“It is quite clear that liquid hydrogen is the cheapest option. It is much cheaper than ammonia when you look at the whole cycle of putting the hydrogen into the ammonia and taking the hydrogen out. If you can have liquid hydrogen which is stored without loss or very low loss, then liquid hydrogen is the best option,” Peter Wells, CEO of LH2 Europe, said at this year’s Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference (OEEC2022).
During the first event session The Roadmap to Hydrogen, Wells noted that liquid hydrogen is a better option than ammonia in terms of economics and safety issues, as due to its toxicity, ammonia has to be handled in special ports and any leakage into the environment is severely problematic, and although hydrogen is not without safety issues, it is not toxic.
“It is obviously convenient if you are shipping ammonia to be used as ammonia, but to use ammonia as a carrier for hydrogen is not such a viable option. In fact, it is the worst option probably,” Wells said.
Hydrogen development is not without its concerns, quite the contrary. According to Wells, there are a lot of similarities between the early LNG business from the 1970s and 80s and where we are with hydrogen – technology was not at scale, the cost of things was very high and the market price of gas was quite low – so the commerciality of these projects was limited.
However, the LH2 Europe CEO notes that the leading challenge is bankability and financeability: “We worry less about the technology than we do about bankability. We spend much more effort on making the project sound technically for bankability purposes. There is not really a technological challenge. I mean, it is very fortunate the LNG business came along when it did.”
In the shipping industry, hydrogen brings another aggravating circumstance. Wouter den Boer, CCO at C-Job Naval Architects, said at the session that for the maritime industry hydrogen is challenging because storage requires a lot of volume, so using an existing design is not an option because appropriate tank size is probably not there.
“Hydrogen will play a role in the maritime industry, but in our view, that will be only in operations which take, let’s say, days, because that is what you can store in vessels. If you go in deepsea shipping, then hydrogen is more challenging,” Den Boer stated.
Lennart van der Burg, Business Development Manager Renewable Hydrogen at TNO, believes that the industry needs to collaborate more in order to pace up the usage of hydrogen, and thus start reaping its benefits sooner.
In addition, regulations and proper regimes are necessary.
“Now our energy system in Europe is really relying on gas and gas storage that ensures our security of supply, but we need to get rid of that in a certain moment because gas per definition is causing CO2 emissions and hydrogen can be completely CO2-free,” said Van der Burg.