50 Years of Hydrogen Purification Innovation

View Larger ImagePSA Series Part 1: Hydrogen Purification Overview

PSA Series Part 1: Hydrogen Purification Overview

PSA Series Part 2: Revamps

PSA Series Part 2: Revamps

PSA Series Part 3: Innovation and the Purity Guard System

PSA Series Part 3: Innovation and the Purity Guard System

uop-hydrogen-page art50 Years of Innovation in Hydrogen Processing

The first industrial application of Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) went on stream in 1966. Today, more than 1,000 Honeywell UOP PSA systems have been designed, fabricated and delivered worldwide, representing about 25 million Nm³/h of pure hydrogen produced.

Download a summary paper of PSA history.

Technical innovation in adsorbent and membrane chemistry, along with process design and control expertise make UOP the industry’s choice to manage your new installation – from initial development to commissioning and start-up.
Our hydrogen purification solutions provide targeted hydrogen recovery and high product purity levels. Hydrogen can be produced on purpose or can be a valuable by-product. Regardless of how it’s produced, it must be recovered and purified to be useful in downstream processing.

UOP has completed more than 200 successful revamps, which offer many benefits, including:
  • New Product Specifications
  • Change in Feed Composition
  • Increased H2 Product Recovery
  • Increased H2 Product Capacity
  • Upgraded Control System
  • Increased Reliability for older units

The industry standard for sustainable H2 purification and long-term, reliable recovery

With more than 1,000 systems installed in more than 70 countries, Polybed PSA technology is the result of years of technical innovation and commercial experience. And as the industry leader in molecular sieve/adsorbent research and development, UOP combines high-performance adsorbent technology with innovative process and mechanical design.

UOP’s PSA process benefits include:

  • 99.95% onstream reliability in supply of 99.999% purity hydrogen, providing enhanced performance and value for downstream units
  • Higher reliability of operations can lead to: more uptime, higher hydrogen recovery per year and more stable downstream operations
  • High hydrogen recovery through the use of proprietary UOP adsorbents
  • Enhanced reliability in production of hydrogen due to control systems that automatically adjust to maintain production, even during upset conditions
  • Lower capital cost due to adsorbent efficiency, process design, and control philosophy
  • Minimal feed pretreatment requirements
  • Long adsorbent life
  • Units designed to make them easy to revamp and stay current as technology improvements are made available over time.


Polybed PSA System for Gas Extraction-Purification
PSA Systems – China Installation (English)

Polybed PSA systems are offered as skid mounted, modular units, complete with hardware, adsorbents, and controls systems. We do the detailed design and project management, with fabrication completed by rigorously qualified sub-vendors under our supervision.

Let UOP manage your installation:

  • Superior knowledge of upstream and downstream hydrogen requirements and implications – we can help design the most economical unit in the most profitable application
  • Valves, vessels, and other equipment selected specifically for PSA service

Low-cost solutions for high-pressure hydrogen separations

Hydrogen membranes can be cost effective solutions for hydrogen recovery or separation applications when the feed stream is at high pressure (typically > 1000 psig) and a lower pressure product stream at 95+% purity fits process requirements.
Polysep Membrane Systems combine state-of-the-art composite membrane technology with advances in polymer science for a fundamentally different membrane. With both hollow fiber and spiral membrane elements, our separation polymers offer a range of permeability, selectivity, and contaminant resistance, and are used in more than 80 sites worldwide.

Download: UOP Polysep Membrane for Gas Extraction Purification

UOP’s Polysep Membranes offer:

View Larger ImageMembrane Systems

  • Simple design, no moving parts, low investment cost
  • High separation selectivity and contaminant resistance
  • Ease of installation and maintenance
  • Minimum manpower requirement
  • High reliability / on-stream factor
  • Future expandability

Polysep Membrane Systems are skid mounted, modular units. We do the detailed design and project management, with fabrication completed by rigorously qualified sub-vendors under our supervision.

Let us manage the install:

  • Superior knowledge of upstream and downstream hydrogen requirements and implications – We can help design the most economical unit in the most profitable application
  • On-time, on-spec delivery, easy installation, quick start-up
  • Superior quality control helping to provide long-term safe, reliable operation
  • Full portfolio of UOP services including commissioning, troubleshooting and revamps for future operations.

Hydrogen technologies for multiple applications

UOP Polybed™ PSA and Polysep™ Membrane Systems are used in many applications for the recovery and purification of hydrogen:.

  • Steam Methane Reformers (hydrogen plants)
  • Refinery streams (UOP CCR Platforming™, UOP Unionfining™ and UOP Unicracking™ processes)
  • Partial oxidation / Syngas
  • Coke oven gas
  • Steel industry gas (DRI)
  • Off-gas streams such as ethylene, methanol, ammonia, chlorine, styrene, and UOP Oleflex ™

Steam Methane Reforming (SMR)

Steam reforming of light hydrocarbons such as natural gas is the dominant technology for the production of syngas and hydrogen. Gas produced by the steam reforming reaction first passes through a shift reactor, where carbon monoxide converts to carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The gas is then sent to the PSA unit to remove any unconverted methane, together with the carbon monoxide and the carbon dioxide.

The PSA system produces a pure hydrogen product (up to 99.999 vol-%) and a low-pressure gas stream, the tail gas. The tail gas contains all of the impurities present in the feed gas and some of the hydrogen used to regenerate the adsorbent. This tail gas has a heating value of 1,000 to more than 2,000 kcal/Nm3 (106-212 BTU/SCF), depending on the feed gas composition. It is used as fuel gas for the steam reformer furnace where it provides 50-90% of the total heat input.

We were the first to commercialize PSA technology for steam reformer service and have provided more than 1,000 PSA systems with hydrogen production capacities ranging from one to more than 244 MMSCFD (1,000 – 268,000 Nm3/hr).

Polybed PSA Systems from Hydrogen Production by Steam Reforming

Refinery Off Gas

UOP offers the most reliable processes to produce the high-purity hydrogen needed to meet new clean fuel regulations and realize more product per barrel of crude oil. For downstream processing, the high-purity hydrogen from Polybed PSA and Polysep Membrane systems simply provide superior performance and a better bottom line.

Within the refinery, Polybed PSA and Polysep Membrane systems are typically used to recover and purify hydrogen from the following sources:

  • Steam Methane Reformers (hydrogen plants)
  • Catalytic reforming net gas
  • Hydrocracker and Hydrotreater purge gases
  • Hydrocracker flash gas

Polybed PSA for Hydrogen Recovery and Purification from Refinery Off-Gas

Learn more about refinery hydrogen

Ethylene Off Gas

Purification of hydrogen within the ethylene plant meets two purposes: internal demand (for acetylene conversion and hydrogenation) and export hydrogen. Within the ethylene plant, the de-methanizer column overhead stream provides the best source of hydrogen. After treatment in the cold box, where most of the hydrocarbon components are removed, the stream contains 80-95 vol-% hydrogen. The balance is carbon monoxide, methane, and traces of other hydrocarbons.

UOP’s Polybed PSA system can extract high-purity hydrogen from this stream using a simple, cost-effective process scheme. The Polybed PSA system produces dry hydrogen at greater than 99.9 vol-% with a carbon monoxide specification of less than 10 ppm.

The higher hydrogen purity allows the ethylene plant’s acetylene converter to operate at a lower temperature, leading to a longer catalyst life and lower green oil formation. Since the PSA system removes all the methane and carbon monoxide, the cryogenics system can be eliminated or designed for lower hydrogen purity in the overhead, resulting in a less complex and less expensive cold box. Since the PSA system operates at the low temperature at which the stream exits the cold box, often as low as 10°C (50°F), no feed conditioning is required.

Polybed PSA for Hydrogen Purification from Ethylene Off-Gas

Other Downloads:

Hydrogen Purification Applications
Polybed PSA System for Gas Extraction-Purification
Polysep PSA Membrane for Gas Extraction Purification
PSA Systems – China Installation (English)


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