How Is Hydrogen Stored and Transported?

By Kirsteen Mackay


Hydrogen storage and transportation is a critical aspect of the hydrogen economy. Here we explore various approaches to the future of hydrogen infrastructure.

Advancements in Hydrogen Storage and Transportation

This article features in our series on hydrogen. Please refer to our comprehensive guide on investing in hydrogen for further insight.

Hydrogen storage and transport are crucial components of the developing hydrogen economy. Since hydrogen has a low energy density by volume, it needs to be stored and transported under specific conditions to make its use viable in a variety of applications. There are several methods for hydrogen storage and transport, each with its advantages and challenges:

Compressed Hydrogen

Compressed hydrogen represents a viable solution for the storage and transportation of clean energy, with unique methods and materials tailored to its specific needs.

Storage: Hydrogen gas can be compressed and stored under high pressure in specially designed tanks. These tanks are typically made of carbon fiber due to its strength and weight attributes.

Transport: Compressed hydrogen is typically transported in tube trailers (large-capacity trailers with multiple high-pressure cylindrical tanks) via road or rail.

Liquid Hydrogen (Cryogenic Storage)

Liquid hydrogen, when stored under cryogenic conditions, offers a compact and energy-dense method for hydrogen storage and transportation, paving the way for broader applications and infrastructure development.

Storage: Hydrogen can be stored as a cryogenic liquid in specially insulated tanks at -253°C. This method increases the energy density by volume, allowing more hydrogen to be stored.

Transport: Liquid hydrogen is transported using cryogenic tanker trucks or rail cars that maintain ultra-low temperatures.

Metal Hydrides

Metal hydrides have emerged as promising materials for hydrogen storage and transportation due to their ability to form compounds with hydrogen and various metals, thus facilitating the safe and efficient storage of this energy-rich gas.

Storage: Metal hydrides are compounds formed between hydrogen and metals (like iron, magnesium, or lanthanides). These can absorb and release hydrogen gas, providing a method to store hydrogen.

Transport: While metal hydrides can be transported, their primary use has been for stationary storage or on-board storage for vehicles.

Chemical Hydrogen Storage

Chemical hydrogen storage is a method that employs specific chemicals to safely and effectively store hydrogen through reversible reactions, enabling both convenient storage and transport solutions.

Storage: This involves the use of chemicals that can undergo reversible reactions with hydrogen, storing it in the form of chemical bonds. For example, ammonia or liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs) can be used for this purpose.

Transport: Chemical hydrogen storage materials can be transported similarly to other liquid or solid materials, depending on their state and nature.

Underground Storage

Underground storage plays a pivotal role in the energy sector, offering solutions for storing various gases like natural gas and hydrogen, ensuring their efficient transport and prolonged preservation.

Storage: Just as natural gas is stored underground, hydrogen can also be stored in salt caverns, depleted oil or gas fields, or aquifers. This is useful for large-scale, long-term storage.

Transport: Transporting hydrogen from these storage locations requires pipelines or other traditional means based on the state of the hydrogen (gas or liquid).

Pipeline Transport

Similar to natural gas pipelines, hydrogen can be transported through pipelines. However, due to hydrogen's small molecular size and low density, there are challenges like potential leakage and embrittlement of metals. Special materials and considerations are needed for hydrogen pipelines.

Solid-state Hydrogen Storage

Solid-state hydrogen storage offers a promising avenue for the safe and efficient containment of hydrogen by using solid materials that trap the gas in unique molecular structures, enabling potential advancements in both storage and transportation applications.

Storage: This involves storing hydrogen within solids, such as clathrates, where hydrogen molecules are entrapped in cage-like structures.

Transport: The transportation methods would vary based on the specific solid-state medium used.

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Challenges to Hydrogen Storage and Transport

While there are multiple methods for storing and transporting hydrogen, there are challenges like ensuring safety (since hydrogen is flammable), efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. Furthermore, infrastructure development is needed on a vast scale if hydrogen is to be widely adopted, especially for transport applications.

Hydrogen Storage and Transport: Factors and Future Trends

The method of storage and transport chosen often depends on the intended end-use of the hydrogen, the volume being stored or transported, the duration of storage, and economic considerations.

Traditional storage methods, such as high-pressure tanks or cryogenic liquid storage, have their limitations in terms of efficiency and safety. To counter these challenges, researchers are exploring novel techniques like metal hydrides, chemical hydrogen storage, and advanced porous materials. These innovative storage mediums offer the potential for higher storage densities and improved safety profiles. 

Furthermore, as the infrastructure for hydrogen distribution expands, there is an increasing focus on pipelines, specially designed tanker trucks, and even the possibility of transporting hydrogen in solid forms.

Each of these options presents unique advantages and challenges, but as hydrogen becomes a more prominent energy carrier, innovations and investments in its storage and transport methods are expected to grow.

Read our detailed article if you’d like to discover Which Countries Are Leading in The Hydrogen Revolution?


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Author: Kirsteen Mackay

This article does not provide any financial advice and is not a recommendation to deal in any securities or product. Investments may fall in value and an investor may lose some or all of their investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.

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