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SwRI expands hydrogen valve performance, safety testing capabilities

October 14, 2021 — The Flow Component Testing Facilities (FCTF) at Southwest Research Institute have expanded safety and performance testing capabilities to include hydrogen valve testing.

SwRI engineers will be exhibiting these hydrogen valve testing and FCTF capabilities at the Valve World Americas Expo & Conference in Houston, Texas October 13-14 at Booth No. 405.

Oil and gas companies are increasingly blending hydrogen into natural gas pipelines, requiring valves that are less susceptible to hydrogen-related embrittlement and are more leak tight. Demands for hydrogen research have also increased as government and industry seek new industrial applications to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Every day, more industry professionals are relying on hydrogen to help transition into the clean energy sphere, reduce emissions and increase energy storage, among other things,” said SwRI’s Angel Wileman, who heads the Institute’s Thermofluids section in the Mechanical Engineering Division. “The oil and gas industry is changing, and SwRI can help ensure the transition to this new paradigm is as smooth and efficient as possible.”

Finding clean energy solutions using hydrogen will come with its own unique set of challenges, however. Challenges which Wileman said FCTF can help industry professionals and companies evaluate and overcome. 

SwRI is accredited through the American Petroleum Institute (API) to perform validation testing on both surface and subsurface safety valves. The facilities accommodate safety testing of other downhole safety, riser isolation and wellhead valves. All testing is completed under an API Q1 and ISO 17025 quality management system.

These special valves operate at either very low temperatures or at high pressures to ensure hydrogen storage. Because hydrogen molecules are so small, valves must be securely tightened and tested for leaks. SwRI offers nearly all testing methods for hydrogen valves, including the international standard, ISO 19880-3.

Hydrogen can cause many materials used in refineries and oil and gas distribution pipelines to become brittle. For instance, after continuous exposure to hydrogen, carbon steel valves can become less effective and more likely to break, which could lead to gas leaks and create safety hazards.

SwRI not only offers clients the ability to test for material compatibility and performance, but also offers fire technology services such as fire testing of non-metallic seals, risk and hazard assessment, hydrogen flame detector testing and safety best practices.

“SwRI has a strong basis for hydrogen testing in engineering, valve testing and flow components,” said Alexandra Schluneker, lead engineer in SwRI’s Fire Technology Department. “We are moving into providing more performance testing, too. Hydrogen is an exciting opportunity for SwRI. We can help ensure the transition to hydrogen is reliable, safe and efficient to match industry needs.”

Learn more about SwRI at the Valve World Americas Expo & Conference.

For more information, visit Flow Component Testing and Hydrogen Energy Research, or contact Jesús Chávez, +1 210 522 2258, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.