In a pioneering move, Deutsche Bahn Cargo, the largest freight railway in Europe, is evolving a cost-effective transport solution for large quantities of hydrogen.
It’s a well-timed move considering Germany’s increasing demand for hydrogen as a part of its national strategy to become climate-neutral by 2045. Hydrogen is being hailed as a beacon of hope for the German economy, expected to contribute approximately 110 terawatt-hours per year by 2030.
As per the company’s announcement, DB Cargo’s well-established and safe logistics operations in tank wagons enable it to transport around 20% of Germany’s anticipated hydrogen demand by rail, a compelling quick fix as the country awaits pipeline network expansion in the coming decades.
DB Cargo’s strategy stands out as hydrogen production often occurs in regions abundant with wind, sun, and water, far from where it is needed. To bridge this gap, logistics solutions are essential. Imported hydrogen, typically bound in chemicals for easy and efficient shipping, can be transported in existing tank wagons widely utilized in the chemical industry. Only at the end-user site is the hydrogen separated and used as an energy source.
“Hydrogen will play an important role in the future energy mix,” Dr. Sigrid Nikutta, Head of DB Cargo AG and Board Member for Freight Transport at DB Group, stated. She elaborated that DB Cargo’s solution facilitates easy and efficient hydrogen transport from ports to consumers in the hinterland, especially to industrial customers.
DB Cargo’s significant role in developing the national hydrogen strategy doesn’t end there. The company is also working on the development of innovative hydrogen containers and testing logistics for pure hydrogen transport. Multi-Element Gas Containers (MEGC) are employed to transport gaseous hydrogen under high pressure. This solution is particularly beneficial for small-scale distribution to decentralized customers and users such as hydrogen filling stations.
Deutsche Bahn Cargo is also involved in the testing of the hydrogen trains from DB Regio on various operational lines. The transport of cryogenic liquefied hydrogen, despite its complexities due to extremely low-temperature requirements (around -253 degrees Celsius), is another challenge the company is taking on.
All these efforts are reflective of DB Cargo’s commitment to championing the green hydrogen revolution. The company is a partner in the “Reallabor Burghausen ChemDelta Bavaria” – a non-profit company testing hydrogen technology in the demanding industrial environment of the Bavarian chemical triangle.
By harnessing the benefits of rail transport, DB Cargo’s solution not only addresses the logistical challenges posed by hydrogen transportation but also bolsters the environmental credentials of hydrogen as a green fuel.