IDTechEx: Storage and Distribution is Vital Part of Hydrogen Value Chain
08.16.2023 By News - NEWS

August 16, 2023 [Offshore Energy]- In its new market report “Hydrogen Economy 2023-2033: Production, Storage, Distribution & Applications,” technology company IDTechEx explores the subject of hydrogen storage and distribution technologies, examining their use cases and highlighting recent commercial activities in this domain.


In recent years, interest and activity in the hydrogen sector have accelerated, but according to IDTechEx, while much focus has been placed on the upstream development of low-carbon hydrogen production sites and downstream advancements in fuel cell technologies and industrial use cases of hydrogen, the midstream infrastructure needed to store and transport hydrogen has often received less consideration.

Thus, in the new report, IDTechEx highlighted the importance of the development of storage and distribution. The company noted that this link in the value chain is vital for ensuring the full potential of hydrogen as an industrial feedstock, fuel and energy carrier, bridging the gap between production and consumption.

However, there are challenges in regard to this link. IDTechEx said the complexity stems from hydrogen’s extremely low density at ambient conditions leading to low volumetric energy density, and consequently, significant compression or liquefaction at an extreme boiling point of -253°C is necessary to enhance its volumetric energy density for storing and transporting adequate amounts.

The company pointed out that incumbent compressed gas and cryogenic liquid storage methods have significant disadvantages. It said they are energy-intensive, adding that compression consumes 10-30% of the original energy, while liquefaction can use up to 30-40%, with the added burden of requiring a separate liquefaction plant, entailing considerable capital investment. There are also safety risks, IDTechEX claimed, noting that collectively, these factors make both domestic and international transport of hydrogen expensive and inefficient.

In regard to distribution, the technology company said that, globally, hydrogen pipelines do exist but their reach is largely restricted to specific regions. Thus, there is a need to expand pipeline networks to connect varying regions of production and consumption more widely.

Many solutions are available for both storage and distribution, according to IDTechEx.

In regard to storage, it stated: “Compressed gas and liquid hydrogen storage tanks will likely continue to serve stationary storage applications… Liquid hydrogen spheres may be used to store large quantities at production sites and import/export terminals…”

“Storage systems using metal hydrides show promise for stationary applications similar to existing compressed and liquid H2 systems. These systems, which operate at much lower pressures and use pressure cycling for adsorption/release, may be more suitable for hydrogen energy storage applications due to reduced energy consumption and, thus, improved round-trip efficiency.”

“Underground hydrogen storage, utilizing reservoirs like salt caverns, builds on established natural gas storage methods… Underground storage is expected to play a key role in seasonal hydrogen storage to supply sectors in times of lower demand, like natural gas storage. Underground facilities may also be used by industrial projects as a buffer reserve of hydrogen… However, regulation and long project development times remain key challenges for this storage type.”

As for distribution, IDTechEx said that, currently, compressed and liquid hydrogen trailers supply smaller-scale applications like refueling stations or pilot projects, and this trend is likely to continue as large-scale transportation where continuous hydrogen supplies are needed may not be viable with these methods.

The company further said: “Larger scale and longer-distance transport will necessitate pipelines, either running directly from production to end-use sites or feeding into pipeline networks. New construction is planned… Repurposing natural gas pipelines is a possibility but requires extensive simulation, testing and risk evaluation to identify suitable pipelines.”

“International long-distance transport may involve liquid hydrogen or conversion to hydrogen carriers like ammonia or LOHC. Liquid hydrogen transport was demonstrated in the HESC project, transporting hydrogen from Australia to Japan. However, this pathway may be less viable compared to carriers due to the technical and commercial difficulties of dealing with liquid hydrogen.”

“The advantage of using hydrogen carriers is the utilization of existing transport routes and vessels, albeit requiring additional processing facilities. Companies like Chiyoda Corporation and Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies are on the path of commercializing their LOHC solutions. An ammonia receiving terminal is also planned at the Port of Rotterdam as a collaboration between Royal Vopak, Gasunie and HES International. Many more companies globally are also seeing ammonia as the more viable option.”

To conclude, according to IDTechEx, the global embrace of hydrogen storage and distribution technologies will expand as production and end-use sites increase, representing an opportunity for product supply, project development and R&D to innovate and refine existing methods.


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