Hydrogen Technologies and Fuel Cell Systems

Exponent’s interdisciplinary team of process safety experts, metallurgists, and chemical, mechanical, electrical, and electrochemical engineers has broad experience with the existing and developing hydrogen economy, including hydrogen generation, blue hydrogen (generated using carbon capture) and green hydrogen (generated without carbon emissions), hydrogen transport and storage (compressed and liquefied hydrogen), hydrogen safety, and consumption in industrial processes and fuel cells.

Requirements for clean energy technologies to power everything from small electronics to transportation and provide sustainable grid-scale electricity are expected to lead to a dramatic expansion and disruption of the current hydrogen infrastructure worldwide. Exponent’s engineers and scientists can help clients understand the safety, integrity, and regulatory compliance of their hydrogen technologies.
Services

  • Safety, hazard, and risk studies including quantitative risk analyses (QRAs) for hydrogen generation processes, hydrogen storage, fueling systems, and fuel cell systems and vehicles.
  • Investigation of hydrogen fires, hydrogen explosions, or hydrogen equipment failures.
  • Metallurgical studies to examine corrosion, embrittlement, and methanization in hydrogen systems and fuel cells.
  • Evaluation of hydrogen generation, storage, distribution, and transport systems.
  • Evaluation of hydrogen fueling and fuel cell systems for automotive, rail, marine, and aerospace applications.
  • Investigation of fuel cell failures.
  • Evaluation of performance metrics related to contractual disputes for hydrogen technologies and fuel cells.
  • Intellectual property consulting for hydrogen technologies, such as electrolyzers, fuel cells, liquefaction technologies, and ammonia conversion systems.

Unique Challenges with Hydrogen

Hydrogen technologies face a series of challenges that require unique solutions. Because of hydrogen’s low density, transportation and storage require either high pressures, cryogenic temperatures, or chemical conversion, for example to ammonia, to increase the energy density of the hydrogen. In addition to high pressure or low temperature requirements, materials used in hydrogen systems require tolerance to hydrogen embrittlement, a metallurgical failure mechanism. Hydrogen is colorless, odorless, extremely easy to ignite relative to other fuels, and burns with a nearly invisible flame. As a result, hydrogen systems are subject to the risk of fires and explosions.

Unique Challenges with Fuel Cell Systems

Comprehensive evaluations of complex fuel cell systems require science and engineering expertise across numerous subject areas, including electrochemical engineering, catalysis, heat and mass transfer, fluid mechanics, and material science. Scale-up and commercialization of fuel cell systems can face significant challenges due to thermal expansion, mechanical fatigue, and incomplete humidification, which can lead to shutdowns, unplanned maintenance outages, and lost generation capacity. Because of the complex and compact design of fuel cells, determining the cause of a performance drop, short-circuit, or other failure can be challenging and may require expertise from multiple disciplines, especially if disassembling the system is infeasible or undesirable.


Experience


Exponent’s interdisciplinary teams of process safety experts, metallurgists, and chemical, mechanical, electrical, and electrochemical engineers are uniquely suited to tackle the complex technical challenges inherent to hydrogen systems. Exponent is a leader in providing engineering design reviews, failure and risk analyses for compressed and liquefied fuel systems and facilities, and metallurgical and electrochemical evaluations for the effective integration of hydrogen into the wider energy landscape.

Exponent’s consultants also have extensive knowledge and experience in areas of process safety management (PSM), automotive systems, aerospace systems, and electric and gas utilities, offering a thorough understanding of the challenges involved in integrating and implementing hydrogen technology across applications, whether in full-scale unit operation at a chemical facility or in portable, carbon-free power sources for various modes of transportation and consumer electronics.

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