Trucks with hydrogen-powered fuel cells will soon be rolling off assembly lines at many of the major vehicle manufacturers. At the same time, the trillion-dollar U.S. Infrastructure Act is supporting the build-out of hydrogen hubs. But all the hubs in the country won’t help the trucker whose tank runs out of fuel hundreds of miles from the nearest hydrogen filling station, or the filling station itself that runs out of fuel and is unable to get more — a common occurrence at hydrogen fueling stations in California, where a very real problem exists due to the reliability of the hydrogen supply.
While the hydrogen economy promises to be a major component of the world’s green energy future, there are several important benchmarks to achieve before the promise of hydrogen’s contribution to net zero carbon emissions and clean air can be realized.
First and foremost, a supply of hydrogen must be accessible and available. This requires a dependable supply of ultra-pure liquid hydrogen. Second, we need to be able to deploy safe, low-pressure storage of liquid hydrogen. Over the past six to nine months, the focus has shifted to seeking opportunities to liquefy hydrogen where and when it is needed, instead of relying on a complex supply chain.
It’s important to understand the advantages of liquid hydrogen versus gaseous hydrogen. Because liquid hydrogen is much denser than compressed gaseous hydrogen, significantly more liquid hydrogen can be transported on a tanker than gaseous hydrogen. Think of the size difference between a balloon and a cup of water — that’s the basic scientific concept behind liquefying gaseous hydrogen to transport and store it. Without the liquefaction of hydrogen before transport, most use cases would not be economically viable.
Liquid Hydrogen Where You Need It
Those who are moving towards a hydrogen economy are already aware that compressed gaseous hydrogen needs to be liquified to be handled safely, efficiently, and economically, and several technologies have been created to liquefy gaseous hydrogen. The challenge has always been transporting it from “here” where it is produced, to “there” where it is needed. With the capability to produce and store liquified hydrogen where and when it is needed, the tipping point has been reached and the hydrogen economy is here.
Here are just a few examples:
• Ship Bunkering: Early adopters include deploying hydrogen liquefaction and storage solutions to support ship bunkering operations on the coast of Norway.
• Supply Chain: In the Texas panhandle, a company will produce 2,000 kg/day through electrolysis using a combination of renewable and low-cost electricity, making it more economical to transport to their customers.
• Mining: Large mining trucks are being converted from diesel to liquid hydrogen on board. The supply chain to have hydrogen shipped to remote mining locations all over the world is not dependable enough or economical.
• Data Centers: Liquid hydrogen solutions are in the works that will be deployed to power several data centers.
• Backup Power: Major companies, microgrids, and military bases are looking for solutions to prevent the boil-off of liquid hydrogen in their large storage tanks that are being utilized for backup energy.
Liquefaction and Storage
The holy grail for hydrogen is the capability for both liquefaction and storage. Think physics, thermal dynamics, and cryogenics. At GenH2, we are taking some of the most advanced technology in the world, which our team has spent decades developing in support of aerospace applications, and deploying it worldwide to accelerate the adoption of liquid hydrogen as the future source of energy.
We recently introduced a Mobile Liquid Hydrogen System, an end-to-end liquefication and storage system. This 20 kg/day liquefaction unit offers a space-optimized, fully integrated liquid hydrogen solution to be used in a range of applications from transportation such as cars, UAVs/drones, and trucks, to energy back-up systems, to pilot projects and testing. It will also be utilized as a lab setting for testing material, insulation, thermodynamic properties, and use cases for their applications.
Our core industrial product, however, is a 1,000 kg/day hydrogen liquefaction and controlled storage solution. It is a complete system including a hydrogen liquefier, liquid hydrogen storage system, compression, and cooling system. Both mobile and industrial systems allow users to control their supply of liquid hydrogen. This liquid hydrogen solution is designed to meet the needs of hydrogen-powered mobility on the road (passenger cars, mass transit, heavy-duty, and heavy industry trucking), in the air, and on the seas. In addition, the system will be used to serve as both a primary and backup energy supply for industrial applications, warehouses, and data centers.
For mobility use cases, the system is intended to be installed and operated where the hydrogen will be dispensed, eliminating the cost and risk associated with having hydrogen delivered by another party. Consider ship bunkering for ferries, which need predictable and reliable refueling for example. With the capability of producing liquid hydrogen at the port itself, the fueling process for a hydrogen-powered boat is seamless.
Another use case is truck stops. Imagine being able to provide hydrogen fuel all along U.S. highways and byways, quickly and efficiently with no concern of ever running out.
The future benefits of liquid hydrogen are clear. The air will be cleaner. There will not be a concern about the fuel source being finite as there is with fossil fuels. The world will not have to operate with a dependence on a natural resource that can have its supply and cost affected by geopolitics, and thanks to the GenH2 mobile liquid hydrogen system, it can be available anywhere you need it.
Greg Gosnell is president and CEO of GenH2.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.