A hydrogen purifier is a device that is used to purify hydrogen, especially if the hydrogen product is obtained from hydrocarbon sources. Hydrogen is used in various industrial processes, especially in the refining industry. Hydrogen is also a major component of off-gases generated in various refinery processes. Traditionally, off-gases were used as an energy source by burning. However, due to reduced margins and stricter regulations, technologies for the recovery of hydrogen are getting widespread attention. Hydrogen manufacturers are highly sensitive to the cost of hydrogen purification systems because hydrogen basically is a cost to them. A steady growth of this market is expected, due to increased usage of heavy oils in refining and higher demand for high-purity hydrogen as well as lower profit margins and stricter environmental regulations.
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The most common types of hydrogen purifiers are palladium membrane hydrogen purifiers, dense thin-metal membrane hydrogen purifiers, pressure swing adsorption, and catalytic recombination or deoxygenation purifiers. The pressure swing adsorption technique is the most well-developed and established process for hydrogen purification. This technology is based on physical binding of molecules of a gas to a solid adsorbent material such as activated carbon, silica gel, carbon molecular sieves, and zeolites. It makes use of the fact that hydrogen has very low polarity and highly weak attractive force with the adsorbent material. Dense thin-metal membrane hydrogen purifiers are relatively less expensive and simple to use. However, the level of hydrogen purity obtained is not acceptable for several high-tech applications.
Catalytic recombination or deoxygenation purifiers are used to remove oxygen impurities by the use of a dryer after oxygen reacts with hydrogen to form water vapor. For niche applications such as those in the semiconductor industry, palladium membrane hydrogen purifiers have no alternative. Pd is the only technology that provides absolute purification, which means only H2 can diffuse across the Pd membrane. Most of H2 supplied in developing countries such as China and India is of variable consistency. This leads to impurity spikes in the feed that other technologies which work by adsorbing some proportion of impurities from the H2 stream struggle to contain. The cost of replacement of contaminated epiwafers caused by these impurities as well as the downtime required for the tool clean-up is prohibitive to manufactures. Hence, palladium membrane hydrogen purifiers is a viable technology used for high-end applications.
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The use of hydrogen purification technologies is poised to experience robust growth in the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, Canada, and India in refining and electronics industries. The hydrogen purifiers industry in Asia Pacific is expected to witness dynamic growth. Due to slowdown in the refining industry in Western Europe, growth of the hydrogen purifiers market in this region would be stagnant. The spurt in oil production in the Middle East, especially in Iran and Saudi Arabia, is likely to lead to increased number of refining activities, and consequently, greater use of hydrogen purifiers. The rise in demand for traditional and new applications for ultra-high-purity hydrogen is driving the market for hydrogen purifiers, particularly in the electronic devices hubs such as the U.S, Japan, China, and South Korea.
Key players in the hydrogen purifiers market are Honeywell UOP, Yangtze Energy Technologies Inc., Advanced Extraction Technologies Inc., Xebec, Petronas, SAES Pure Gas Inc., Schmack Carbotech GmbH, Air Products, Chart Industries, and Ally Hi-Tech