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The Green Hydrogen Pipeline & Shipping Question

To transition to a green hydrogen future, we need access to cheap renewable energy, clean water, and economical electrolyzers. These parts of the puzzle seem to be falling into place.

Now, Rethink Energy is tackling the question of how this hydrogen will be transported and what it will cost. Depending on the distance travelled: either pipelines or liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC) transported in ships would be the transportation method. “Pipelines and hydrogen ships to dominate H2 distribution,” Rethink Energy writes. It is expected that the cost of transport will be up to 50% of the cost of hydrogen delivered. It may prove to be more important than the cost of production.

“By 2050, Rethink Energy has forecast that 735 million tons of green hydrogen will be produced each year, using renewable energy to power electrolysis. Spanning from aviation to steelmaking, the use of hydrogen to decarbonize new industries will be central to the economic shift away from fossil fuels towards those harnessing their own wind, solar, and hydropower resources.”  You can get a copy of this report on hydrogen transport by contacting simon@rethinkresearch.biz.

“Globally, the average cost of hydrogen production will fall to $1.50 per kilogram by 2030,” says Harry Morgan, Rethink Energy’s chief hydrogen analyst, “and while there will be a huge convergence in global production costs, which currently vary between $3 and $7 per kilogram, countries like Australia, with exceptional wind and solar resources, will see costs fall as low as $1.20 per kilogram.”

Energy distribution will need new infrastructure focused on low-cost storage, distribution, and delivery.

“Over distances of up to 5,000 kilometers pipelines are likely to provide the most cost-effective means of delivery. … Using compression to deliver hydrogen at greater densities and volumes, pipeline delivery over a 1,000-kilometer distance will cost just $0.54 per kilogram.”

Green Hydrogen Future

Chart courtesy of Rethink Energy.

What about repurposing existing natural gas pipelines? “With modern gas infrastructure requiring simple changes to hardware (valves, compressors, etc.), such an approach could add to the capital requirement by up to 45%.”

With a little bit of distance, though, shipping hydrogen is expected to be cheaper. “Once beyond 7,000 kilometres, the ability to transport hydrogen on board ships becomes more cost effective — adding around $1.45 per kilogram of hydrogen.”

Problems still need to be resolved around how to ship the hydrogen. As a gas? As a liquid? As ammonia or some other LOHC? Shipping hydrogen as a gas is hugely inefficient. “Liquid hydrogen, which required very little processing to be ‘unpacked,’ has distinct advantages here. However, maintaining temperatures of minus 250 degrees Celsius poses a huge engineering challenge; boil off losses from liquid hydrogen increase with distance, reducing competitiveness.

“LOHCs — with reduced packing costs — come in at between $1.48 and $1.86 per kilogram over distances between 7,000 and 20,000 kilometers. Ammonia, despite being the densest carrier of hydrogen, is severely limited by the cost of cracking it into pure hydrogen for consumption (approximately $1.4 per kilogram on average).”

As each problem is solved, industry moves on to the next challenge. It is fascinating to watch the green hydrogen economy take shape.

 
 
 
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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

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