Transportation crucial consideration for unlocking clean hydrogen economy


The transportation of clean hydrogen from future production sites to points of use is a “significant and often-overlooked” logistics problem, a report has warned.

Publishing its study, Roland Berger explained that reliable and cost-effective methods of hydrogen transportation are crucial to ensuring its commercial viability. It assessed three carrier technologies – liquified hydrogen (LH2); ammonia; liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC) – looking ta their costs and feasibility, focusing on Europe, in a bid to uncover which could prove the best solution over the coming decades for clean hydrogen.

To compare costs, it devised a model to estimate the total cost of ownership (TCO) in 2025, built around four scenarios made up of different routes, distances, transportation modes and scales: large-scale harbour to harbour; mid-scale multimodal transportation; small-scale multimodal transportation; and small-scale, truck-only transportation.

From this, it found ammonia and LOHC to have a similar TCO for hydrogen transportation under the first archetype (large-scale harbour to harbour) ranging from €2.2-2.3/kg of hydrogen, while liquified hydrogen was the more expensive (€2.8/kg). Adding in production costs, which Roland Berger assumed to be €2/kg under all scenarios, this would mean the overall cost for large-scale, imported clean hydrogen could be between €4.2-4.8/kg in 2025, depending on the carrier method.

Under the second archetype (mid-scale multimodal), LOHC was found to be the cheapest option (€2.4/kg), whereas liquified hydrogen was once more the most expensive at €4.7/kg, ahead of ammonia (€3.1/kg). This was explained as being down to storage and transportation contributing more than 50% to the overall cost, driven up by the long duration of the journey and need for storage along the way, as well as when transloading the LH2 to the next transportation medium.

Ammonia and LOHC have a similar TCO of €2.8/kg under the third archetype (small-scale multimodal), while liquified hydrogen is higher once more (€3.5/kg). In the final archetype, however, of small-scale, truck-only transportation, liquified hydrogen was found to be the cheapest option (€2.1/kg) with the shorter distance and shorter travel times meaning storage and transportation costs are not the major cost drivers. 

It concluded from this that there is not yet a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to ease of use and cost. Choice will be dependent on concrete use cases, transportation modes, distances and potential partner synergies. They also all require substantial development work. In the short-term, therefore, it expects the technologies to coexist, with ultimate success depending on cost-cutting potential, speed of market uptake and ease of use.

It went on to make a series of recommendations to enable low-cost hydrogen transportation, calling on governments to strong encourage further research and development of all hydrogen carriers, to use public financing to fund anchor projects, and put enabling market rules in place to trigger the necessary investment in hydrogen transportation infrastructure and carrier technologies.

Industry, meanwhile, was told to increase its engagement in hydrogen transportation and for carrier providers to focus on improving their efficiencies, integrating clean energy intakes and managing the more volatile energy supplies of renewable sources. It stressed that businesses that move fast and quickly to gain experience will be able to better position themselves in the market and set market standards.