As countries look to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and decarbonize their economies, the potential of hydrogen as a clean energy source is becoming increasingly attractive.
However, the safe and efficient transportation of hydrogen poses a major challenge, especially when it comes to transporting it across oceans.
The process of liquefying hydrogen, which involves cooling it to extremely low temperatures, is expensive and energy-intensive. To address this issue, researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) have developed a pioneering approach called Solid Air Hydrogen Liquefaction (SAHL). The method proposes using solid air, either nitrogen or oxygen, as a medium for recycling cooling energy in the hydrogen liquefaction supply chain.
The SAHL process involves four main steps: hydrogen regasification, solid air transportation, hydrogen liquefaction, and liquid hydrogen transportation. Cooling energy is stored from the regasification of hydrogen by solidifying air, which is then transported back to where the hydrogen was liquefied. The solid air is then used to reduce the energy consumption for liquefying hydrogen.
Lead author of the paper, Julian Hunt, emphasizes the potential of the SAHL process to reduce the cost and energy consumption for transporting hydrogen between continents. This, in turn, could increase the viability of a global hydrogen economy in the future and increase the number of hydrogen suppliers for energy-demanding regions such as China, Europe, and Japan. Additionally, the SAHL process produces extra oxygen, which could be used to increase the efficiency of power generation and facilitate carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS).
Compared to other alternatives for hydrogen transportation by sea, such as ammonia or methanol, liquefied hydrogen is the best option due to its lower energy requirements for extraction and liquefaction. The SAHL process can lower energy consumption for hydrogen liquefaction by 25 to 50 percent.
The potential impact of SAHL on the global hydrogen economy is significant, as it could make hydrogen a more viable and accessible energy source. However, there are also potential challenges, such as the cost of implementing the SAHL process and the need for further research and development.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war have further increased the interest of Europe and Western countries to invest in the hydrogen economy as an alternative to fossil fuels. The development of innovative and sustainable technologies like SAHL could be key to achieving a cleaner and more secure energy future.
In conclusion, the SAHL process proposed by IIASA researchers presents an innovative solution for the challenge of hydrogen transportation by sea. The potential impact of this technology on the global hydrogen economy is significant, and it could be a step forward in achieving a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.