Hydrogen Fuel to Replace LNG?
LNG is often called the transition or “bridge” fuel to reach an energy industry that is completely renewable. It is one of the cleanest alternatives broadly available on the market, but it’s still a fossil fuel that can cause air pollution and harmful emissions. Energy professionals are preparing to make a transition by perfecting renewable energy technologies. It’s still a slow process and developing LNG infrastructure seems like the best choice right now. However, a promising lead lies in hydrogen that could help reach zero-emissions. But could it be that expansion of the LNG sector will hinder the advancement of environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel?
Widespread use of hydrogen is still quite a long time away from becoming a reality as it struggles with the “chicken and egg” problem, just like LNG. However, its potential to produce clean energy with no greenhouse gas emissions may mean that demand for it will grow, resulting in investments for development trickling in. Some experts say that the existing LNG infrastructure could move the hydrogen fuel implementation faster since both gases require cryogenic treatment. However, it’s not as simple.
While low temperatures are important characterisations of both fuels, they contrast vastly. Hydrogen would need completely different equipment to handle, including a new cooling system, insulation, valves and storage tanks with specific seals to avoid leakage. What’s more, natural gas pipelines could not be used to deliver it, as it would make them brittle. The costs for these changes would require major investments that for now are stalling, circling back to the “chicken and egg” problem. For these reasons, according to a study by Lloyd’s Register and the University College of London’s Maritime Advisory Service, LNG infrastructure is unlikely to be viable for hydrogen fuel.
Even if these challenges are overcome, there is still a question of hydrogen’s effectiveness as a fuel. While it’s not heavy, it takes up a lot of valuable cargo space. One tonne of hydrogen fuel eats away at over 14,128 litres by volume of space. The storage problem results in the inability to cover long routes without stopping to refuel. This makes hydrogen a poor choice for large cargo ships coursing the vast oceans.
Although, there is a possibility for LNG to serve the process of implementing hydrogen fuel. It can be produced from natural gas as a feedstock. However, it would defeat the purpose of this alternative as the air pollution caused by hydrogen production from fossils could offset the benefits of lesser emissions.
With more development and innovative technologies, hydrogen fuel could overtake LNG as a cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuel, but for now, it’s still a long way away from conquering the energy market.
For more detailed information on LNG infrastructure, its impact on the energy market, and its potential to facilitate other fuels, register to attend the 4th International LNG Summit in Oslo, Norway on June 18th, 2019. It will gather industry experts and professionals for two days of discussions and networking. Learn more: www.lngsummit.org.