Despite the barriers that stand between the United States and a mature hydrogen economy, the path is slowly becoming clearer. This 17-question test will reveal where your company is on this journey.
The government is investing billions of dollars in making a hydrogen economy a reality, and so is the global chemical industry. How ready is your company?
Hydrogen Readiness Self-Test
To help businesses, sites, and plant manufacturers answer this important question, the measurement experts at WIKA have compiled a 17-question self-test for hydrogen readiness. Circle the statement that best aligns with your company’s situation, outlook, and plans.
1. Does your company have a fugitive emissions reduction plan, or has funding been allocated for process improvements aimed at reducing emissions?
A. No, we do not currently have a fugitive emissions reduction plan.
B. Yes, the financial resources are available because senior management is aware of the strategic importance of fugitive emissions reduction. However, the plans have not yet been put into action.
C. Yes, we have such a plan and are following it to reduce fugitive emissions.
2. Is your company aiming for specific hydrogen-related certifications for fugitive emissions?
A. No, we are currently not planning such an activity.
B. Yes, we have a continuous improvement process and regularly evaluate new ideas. Potential certifications help us stay on track.
C. Yes, we are pursuing certifications. Our company has a continuous improvement process, and we regularly share new ideas in industry forums.
3. Are there any special safety approvals that your company adheres to, such as IEC 61508, SIL, IFC, NFPA 2, and/or NFPA 55?
A. No, we don’t currently adhere to any safety approvals.
B. Yes, we comply with all safety approvals required by local authorities.
C. Yes, we adhere to not only the necessary approvals, but go the extra mile when it comes to safety. Achieving the highest level of safety is of great importance to our company.
4. Does your company currently have initiatives or working groups devoted specifically to dealing with the issue of hydrogen leakage?
A. No, the topic is completely new to us, and we are taking a wait-and-see approach.
B. We have touched on this topic internally but currently do not have any initiatives or a working group.
C. Since the optimized use of hydrogen is one of the defining pillars of our future strategy, we have an interdepartmental working group that is planning concrete activities.
5. Has your company allocated funds specifically for measures to reduce hydrogen leakage?
A. No. We currently do not have a hydrogen expansion plan and, thus, have not budgeted for measures in this area. Our current focus is business development.
B. We are currently working on general aspects of the coming hydrogen infrastructure. While funds are available for that, they are not earmarked to address hydrogen leakage.
C. Yes. hydrogen leakage is one of the risk areas we have already identified. A sub-group is currently working on it and has a dedicated budget.
6. To what extent is the current and targeted type(s) of H2 managed in your company?
A. We use hydrogen only selectively and have always done so. We do not make any distinction regarding the origin.
B. We know exactly what type of hydrogen is used and in what quantities. However, there is currently no concrete plan to increase the share of green hydrogen.
C. The targeted increase of green hydrogen is a central aspect of our company’s carbon neutrality strategy, which is stringently followed.
7. What is your company’s attitude regarding carbon neutrality and a hydrogen strategy?
A. We don’t currently have a separate hydrogen strategy as it relates to carbon neutrality, but there could be one in the future.
B. We want to protect the environment but not slow down our productivity. That’s why we are taking a wait-and-see attitude and hoping that the cost of blue/turquoise/green hydrogen will come down in the near future.
C. We precisely calculate the use of each type of hydrogen, and the use of e-fuel is practical and even economical in situations like mobility. But while hydrogen is an important pillar of our green strategy, we don’t want to become a hydrogen-only company.
8. In your company’s conventional hydrogen production, is carbon capture integrated into the process?
A. No, we have not established a carbon capture process.
B. Yes, CO₂ is either integrated into other processes within the plant or is collected and sold. In this way, we regulate our emissions and also get an economic benefit.
C. Carbon capture is not an issue for us because we produce only green hydrogen.
9. Where is your company in the process of transitioning to a cleaner form of hydrogen?
A. We currently have no such plans.
B. We are working on converting the plant from gray to blue.
C. We are working on converting the plant from gray to green.
10. Since “gray plants” produce the bulk of hydrogen used in the chemical industry today, what steps are you taking to reduce CO2 emissions?
A. None. Our gray plants operate as they always have.
B. We are working to optimize the efficiency of our gray plants while still relying on them.
C. We have taken concrete steps to improve our gray plant’s efficiency and are seeing gains in that area. The ultimate goal, of course, is to transition to a green plant.
11. Is hydrogen production part of your chemical plant’s other processes, such as ammonia production?
A. No, we purchase our hydrogen from another source.
B. Yes, we produce the hydrogen that is used in other processes, but the integration could be smoother and more complete.
C. Yes, our hydrogen production unit is fully integrated with our processes.
12. Are you tied to a technology license when making process improvements or MRO (maintenance, repair, operations) decisions?
A. Yes, we are committed to a technology license, and our technology licensor has to approve all changes.
B. No, but we consult with our technology licensor when making process changes or choosing a different MRO provider.
C. No. We do our own engineering and can make process improvement decisions without breaking any license agreements.
13. Has your company made any process improvements with regard to the use, storage, or transportation of hydrogen?
A. We have made minimal or no changes to our hydrogen processes since our inception.
B. We have established a continuous improvement process that allows us to evaluate and test new ideas.
C. We have a continuous improvement process and regularly share new ideas in industry forums and conferences.
14. Does your company have the technical means (e.g., pressure and temperature transmitters and switches) to continuously monitor and control the hydrogen in your processes?
A. No. I simply assume that we meet all specifications.
B. Somewhat. We currently take standard measurements but would like to optimize them for greater safety, especially as our H2 volume increases.
C. Yes. We use both analog and digital technologies to continuously monitor and control our hydrogen processes, from high-precision sensors to a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system.
15. Is it difficult for your company to maintain process continuity due to repeated mechanical failure of instruments?
A. Yes, mechanical failure of instruments is a major challenge for us, and we have not yet found a supplier that can meet all of our process requirements.
B. Yes, it is somewhat difficult, but we are currently working with our suppliers to overcome the challenge.
C. No, it is not difficult because our current suppliers are able to meet all of our metallurgical and instrument needs.
16. Can your company’s current suppliers keep up with the technological requirements of working with hydrogen?
A. No. We often have difficulty finding the right products for our complex chemical processes or a satisfactory supplier for a long-term business relationship.
B. No, but we are working with our suppliers on these challenges. To that end, we are in active conversation with experts and seek advice from them.
C. Yes, we have competent, future-oriented partners, and these business relationships enable us to significantly improve our processes.
17. Since the production of green hydrogen is expected to become less expensive over time, do you have plans to qualify your personnel for the commissioning of your own electrolysis plant?
A. No. Since there’s no plan for us to produce our own green hydrogen, the topic of employee qualification is irrelevant.
B. No. Our HR department will take the appropriate actions when management decides to commission a green plant.
C. Yes. Employee qualification is being planned or in progress, and will be completed before the new plants are commissioned.
Evaluating Your Hydrogen Readiness
Give yourself 0 points for every “A” statement, 2 points for every “B” statement, and 4 points for every “C” statement. Then add them up. Note: This self-test is not a judgment of your company’s ability to incorporate hydrogen into more of its chemical processes. Rather, the purpose of this evaluation is to identify areas where action is needed and to stimulate internal discussions on the subject.
0 to 23 points: NOT QUITE READY
Your company has not put much effort into developing a strategy for harnessing hydrogen as a promising technology. While there is some awareness of the gas’s role in achieving net-zero climate goals, internal hurdles get in the way of creating such a roadmap. Some of those hurdles include lack of financial resources, not enough buy-in from senior management, and dependence on business partners and suppliers ill-equipped to problem-solve the issue of hydrogen leakage. The majority of chemical companies in the US are at this stage.
Nonetheless, there is growing awareness that your organization needs to take action on this front, due to growing pressure politically, societally, and economically. To get started, contact the hydrogen and chemical experts at WIKA USA for personalized advice.
24 to 51 points: READY FOR THE MOMENT
Your company is already aware of the potentials and challenges of hydrogen use. Despite these insights, there is not currently a comprehensive analysis or comprehensive long-term strategic plan. One issue is a conflict between the desire for safe, economical hydrogen processes and doubts that your plants can successfully overcome process-related hurdles. The way your plants are currently set up, they may be able to meet the high requirements for safe, low-emissions hydrogen processes – but are not quite optimized for greater hydrogen use in the future.
There are a few things that can strengthen your company’s hydrogen strategy. For one, consider forming a working group to look into measurement technologies that minimize hydrogen leakage. The product specialists at WIKA USA would be happy to speak to this group and other decision makers regarding hydrogen-optimized instrumentation.
52 to 68 points: ON THE WAY TO A NET-ZERO FUTURE
Your company is taking a long view of the requirements and opportunities of hydrogen-oriented operations, both to decarbonize the business and to ensure its future stability. There is planning, transparency, and vision at the top levels of the organization, as well as a company-wide willingness to invest financial and human resources along this journey. You use the experience you already have to continually optimize existing processes and to align them with the requirements of a hydrogen infrastructure, some of which include measuring instruments to minimize leakage during processing, transport, and storage.
Even though the company is well on its way to a carbon-neutral future, you likely could be taking greater advantage of connected technologies to network your hydrogen processes. With state-of-the-art sensors to enable this digital transformation, new opportunities open up in the areas of asset and condition monitoring, alerts and predictive maintenance, process optimization and automation, and more. WIKA USA offers a suite of IIoT (industrial internet of things) solutions. Ask how our technology specialists can get your facility ready for Industry 4.0.
Hydrogen, Hope for the Chemical Industry
Hydrogen is a beacon of hope in the effort to decarbonize the chemical industry and achieve a net-zero target. Its use would reduce the share of fossil resources in the feedstock and give companies a clean, potentially green source of energy. In the next few decades, the global consumption of H2 is expected to greatly increase as more countries move away from hydrocarbons and more private-sector entities embrace a hydrogen economy.
One cloud that dims this beacon is hydrogen leakage, and this issue – if the necessary precautions are not taken – threatens the decarbonization of the chemical industry. The best way to prevent the emissions of this indirect greenhouse gas is with the continuous monitoring and control of hydrogen vessels’ pressure, temperature, and outlet points. Early detection is key – and is possible only with the aid of high-performance measuring instruments that meet the unique physical and chemical requirements of hydrogen production, storage, transport, and use.
With deep experience in the chemical industry and with hydrogen applications, WIKA USA understands the need to balance profitability with sustainability. We design and manufacture high-quality products for the most extreme process conditions, while our specialists offer consulting service that can help your company solve the problem of hydrogen leakage. Find solutions for the entire hydrogen value chain and other chemical applications at www.wika.com/en-us.
This article follows “Measurement Technologies for a Hydrogen Economy” and concludes the series Hydrogen As a Beacon of Hope.