As the energy sector seeks to decarbonize, the transition from hydrocarbons is underway, with hydrogen taking center stage in many industry roadmaps. Georgia-based Chart Industries (NYSE: GTLS) has responded to this interest by bolstering its offering of products and technologies that enable industry to move away from hydrocarbons and towards clean energy solutions.
As part of this effort, Chart acquired LA Turbine (LAT) in 3Q21 for approximately $80 million in cash. LAT is a design, engineering, manufacturing and assembly company of new and aftermarket turboexpanders, with significant in-house engineering expertise. With the addition of LAT, Chart is able to offer customers a “one stop shop” solution and more options in what they call the “Nexus of Clean”: clean energy, clean water, clean food and clean industries. This includes technology equipment for a variety of applications used in hydrogen and helium liquefaction, carbon capture and energy storage, industrial gas, natural gas processing, Small-scale LNG and the disposal of heavy hydrocarbons in LNG plants.
Chart purchased LAT because of its ability to manufacture unique expanders needed to liquefy hydrogen and helium, and because of LAT’s vertical integration, Chart further differentiates itself through its ability to run faster the development of new expansion products and the manufacture of standard expanders, which allows better control over delivery times. There is a high degree of fit between LAT’s and Chart’s high specification engineering which is already yielding positive results by increasing the size of hydrogen liquefaction plant capacities and improving fuel efficiency. ‘factory.
“These very specialized expanders are difficult to design and produce because they require very high speed and efficiency, and in some cases must be oil-free machines with gas-sheet bearings for small plants, and for large factories, be equipped with magnetic bearings,” said Chart CEO Jill Evanko.
Turboexpanders are part of the “secret sauce” of the liquefaction process. “Turboexpanders help determine liquefier efficiency and provide other operational benefits,” said Doug Ducote, chief technology officer at Chart. Having this in-house equipment design capability complements Chart’s brazed aluminum heat exchanger and cold box manufacturing.
The emergence of hydrogen as an alternative to hydrocarbons has created a series of opportunities for companies like Chart that produce equipment across the hydrogen value chain. Chart has been designing and manufacturing hydrogen equipment for over 57 years. The graph does not produce or possess the hydrogen molecule. Instead, it has applied its cryogenic expertise to develop a complete solution enabling customers to take full advantage of the hydrogen value chain from liquefaction, storage, distribution and fueling applications. .
Interestingly, while many of the technologies needed to develop hydrogen at scale are under development, Chart has been providing hydrogen liquefaction, storage, vaporization and delivery systems since the 1960s with a list of customers which includes the world’s leading industrial gas companies and space exploration organizations.
With advances in fuel cell technologies and continued cost reductions, hydrogen can be used as an energy carrier to fulfill several roles in the energy sector. With the ability to store renewable energy, generate electricity, and power light and heavy vehicles without tailpipe emissions, hydrogen is becoming a potential large-scale global energy source.
In addition to the purchase of LAT, Chart purchased an engineering company, Cryo Technologies in 1Q21, whose deep expertise in cryogenic system design enhances its ability to offer hydrogen and helium system solutions.
A quick glance at Chart’s resume shows the company continues to be a major driver in natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, and one that is often described as the transition fuel to an eventual hydrogen solution. LNG is not going away. Rather, it will be part of the overall hybrid solution, and to achieve this, Chart is leveraging its expertise in LNG by applying many of the same technologies used to produce, store and transport liquefied natural gas to hydrogen. The LNG supply chain provides a model for the hydrogen supply chain and uses many of the same concepts for hydrogen liquefaction, storage and transport.
Like methane, hydrogen is a gas, but its unique characteristics pose some challenges for end users and processors. Being a much smaller molecule, the volumetric density of hydrogen is low compared to LNG, which requires more and large volumes of storage tanks. Additionally, the colder temperatures required to liquefy hydrogen (-252.8°C), compared to natural gas which liquefies at -162°C, present the risk of liquefying air and generating rich condensates in oxygen.
Although the two gases boil at different rates, LNG and liquid hydrogen are stored and transported in insulated containers. Chart manufactures equipment to move hydrogen by transport trailer, ISO container, wagon or sea transport.
The colors of hydrogen
Currently, the United States has the capacity to produce approximately 10 million tons per year of hydrogen. The vast majority of this is done via the steam methane reforming of natural gas. A byproduct of this process is carbon dioxide, and the hydrogen produced by this method is known as gray hydrogen. Obviously, as the main goal of adopting hydrogen is to reduce carbon emissions, producing hydrogen by alternative methods and/or capturing CO2 is an important additional step towards net zero CO2. . This gives rise to a kaleidoscope of colors used to describe the hydrogen produced; the most common are:
Blue Hydrogen: Produced when carbon dioxide from the Gray Hydrogen process is captured and stored or, as with Chart’s Cryogenic Carbon Capture™ process, returned in liquid form for reuse and/or sale
Turquoise Hydrogen: Produced via a process called methane pyrolysis
Green hydrogen: produced without harmful emissions when electricity from surplus renewable sources, such as wind or solar, is used to electrolyze water
Regardless of how it is produced, hydrogen gas is the same molecule and can be liquefied, transported, stored, compressed, vaporized, mixed and used without any changes to associated equipment and processes. Plus, Chart isn’t just molecule agnostic, meaning the company’s solution handles a variety of molecules, their capabilities work with all “colors of hydrogen.”
Range of energy products
The energy industry has never been more committed than it is now to a diverse range of energy products and long-term reduction of hydrocarbons. Chart is a major contributor and influencer in the development, design and manufacture of hydrogen and other clean energy solutions. Every day brings new announcements and advances in companies’ ability to help transition to clean energy through the new energy candidate, hydrogen. Companies capable of developing the infrastructures used to store, transport, liquefy and regasify hydrogen, and other alternatives, will have a promising future in the new energy economy.