Hydrogen plant revamp and capacity expansion

Detailed process modeling to identify and resolve bottlenecks to optimize plant performance

Over 400 round furnace reformer plants have been delivered by firms that have exited the industry. Hydrogenics, Howe Baker, Howmar, Axsia, CB&I, Glitch, Koch and Pan American, amongst others. These plants require periodic revamp, as reformer tubes, headers, catalysts and pressure swing adsorber units inevitably fail over time. Older plants, especially, contain materials and design features that are often quite out-dated, and can’t be directly replaced without revised engineering to reflect modern ASME Code requirements. These inevitable revamp projects present important opportunities to improve the performance, reliability and safety of existing hydrogen plants.

Headwaters offers two major technologies proven to increase plant capacity and reduce feedstock consumption. These include the revolutionary Johnson-Matthey Catacel SSR steam reforming catalyst and Headwater’s high performance PSA units.

The patented flow geometry of Catacel SSR delivers major performance improvements to round reformer plants, allowing either:

· 15-20% greater plant output compared to pelleted catalyst technology used in heritage plants

· or corresponding gains in energy efficiency

While significantly reducing temperature gradients in the reformer tubes, thus extending their useful lifetime. No other steam reforming catalyst technology exhibits these advantages in round reformer applications.

If reformer tubes are in good condition, Catacel SSR is a simple direct replacement for traditional, pelleted catalysts. If reformer tubes and headers are at or near the point of failure, Catacel SSR can be combined with new tubes and hot collectors re-designed to incorporate modern improvements in materials and the latest ASME Code requirements, which have been significantly tightened to prevent failure in high temperature piping systems like those in steam reformers.

Pressure Swing Adsorption systems in smaller hydrogen plants ≤10 MMscfd often employ antiquated cycle designs with poor hydrogen recovery, often around 70%. Further, the design and fabrication of the adsorber vessels for these older plants often do not comply with published best practices employed by major operating companies, leading to frequent, early failure through hydrogen fatigue cracking. This results in a typical 10 year period between major repair and/or replacement of adsorbent vessels, compared to the 30 year life mandated by world class operating companies. Headwaters is able to design replacement PSA systems to meet the published design standards of major operators, and conducts ASME Code-required Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to design every PSA adsorber vessel. Because of the advances in technology and the smaller size of a modern PSA, it is usually possible to supply a complete, new PSA unit for approximately the same cost as overhauling an older unit. Furthermore, modern PSA technology employed by Headwaters facilitates 82% to 87% hydrogen recovery, increasing hydrogen output and reducing feedstock consumption at the same time.

Applying Catacel SSR® and an improved PSA unit facilitate synergistic performance improvement. As hydrogen plant specialists, Headwaters can simulate your plant’s performance based on your historical run data and our detailed process and heat transfer models, and identify any possible bottlenecks in system performance to tailor the revamped plant performance to meet your business objectives.