Alternative infrastructures such as the rail network or waterways can provide a flexible option for numerous locations.
A new study by the Fraunhofer IEG sheds light on hydrogen supply and analyses all transport options for hydrogen and its derivatives. The authors conclude that even small consumers could be adequately supplied with hydrogen without the use of pipelines.
The analysis allocated 543 demand locations in Germany to the various applications and analysed their supply options for hydrogen and its derivatives. Applications include the production of ammonia, steel, petrochemical base chemicals and synthetic jet fuels as well as the provision of process heat in metal production and processing, the manufacture of glass and ceramics and the paper industry. The study then uses a scenario analysis to derive industry- and region-specific hydrogen demand.
“The current discussion about connecting to the future pipeline network falls short of the mark”, explained Christoph Nolden and Thorsten Spillmann from Fraunhofer IEG, the lead authors of the study. Other infrastructures such as the rail network or waterways could represent an alternative for numerous locations, especially in the ramp-up phase.
Hydrogen core network in 2035 as a prerequisite
There are two main aspects when determining the site-specific supply options:
Which hydrogen product is required for the application: gaseous or liquid hydrogen, ammonia, methanol or and Fischer-Tropsch products?
What infrastructure is needed to reach the site? Inland waterways, rail network, hydrogen core network or product pipelines?
The study analyses different modes of transport that can deliver hydrogen derivatives to the industrial end user. It assumes that the planned hydrogen core network will be in place by 2035. The focus is on three questions:
When does it make sense to transport hydrogen derivatives outside the hydrogen core network?
What does this mean for the national import strategy?
Where should the existing transport infrastructure be strengthened?
Transport by ship
Inland vessels are already an established transport option for substances such as ammonia, methanol and liquid fuels. The majority of the locations under consideration have hydrogen requirements that could be transported via a large goods train. As domestic transport only accounts for part of the overall supply chain, the different transport options only lead to minor differences in the overall costs.
The study therefore proposes the following measures, among others, in parallel to the expansion of the planned hydrogen core network:
Expansion of the rail network, as the loss of fossil fuel transport is more than compensated for by hydrogen derivatives.
The early publication of a differentiated hydrogen import strategy that creates a clear framework for the procurement options and utilisation of imported hydrogen in its various forms, for example as ammonia, methanol or other basic chemicals.
Certification of the sustainability of energy sources and international standards.
Continuous integrated planning and adaptation of transport infrastructures for hydrogen and other substances such as CO₂.
“Especially for locations that do not process hydrogen, but its derivatives, it may be more cost-effective to purchase them directly”, add the authors of the study.