Hydrogen Power

In 2003, the U.S. and the European Union agreed to speed up the development of what was then termed the “hydrogen economy.” This collaboration aimed to:

• Convert transportation fuels from petroleum to clean-burning hydrogen

• Reverse the growing dependence on foreign oil

• Commercialize hydrogen-powered fuel cells

• Lower emissions

• Develop by 2020 vehicles running on hydrogen fuel cells.

“Hydrogen fuel cells represent one of the most encouraging, innovative technologies of our era,” said President George W. Bush.

Things didn’t quite work out that way. Electric- or CNG-powered vehicles and battery technology have far outpaced hydrogen-fueled cars on our streets. Hydrogen generators are available on the market, but not widely deployed. Gas turbines can now be run with a higher hydrogen content, although the technology is not in high demand.

That may be changing, though. Our cover story delves into what some of the OEMs are doing with hydrogen. Most have systems that can run with a higher concentration of hydrogen. A mix of natural gas and hydrogen is viewed as a way to lower carbon emissions, and lower costs by taking advantage of opportunity fuels, for example, process off-gases that often have a high hydrogen content.

But challenges remain. A viable source of cheap and easily available hydrogen is one. Another challenge is developing a combustor that minimizes auto ignition and flashback in the premix zone. You can read how MHPS, GE, Siemens, and Ansaldo Thomassen are addressing these issues. But don’t hold your breadth waiting for an all-hydrogen machine any time soon. MHPS, for example, has set 2030 as the target for the production availability of a combustor able to run on 100% hydrogen.

Features in this issue include streamlining the lube oil system with a transfer barrier accumulator, aeroderivative gas turbines versus reciprocating engines, maximizing compressor performance via active magnetic bearings (AMBs), non-destructive testing of steam turbines, a Q & A on asset performance management, and a Mythbusters about small particulate matter.

Our product pages, too, are full of new developments, such as a narrow section gas seal, upgrades to existing gas turbines, and turboexpanders using AMBs.

We also call your attention to our annual Pump Supplement. It offers practical advice to those interesting in specifying, selecting, designing, and maintaining centrifugal pumps. Further tips discuss the value of vertical pumps, related piping, suction, cavitation, and fitting pumps with variable speed drives.

It’s a big issue as befits the annual Turbomachinery Symposium in Houston, Texas. We look forward to seeing you there.