Launched by Martin Schreiblehner in 2006 in Freundorf Austria, Kälte- und Systemtechnik GmbH, or KUSTEC for short, has positioned itself as the leader in customized cooling and refrigeration systems. Since a first project in 2008 with one of the largest industrial gas manufacturers in the world, KUSTEC has grown its activity towards hydrogen cooling, which currently occupies between 50 and 60% of the company activities. We sat down with two sales and project managers at KUSTEC, Mohamed Koubassi and Florian Lechner—to discuss this exciting technology, what makes KUSTEC unique in the field, and the future of this exciting hydrogen revolution.
Cooling systems can be an obscure field for many customers, who don’t always understand their own needs. Led by Martin Schreiblehner’s vision, KUSTEC has built its business model and core values around a focus on the customer. Before accepting any project, KUSTEC’s team confirms how much heat really needs to be removed from the customer’s system, and how the company’s technology can do it in the most energy- and costefficient way. In fact, KUSTEC’s motto is “We are only satisfied when you are.” As a result, KUSTEC quickly became one of the world leaders in custom cooling systems, with its team of engineers and technicians specialized in understanding the best solutions for their customers.
What exactly is hydrogen cooling?
“To begin with, hydrogen gas is stored at a very high pressure in large tanks in hydrogen refueling stations. Here, it’s used to fuel hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, such as cars, trucks, boats, and even trains or small planes,” Mohamed explains. “As the hydrogen is fueled from the high-pressure storage tank to the vehicle, it experiences a pressure drop, targeting an end pressure of 700 bars for cars and 350 bars for buses. The gas enters the vehicle tank and experiences the Joule Thomson effect for hydrogen. Thus, overall a high amount of heat is produced. For the safety of the vehicle tank, the hydrogen must reach the SAE (Society
of Automotive Engineers) Temperature Protocol within 30 seconds from the start of the fueling process and avoid the temperature in the tank exceeding 85 °C.”
Image 1: Fast Filling Overview with KUSTEC Cooling System
“Therefore, you need a hydrogen cooling system, integrating with the hydrogen flowline through a heat exchanger to cool down the hydrogen flowing from the storage tank to the vehicle. That’s what we do at KUSTEC.” What makes KUSTEC unique in this field? Hydrogen cooling began for KUSTEC when Martin Schreiblehner was approached by a world leading industrial gas manufacturer in 2008 to cool their hydrogen refueling station. Since then, KUSTEC has deployed over 250 hydrogen cooling systems worldwide. That’s about half of the world’s hydrogen refueling stations. KUSTEC’s team of experts has designed rapid and
high efficiency cooling systems to cool the hydrogen flow to the required SAE Temperature Protocol and ensure its temperature does not exceed 85 °C in the vehicle tank. These use a unique direct cooling system, with the refrigerant in direct contact with the hydrogen in the heat exchanger, which reduces the energy consumption and increases the efficiency of the system significantly.
KUSTEC hydrogen cooling system has deepened its knowledge with CO2 refrigerant and optimized it for hydrogen cooling technology. With the rise of global warming, international regulations have been implemented to limit the global warming potential of refrigerants releasing harmful emissions. A difficult trade-off must be reached between using a refrigerant with a low global warming potential but requiring a lot of electricity to cool the system, and a refrigerant with a higher global warming potential but requiring less energy to cool, as Florian explains. “As it turns out, when used a cooling gas, CO2 has a very low global warming potential compared to refrigerants such as R449A which have a global warming potential a thousand times greater. Therefore, using CO2 enables you to cut down the operating costs of the system, as it consumes less energy and achieves a higher efficiency.” All these exciting innovations have introduced KUSTEC as the world leader of this technology.
“We are cleaning from every perspective, by consuming less electricity through our
unique cooling systems, and by supporting hydrogen vehicles that capture air
As Mohamed puts it, “we are cleaning from every perspective, by consuming less electricity through our unique cooling systems, and by supporting hydrogen vehicles that capture air pollutants”. Yet, alongside the technologies themselves, KUSTEC’s strong focus on the customer is ideal for hydrogen cooling. “As hydrogen refueling stations are an emerging market, every customer can have different requirements—a different refueling time, refueling temperature, refueling pressure, etc.,” Mohamed continues. “More importantly, countries have different cooling system regulations. As such, a hydrogen cooling system deployed in the German
market may not be compliant with the regulations in South Korea or vice versa.” While harmonization efforts have taken place recently, thanks to the SAE International standards, KUSTEC still needs to carry out slight
modifications for each installation of the hydrogen cooling system. KUSTEC’s personalized approach and huge flexibility in delivering this system is ideal. Each hydrogen cooling system built by KUSTEC is first evaluated in their facility in Freundorf, Austria, then installed on site either by KUSTEC’s team, or by their growing network of consultants and business partners in different countries (Australia, Belgium, England, France, Germany, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and United States of America), offering lifetime maintenance and support.
Image 2: KUSTEC Milestone Overview
Where do you see the largest market growth for hydrogen refueling stations from your perspective?
“Interesting question,” Florian tells us. “While there is a lot of talk and excitement around hydrogen—and grand claims of covering countries with hydrogen refueling station—each hydrogen refueling project faces its own unique challenges. And that includes the best hydrogen supply chain, the design of the refueling station, and the hydrogen storage capacity. KUSTEC is proud to contribute to this hydrogen revolution, by supplying the much needed hydrogen cooling systems. “Right now, we have a constant baseline of projects for cars, which is excellent for business. We also see the bus and trucks market growing very fast, as well as some projects with forklifts, and we have interesting projects for trains. Overall, I would say that public transport in general seems to be moving towards hydrogen, and we expect many interesting projects appearing in the next few years based on what we see now. Also, we see increasingly interesting projects for heavy duty and high-power trucks, and high-power excavators. “It’s an exciting time for hydrogen, and we expect to see even more projects happening in the future.”