In the petrochemical industry, hydrogen compressors are used to compress the low-pressure hydrogen and increase its pressure to be used as a fuel for energy supply. Any fault in the structure of the hydrogen compressor can lead to gas leakage, explosion, and malfunctioning of the parts that can cause its breakdown and ultimately stoppage.
But what could those faults be?
In this article, we discuss some common faults in the compressor operation and suggest the maintenance of equipment to ensure the proper functioning of hydrogen compressors.
The basic principle for hydrogen compression is the same as for gases and liquids, with the only difference being the safe containment of hydrogen because of its low molecular weight. Like a reciprocating compressor, when the gas enters the chamber, it fills up the cylinder, which causes the piston to reduce its volume and pressurize the gas out of the chamber.
Hydrogen compressor consists of the following parts:
- Cast iron cylinders
- Cylinder crossheads
- Connecting rods
- Gas filters
Hydrogen compressor requires high maintenance and manufacturing accuracy. Some common causes of failure can be the presence of liquids, gases, dust, and carbon deposits in the components. The crankshaft-driven by motor drive rotates rapidly, and because it is connected to the crosshead and connecting rods, these parts also move in a reciprocating way. However, this reciprocating motion may cause wear of the crankshaft and other components in the long run and lead to the malfunction of the compressor.
Low lubricant pressure is probably one of the most common causes of failure in the hydrogen compressor. In a normal functioning compressor, the lubricating oil is pumped through the following channels in the system:
Oil pump -> Primary filter -> External lubricating oil cooler -> Secondary filter -> Pressure gauge
The valves in the hydrogen compressor are prone to deposit carbon, sludge, and dust particles, and the air valve spring is likely to break due to this accumulation. Moreover, the hydrogen compressor’s operation at high speeds over a long time can cause stress and lead to valve failure.
After every 3-6 months of operation, it is suggested to switch to the standby machine for maintenance of the compressor. Troubleshooting for problems in the valves helps determine the cause of valve failure. First, the jackscrew of the valve should be loosened and places on a clean cloth. The bolts and nuts on the top are removed next to ensure no air escapes from the cylinder. Lastly, the gland and sleeve of the valve are removed and inspected to clean the mud and oil on the surface.
As mentioned previously, the high speeds of the piston in a hydrogen compressor may lead to failure in the system. If the hydrogen gas contains dust and particles, this may lead to scraping o the inner wall of the cylinder, which needs to be smooth and lubricated for the proper functioning of the system.
Hydrogen compressor operates at high speed to convert low-pressure hydrogen into high-pressure gas to fuel the energy systems. To ensure the proper functioning of the compressors, regular maintenance of the structure and lubricating oil system needs to be carried out, and the valves need to be cleaned. This is essential for the normal operation of the hydrogen compressors so that they don’t break down in the long run.