The world’s first shipment of liquid hydrogen departed Monday from Victoria, Australia, aboard the world’s first liquefied hydrogen carrier, the Swiss Frontier. It is destined for Japan, in what will serve as a vital test for the viability of global liquid hydrogen supply chains.
That this is a historic expedition is nothing new. And neither is the controversy over the source of the hydrogen it carries – gasification from lignite.
But just to emphasize how new and uncertain the technology is, S&P Global Platts – in a detailed analysis of its implications – felt compelled to add the endorsement “Note that the vessel did not successfully complete the trip”.
Still, the 116-meter vessel – with a capacity of 1,250 cubic meters of liquid hydrogen – is on a voyage of “historical significance”, according to S&P Global Platts, as transporting hydrogen could be the key to decarbonization of Asia’s largest economies, and a cornerstone of Australia’s plans to become a global supplier of hopefully green hydrogen.
“The symbolic value is enormous, because until now transporting hydrogen from one country to another by ship was only a theoretical possibility,” said Anton Ferkov, a specialist in pricing of the content. in hydrogen at S&P Global Platts.
“All of this is tied to the price of hydrogen production itself, with the potential to see lower prices in the future for hydrogen produced via electrolyzers and renewable electricity.”
Ankit Sachan, a hydrogen and energy transition analyst at the same company, says the project will determine the feasibility of long-term liquid hydrogen supply chains and also help to study the technical and business aspects of liquid hydrogen businesses. .
These markets could be significant. Sachan estimates that by 2030, South Korea expects to consume about 3.9 million tons of hydrogen per year in transportation, household use, and power generation, but will likely only be able to produce about 1.9 mt/year.
“Similarly, Japan expects to consume around 2-3 million tonnes per year by 2025 and 20 million tonnes per year by 2050. Given the proximity to Australia and the availability of significant renewable resources, it is well placed to meet this demand for clean energy. ”
But there’s still a long way to go before a potential liquid hydrogen supply chain can evolve far enough to become both environmentally friendly and cost-effective.
As shown in the graph below, provided by S&P Global Platts, the current cost of hydrogen produced by gasification from coal and using carbon capture and storage is much more stable than electrolysis options.
Indeed, power prices tend to be more volatile, although this may change when and if the scale production envisioned by CWP Global and Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue is delivered.
There are also questions about the potential scalability of liquid hydrogen transport that also need to be addressed.
“The temperature at which hydrogen liquefies (-253°C) is much lower than that of natural gas (-160°C), which means that the energy consumed to liquefy hydrogen is also higher than that of natural gas. LNG,” Sachan said. “However, the energy density of hydrogen is about 40% of natural gas (on a volumetric basis).
As a result, long-distance transport of hydrogen will be expensive compared to LNG. It is considered the Achilles heel of technology.
“To liquefy hydrogen at minus 253 degrees Celsius, a huge amount of energy is used, which would also increase the costs of liquefied hydrogen,” he said.
“Therefore, it will take a few years to see commercial scale vessels of this very particular type in use. The final costs of building and operating such a ship are still largely unknown, but this pilot ship might shed some more light on that.
Transport costs could be reduced by transporting ammonia, a derivative of hydrogen, with an energy density 35% higher than that of hydrogen and much lower liquefaction temperatures (-33°C). However, transporting the ammonia will require a conversion facility at the source and a cracking facility at the destination.
Similarly, according to Ferkov, “liquefied hydrogen would compete with ammonia and methylcyclohexane as a carrier to transport hydrogen molecules.
“However, there are additional costs associated with the removal of hydrogen molecules from ammonia and methylcyclohexane as well. Some industry experts believe that several different methods of transporting hydrogen could emerge. the same time.
“However, when used for power generation, the option currently widely considered is the use of ammonia, without the need to convert it back to hydrogen, as ammonia can be burned as fuel without releasing carbon.
“The cost of transporting ammonia is much lower than liquefied hydrogen, as the temperature to liquefy ammonia is only minus 33°C, with global infrastructure to move and market ammonia already in place.”