The Future Of Hydrogen Transport To Build A Sustainable World

A quick guide on the use of hydrogen in transportation, current challenges, and advancements, and its potential to help achieve climate goals.


Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. There are various ways to obtain hydrogen, including from fossil fuels and biomass, water, or a combination of both. At present, natural gas is the primary source of hydrogen, contributing to roughly 75% of the world’s annual dedicated hydrogen production of approximately 70 million tonnes. This equates to about 6% of global natural gas consumption.

By serving as an energy carrier and fuel, hydrogen presents a promising opportunity to minimize air pollution from trucks, buses, planes, and ships, which emit a substantial amount of greenhouse gases. These gases trap heat and contribute to climate change, with the transportation industry accounting for 29% of such emissions. As part of the Net Zero Emissions Scenario 2021–2050, hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels could avoid up to 60 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions

Current Challenges of Hydrogen Transport

At present, generating hydrogen using low-carbon energy sources is expensive. However, according to an analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the cost of producing hydrogen from renewable electricity could decrease by 30% by 2030. This is due to the decreasing costs of renewable energy and the increase in hydrogen production. The progress of establishing hydrogen infrastructure is sluggish and impeding the widespread acceptance of hydrogen. The prices of hydrogen for consumers are significantly affected by the number of refueling stations, their frequency of usage, and the quantity of hydrogen delivered per day.

Currently, the primary source of hydrogen is derived from natural gas and coal. The transportation and distribution of hydrogen present unique safety concerns that are closely associated with its chemical and physical characteristics. Its propensity to embrittle materials, the tendency to escape from confinement, a broad range of flammability, and susceptibility to ignition with a small amount of energy are all significant barriers to safe utilization. 

Advancements in Hydrogen Transport

Development of cost-effective production methods

Transform the industrial ports into the central hubs for advancing the adoption of clean hydrogen. Numerous refining and chemical manufacturing operations that employ hydrogen derived from fossil fuels are predominantly located in coastal industrial regions across the globe. These regions include the North Sea in Europe, the Gulf Coast in North America, and southeastern China. Stimulating these plants to transition towards producing cleaner hydrogen would decrease the overall expenses.

Improvement in Pipeline networks

Utilize the current infrastructure, including millions of kilometers of natural gas pipelines. Incorporating clean hydrogen to substitute merely 5% of the number of natural gas supplies in countries would substantially increase the demand for hydrogen. This, in turn, would decrease expenses.

Advanced Hydrogen Storage Technologies

By using advanced hydrogen storage technologies like high-pressure tanks, cryogenic liquefaction of molecular hydrogen, chemical solid storage materials, and physically adsorbing porous materials.

The Bottom Line

Presently, the primary consumers of hydrogen are the refining and chemical industries, while the recent 5% rise in global hydrogen demand indicates a surge in both traditional and new applications worldwide. Moreover, hydrogen has the potential to help decarbonize heavy mobility sectors like railways, shipping, and buses that are difficult to electrify. Given the current energy crisis, governments are increasingly pursuing future-proof strategies, such as investing in new natural gas and LNG infrastructure that could potentially support clean hydrogen in the future. Nevertheless, greater efforts are needed to encourage more investment and incentives for expanding the supply and demand of low-carbon hydrogen at premium prices.

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Mousona Poddar

A passionate Content Writer who helps to scale your business by words with excellent research skills.

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