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Hydrogen Transport Difficulties

By Danny Harrington, MD ITS Education Asia

Debates around sustainability initiatives can often become quite binary. But the world isn’t like that and we need to recognize the complexity of the problems we face. I was reading recently about the problems still facing hydrogen as a fuel of the future. The potential for hydrogen is huge as a clean, efficient and “ubiquitous” energy source. Most debate focuses on the quality of the fuel production methods and how well we have progressed in that area. But while the potential for hydrogen fuel production is spread across space much better than fossil fuels, it will always still be to a certain extent location dependent as the production facilities take considerable investment (unless we hit a utopian future where perhaps a house could produce its own hydrogen fuel). So this creates a new set of problems around moving hydrogen fuel from producer to consumer as hydrogen is difficult to contain without leakage, causes embrittlement of metal casings, can be technically complicated and expensive to liquify, and loses large amounts of energy efficiency when converted to and from a compound such as a liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC) or ammonia.

There are also questions around the structural organization of the energy sector and how government regulation will impact (so what is the political will in different places). Domestic production seems a nice halfway place reducing demands on transport tech and cost but may be fought by the transnational energy giants who enjoy international distribution network advantages.

A great case study in complex sustainability solutions for students.

Dulwich College Singapore

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