Stühff GmbH: HyCARE system assembly

Interview with Holger Stühff, managing director of Stühff GmbH’s

Author: Marrianna Franchino (Environment Park)

Holger Stühff is the project leader of the development, design and manufacturing of the HyCARE metal hydride hydrogen-storage tanks. Stühff has been working on the assembly of the HyCARE system, integrating multiple components in the container, from the MH (metal hydrides) and the PCM (phase changing materials) tanks to the other components such as measuring instruments, safety devices, electrical cabinet and control unit, needed for the system running. In this interview, we will discover Stühff experience, challenges and next steps as HyCARE partner.

Stühff is in charge to design and manufacturing the HyCARE’s tank, what are the main steps you performed and what was the main challenge overall?

Our role in the HyCARE project is to integrate the system components, design and build the tank which contains all of them. What we found challenging was the refinishing of the process parameters and the step of design and dimension size of the pressure vessels, together with the PCM tank configuration inside the container. During the process, a lot of ideas and suggestions came out from all the project partners. It has been a long way before to find out the final MH and PCM tanks configuration inside the HyCARE plant in order to reach the final goal to store up to 40 kg the hydrogen in the metal hydride. In this process, it was crucial the cooperation with the other partners, specifically with Tecnodelta and GKN for the identification of the right volume of the metal hydride to supply inside the tank and its behaviour, CNRS for what concern the final storage parameters to consider.

Did you perform some changes compared to the initial design?

As I said, it took a long time and efforts to identify the final HyCARE tank layout, specifically waiting for the PCM tank information. Indeed, inside the container, the main volume is occupied by the PCM tank. Our question was if it was better to have the two tanks inside the container or install the PCM outside, since its significant volume at the expense of the heat exchanger system performance. Finally, we decided to confirm both of the tanks to be placed inside the HyCARE container, enabling the best conditions for the heat management operations.

Did Stühff find some issues during this period of materials scarcity and how did you manage them?

As Stühff, we started to have troubles with some products supply since the beginning of 2022, especially for some electrical components coming from China and causing problems to the European supply chain. Currently, we are still waiting for one of these electrical products which is crucial for the system finalisation. Thinking to another solution, we concluded together with the Consortium that replacing it with another one was not worth the efforts. The consequences would be a redefinition of the design, other expenditures without the assurance to receive it in time. Right now, the best solution is to wait for the defined missing component and finish the HyCARE tank later on the planned time, hoping next October. Anyway, considering the global situation and the Ukraine-Russian conflict, it is not surprising a cost increase for these materials and their scarcity in the next future.

What are the last steps to improve e finalize the hydrogen-heat tank? The commissioning of the system is planned at the ENGIE site, how you coordinate each other and what are the planned time?

After the last electrical component installation next autumn, we will perform last tests for the pre-commissioning step in our Geesthacht site in Germany. If the tests results will be positive, the system will be ready to be sent to Paris at the ENGIE site. Here, the installation will be completed with all the components: besides the MH and the PCM tanks and the pumping system, the Engie’s electrolyser and the fuel cell will be connected to the plant, while the cabinet and the heat management system will be integrated outside the container for safety reasons. Nevertheless the system is very innovative, the operation procedures are not affected by specific risks that are not already mentioned in the HAZOP analysis already taken. Beside these considerations, we look forward to the final event planned on 21st April 2023 at ENGIE Lab Crigen, where the HyCARE demonstration plant will be presented.

What is the added value to work and cooperate with the international team of HyCARE for the final results of the project and the system manufacturing from your point of view?

For Stühff is the first time in an international project and our experience within the Consortium is really positive. It was a true learning process for all of us in these months of activities, on which we have also discovered more on the metal hydrides capacities and on the PCM approach. We hope to replicate again this collaboration in further projects. A special thanks to Marcello Baricco, who played an important role as project coordinator and made the work all together very fruitful.

Tecnodelta: heat recovery system for the HyCARE tank

Interview with Carlo Luetto, managing Director of Tecnodelta

Author: Marianna Franchino (Environment Park)

One of the main innovative components in the HyCARE system is the heat recovery system (using PCM) integrated with the hydrogen storage tank. The integration of the PCM component contributed to improve the energy efficiency of the entire HyCARE tank. Carlo Luetto, owner of Tecnodelta SpA, talks about the challenges and opportunities of developing this important component.

How did Tecnodelta perform the development of the PCM heat storage module?

Our activity on the PCM tank realisation can be summarised in two main steps. A first step dedicated on the engineering of the system was performed together with FBK, exploring different possible design and operating simulations of the heat exchanger system. After several tests, we selected the most suitable design of the system that allows to recover the heat released by the hydrogen reaction with the metal hydrides in the PCM tank and to reuse it when necessary (through phase exchange materials). This system allows to run   without external energy consumption in line with the HyCARE’s project goal. Then, a small-scale prototype was created and sent to Hereon to perform other tests, which gave a second validation on the selected PCM design and confirmation to proceed with the next steps.

PCM – Heat storage manufacturing: aluminum heat exchanger

After the model and design validation, the last step is the manufacturing and the heat exchanger integration with the other components of the HyCARE’ system. Can you explain us what are the last activities Tecnodelta will perform?

After the prototype validation, we proceeded with the PCM tank manufacturing. Overall, 12 ready -to-use tanks were produced inside Tecnodelta factory site (a PCM module with 6 frames as showed in figure below) and sent to Stühff headquarter for the integration with the MH (metal hydride) tanks. Specifically, we performed the PCM powder melting internally, because the process itself is quite slow. The last step to be performed by Tecnodelta is the integration of the cooling part (cooling/heating fluid in the PCM tanks) with the external circuit, where the fluid is treated to manage the temperature during the system operation. At the end of the project, this equipment will be connected together and installed at the ENGIE site, where Tecnodelta will assist the start-up phase and the other activities for a successful system commissioning.

PCM – Heat storage module design: 6 frames with 2 PCM tanks inside each of them

During this research work, did you find any difficulties? What was the main challenge for Tecnodelta?

From our side, we can say the activity did not show any particular problems. Also, the exploration of the design and heat exchanger model was led in cooperation with the other partners, which allowed to overcome any possible difficulties which might have caused breaks in the process development. Of course, the initial design step was challenging. We were looking for an efficient process able to recover all the heat coming from the hydrogen reaction and to design a heat exchanger with the capacity to melt the PCM immediately. Therefore, the big challenge was really to have a good design of the heat exchanger. From the tests performed, I think we reached that goal, thanks to the really good behaviour showed by the heat exchanger during the preliminary test.

The reached goals result from the partners’ cooperation all along the project, what is the added value to work and cooperate with the international team of the HyCARE project?

Tecnodelta is a small company and the participation in the HyCARE project has been an important opportunity for us to work in a big team of international partners for different reasons. Besides the networking potentialities, the collaboration with other partners allowed us to perform activities inside the consortium that we should have otherwise conducted externally (e.g. material analysis, alloys characterisation, etc) with higher expenditure in terms of time and economic resources. Using the other partners’ equipment, improved the efficiency of all the activities and allowed us to learn from their experiences, giving an overall support to the project goals. It has been a really positive collaboration within the Consortium during these years.

HyCARE 8th project meeting

The HyCARE Consortium gathered online for a short update of the activities before the summer. The HyCARE team is continuing the assembly of the 40 kg hydrogen storage tank based on metal hydrides (MH) and phase changing materials (PCM). The HyCARE tank is currently at the workshop of Stühff, in Germany. In spite of the challenges caused by international shortages of micro-electronic components, the HyCARE tank is close to finalization. In early autumn, it will be transferred to ENGIE Lab CRIGEN in Paris, where it will be installed, tested and validated. 

Keep following the project for the future development and finalisation of the HyCARE’s tank in the next months!

HyCARE presented at the World Hydrogen Energy Conference in Istanbul

At the World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC 22) in Istanbul, Jussara Barale (University of Turin) presents the work performed on the prototype of the final HyCARE demonstrator, highlighting the best operative conditions to properly manage the heat of reaction at the MH tank by the PCM module.

The World Hydrogen Energy Conference bring together international communities to share experience on global activities in the field of hydrogen energy systems for a sustainable future. The dissemination of knowledge on hydrogen energy will foster interest in the new scientific and technological activities.

For more information, visit WHEC22 website.