The early days of transoceanic hydrogen transport

There’s a crowded field of technologies competing to move hydrogen across the oceans. Which one will come out on top?

On the Catalyst with Shayle Kann podcast this week:

Before hydrogen makes it big, we have to overcome a massive, ocean-sized challenge: the best way to transport the fuel between continents. 

The places that will be best suited to produce hydrogen via renewables-powered electrolysis, such as Australia and Egypt, will have to ship that hydrogen to demand centers in Japan, Europe and elsewhere.

And it turns out that shipping hydrogen is way harder than shipping oil or natural gas. Hydrogen has a very low volumetric energy density. Compared to one barrel of oil, the equivalent amount of gaseous hydrogen takes up way more space to transport.

Fortunately, there’s a range of available technologies that may be able to solve this problem. Will one emerge as the dominant means of transporting hydrogen across the oceans?

In this episode, Shayle talks to Anne-Sophie Corbeau, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs’ Center on Global Energy Policy. Anne-Sophie recently wrote about hydrogen transport for Cipher.

They cover the five leading contenders for transoceanic transport:

  • Liquified hydrogen

  • E-methane (also known as synthetic methane or carbon-neutral gas)

  • Liquid organic hydrogen carriers

  • Methanol

  • Ammonia

They also discuss topics including:

  • Why good old-fashioned pipelines might be a viable option for transport, even between continents.

  • The challenges of converting fossil-gas infrastructure into hydrogen infrastructure.

  • Why hydrogen exporters might be better off producing products made with hydrogen, such as steel, rather than the hydrogen itself.

Recommended resources

  • Cipher: Global hydrogen trade may be just a pipe dream

  • IRENA: Global hydrogen trade to meet the 1.5°C climate goal: Technology review of hydrogen carriers

  • IEA: Global hydrogen review 2022

Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more.

Catalyst is supported by RE+. RE+ is more than just the largest clean energy event — it’s a catalyst for industry innovation designed to supercharge business growth in the clean energy economy. Learn more: re-plus.com.