The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) has shed light on the concerning pace of hydrogen exportation and the formidable challenges it faces. A recent study exclusively disclosed by the Energy Platform unveils that despite the multitude of projects announced for hydrogen export, the vast majority are still in the early developmental stages and are far from making the critical final investment decisions required to propel them into implementation.
OAPEC’s expert in gas and hydrogen industries, Engineer Wael Hamid Abdel Moati, has raised a cautionary flag, pointing out that the investment plans for hydrogen exportation are not progressing as expected. Despite the promise of numerous projects, the critical final investment decisions have only been made for a tiny fraction, amounting to 0.3 million tons per year of hydrogen equivalent. This meager progress threatens to impede the development of an international hydrogen market.
Many Arab nations have expressed a strong interest in significant commercial projects aimed at exporting hydrogen and its carrier materials, including ammonia and methylcyclohexane, to potential markets in Asia and Europe. In a study titled “Hydrogen Transport and Export…Options and Challenges,” exclusively published by the Energy Platform, it is revealed that by the end of September 2023, there were around 47 announced projects in Arab countries dedicated to hydrogen production, export, and applications. Notably, ammonia projects take the lead in this endeavor.
One of the critical challenges that the hydrogen exportation faces is the high cost associated with its transportation. According to the study, current costs are substantial, influencing the broader adoption of hydrogen as a future energy source. To mitigate these costs and elevate hydrogen’s role in the future, the study recommends revisiting and leveraging existing oil and gas pipelines for hydrogen transportation.
Wael Abdel Moati proposes building complete model units in manufacturing workshops and unified standard specifications for various components in the hydrogen production process. He also emphasizes investing in large production projects and long supply chains to promote the manufacturing of larger components. The study underlines the significance of continuous research and development to enhance conversion and reconversion processes and ultimately reduce hydrogen transport costs.
The study divides hydrogen transport and export into four distinct paths: transporting compressed hydrogen through pipelines, liquefying hydrogen and transporting it in carriers, converting hydrogen into ammonia and transporting it by tanker, and transforming hydrogen into liquid organic compounds such as methylcyclohexane. These methods have varying implications, including volumetric storage density, energy consumption during conversion, and reconversion processes.
Presently, the cost of transporting hydrogen and its carrier materials varies significantly. For instance, pipeline transportation is among the more economical options, potentially costing around $2 per kilogram of hydrogen equivalent by 2030. Conversely, liquefied hydrogen transport remains the most expensive, exceeding $7.5 per kilogram of hydrogen equivalent. The study concludes that transportation costs are a significant factor affecting the adoption of hydrogen as an energy source. However, it holds out hope for a decline in these costs as economies of scale improve and technologies evolve.
OAPEC’s findings underscore the complexity of hydrogen exportation and emphasize the importance of addressing the challenges it faces. As the world navigates towards a greener energy future, the lessons from this study are invaluable for governments, industries, and researchers seeking to unlock the potential of hydrogen as a clean and sustainable energy source.