Hydrogen Distribution

A main component of using any fuel is the safe, efficient and cost effective distribution to the end users. Hydrogen poses some unique challenges in this field when compared to the the predominant fossil fuel sources of today, mainly oil, natural gas and coal. With research ongoing, some of the ways hydrogen could be transported include using pipelines, road, ocean and air tankers.

Hydrogen pipelines
There is a long history of transporting oil and natural gas through pipelines. Though many people may not be aware, but hydrogen too has been transported through steel pipelines for serveral industrial uses. Since the pipelines only operate under a 10-20 bar pressure, regular steel is enough to do the job. This means that some of the existing oil and natural gas pipeline infrastructre could be used to distribute hydrogen. The only caveat is the carbon levels in the pipe metal, with lower levels of carbon being more suited for hydrogen transportation. Natural gas pipes that are made from plastic (PVC) would be too porus for hydrogen and therefore cannot be used.

Transportation of Liquid Hydrogen
Liquid hydrogen (LH2) is formed at at 21.2 K (-251.95° C) and requires an energy intensive cooling process along with cryogenic tanks for storage. Certain specialized application that require liquid hydrogen, it can be transported in special tankers.

Road tranportation of hydrogen
Hydrogen is currently being transported in both liquid and as a compressed gas using special tanker trucks. This mode though will continue to be limited as a method of delivering fuel to end users or distribution depots from a central processing or storage facility.

Ocean tranportation of hydrogen
Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is a maturing process whereby natural gas is condensed into a liquid and transported on specially designed ocean tankers. This concept could also be used to transport highly compressed liquid hydrogen to the end users. The tankers would require better insulation but would work in a similar fashion.

Air transportation of hydrogen
Air transport is not usually associated with the transport of bulk fuels. Except that hydrogen presents a key advantage to air transport rather than the ship route. Liquid hydrogen is a very light weight substance and with shorter delivery times through air travel, evaporation would be drastically cut down.