyser.
The exposure to high pressures and extreme temperatures means that the bolts tend to loosen over time so that energy begins to leak from the electrolyser.
Monitoring the bolts manually would mean stopping production, an inefficient process that could only be conducted a few times a week at most. And, since it’s difficult for the naked eye to spot the signs that your electrolyser isn’t working efficiently, this laborious process still wouldn’t give you the insights you need.
To really gauge the performance of your electrolysers and keep an eye on the status of the bolts, you’ll need to implement a form of automated, real-time monitoring. The kind of monitoring that allows you to identify problems as soon as – or even before – they occur.
Force washers are load cells that are specifically designed for measuring clamping forces. Attach load cells to the bolts of your PEM electrolyser, and they’ll be able to constantly monitor the tension acting on the bolts.
Of course, this information isn’t much use if you can’t access it or use it. That’s why force washers need to work seamlessly with your PLC, continuously gathering and transmitting data in real-time. With safety and efficiency hanging in the balance, you can’t afford to wait for long data transfer processes, which slow your reaction time and undermine the usefulness of the data.
There are a number of bolt monitoring solutions available on the market. When weighing up solutions, make sure you look for one that:
The condition of bolts might be one of the most crucial contributors to the performance of a PEM electrolyser, but it’s definitely not the only area that needs to be monitored.
To truly optimise the performance of your PEM electrolysers – and show customers you’re conscientious about their ROI and their wellbeing – you’ll need to analyse their operations from every angle. Everything from pressure to temperature and the efficiency of hydrogen production can – and should – be carefully tracked.
Building a robust, complete network of sensors to measure conditions inside your electrolysis stacks is an easy way to stand out from the competition and take the performance of your equipment to the next level. In other words, it’s an essential tool for any company looking to take advantage of hydrogen’s rise in popularity and win more customers with quality equipment.
At HBK, we’re helping companies around the world keep their PEM hydrogen electrolysers running smoothly, safely and efficiently.
How do we do it? We use our:
At HBK, we specialise in helping our customers build outstanding products – like hydrogen electrolysers – with robust, flexible, efficient equipment. Equipment that brings the physical and the digital worlds together to deliver deeper insights and support data-driven decision-making.