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Cost-efficient hydrogen transport | TÜV Rheinland

Hydrogen transport – cost-efficient and reliable.

In order to use hydrogen in the industry, in homes or fuel cells, it must first be transported. The selection of the transport method depends on the production technology, the transport distance and transport infrastructure, and the needs of the end user. The most common methods are existing gas pipelines and road transport by tank trucks.

For you as an operator of gas grids, distribution grids and pipelines, or an operator of gas transport vehicles, it is critical that you supply your customers with sufficient quantities of hydrogen in a safe, cost-efficient and reliable way. Whether in terms of transport routes from global production sites to the hubs, or in terms of the local distribution in the buyer countries to the end user.

Gas grid or hydrogen pipeline – How is hydrogen transported?

Depending on the production method and system design, the logistics of hydrogen include the following steps: compression, injection, intermediate storage, transport and distribution. Hydrogen can already be fed directly into the gas grid, within specified limits. To use this option, the following questions should be clarified:

  • Can existing gas pipelines be used?
  • Are these pipelines designed for this purpose?
  • Can they withstand the high pressure?
  • What is needed to retrofit gas pipelines for hydrogen?

Alternatively, there are pipelines that are only used for hydrogen. Those are made of metal or plastic and are optimized for hydrogen transport.

Even though pipeline-based transport is arguably the easiest way to distribute gas, building pipelines only used for hydrogen requires a high initial investment. Using existing gas grids, on the other hand, involves much lower costs upfront. However, gas pipelines must be carefully monitored to ensure that hydrogen is blended into the gas mixture in the correct proportion.

Hydrogen tanks by road, rail and sea.

Another approach is to transport hydrogen in special tanks on trucks, freight trains or ships. Depending on the transport method, small, medium or large hydrogen tanks are used, which are properly protected for safety reasons.

These special transport tanks, which contain hydrogen in gaseous and compressed form (CGH2: Compressed Gaseous Hydrogen) or in liquid form (LH2: Liquid Hydrogen), face the same challenges as the storage tanks:

  • To store large amounts of hydrogen gas in a limited volume, it must be compressed under high pressure.
  • Gaseous hydrogen can easily escape through leaks.
  • Storing liquefied hydrogen allows a higher storage density at greatly reduced pressure.
  • However, this requires constant cooling at -253 °C, otherwise the hydrogen can evaporate (boil-off).
  • Hydrogen tanks must be designed to be safe and durable, as tank failure poses an explosion risk.

Our services for transport logistics:

  • Suitability analyses for existing infrastructures and facilities for hydrogen distribution
  • Acceptance testing of the entire pipeline structure
  • Suitability testing of distribution grid structures for supply functions
  • Usability studies and leakage tests of the end customer’s supply facilities
  • "Green hydrogen" or “Carbon footprint" certifications
  • Quality testing and safety testing of infrastructures

Hydrogen infrastructure and distribution.

Once the hydrogen has reached its destination, it must be further distributed for its intended use (application). Therefore, an appropriate infrastructure for transport and distribution is needed.

The transport of hydrogen over long distances generally happens via pipelines. To make the hydrogen available locally at its destination, there are different approaches for further distribution.

Distribution options for hydrogen at the destination.

Unless the hydrogen is produced locally, i. e. directly at the point of use (such as a hydrogen filling station), it is distributed via distribution points, so-called hubs. There are two different distribution options – direct and indirect distribution.

In the case of direct distribution, the application (e. g. hydrogen filling station) is almost directly connected to the long-distance hydrogen pipeline. With indirect distribution, on the other hand, the hydrogen is temporarily stored in a storage facility, a so-called hub. From these hubs, the hydrogen is further distributed either via the local distribution grid (gas grid and pipelines), or alternatively, the hub itself serves as a filling station. In this case, the hydrogen is filled into a truck, which then transports the hydrogen to its final point of use.

Which method is used for the distribution of hydrogen depends on the local infrastructure and on the potential to expand existing structures. It also depends on the intended application. For example, anyone who wants to operate a hydrogen filling station must consider what types of vehicles it will refuel. Does the hydrogen need to be supplied in gaseous form or in liquefied form? What quantities are needed and what quality? Or is the hydrogen transported via gas grids and hydrogen grids, and meant to be used to generate electricity and heat in buildings or for industrial processes?

Knowing the answers to these questions is critical in order to be able to design safe plants, operate them reliably and also scale them in the most cost-efficient way. We will assist you in this process.

Our testing portfolio for the successful transport of hydrogen.

As a major testing service provider, we offer a wide range of testing and inspection services that we tailor to your individual needs. For the successful transport of hydrogen, we also support you with the following services:

Inspection and testing of pipelines

Safety in potentially explosive areas

Explosion protection testing and certification (according to ATEX and IECEx)

Transport of hazardous goods

ISO 9001 Certification

ISO 14001 Certification

Reference cases in transport and distribution of hydrogen

Below you will find our reference projects in the transport and distribution of hydrogen. We have provided an overview of further projects along the hydrogen value chain.

Hydrogen admixture in the pilot distribution network

Ask our experts about hydrogen!

Ask our experts about hydrogen!