Green hydrogen is still in a nascent phase, but developers are now using the fuel to power trains, ships, and vehicles.
Hydrogen has had its share of ups and downs as governments look to solutions for reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and engineers and scientists work to make hydrogen technology cost effective, if not simply feasible. In truth, hydrogen’s development has suffered more downs than celebrated ups.
Still, things are looking up in 2023 for hydrogen, spurred on by climate change remediation efforts around the globe. There are some solid developments to show heading into the new year.
In Europe, a German rail line is fully transforming from diesel locomotives to a hydrogen counterpart, developed by France’s Alstom. A $92.5-million project on a 60-mile local line outside of Hamburg resulted in the first train line to operate exclusively with hydrogen-powered locomotives. It is expected to save more than 4,000 tons of carbon-dioxide emissions annually.
About half of Europe’s regional trains now operate with diesel fuel. High-speed trains are electric, but electrifying local lines is often cost-prohibitive because of clearance obstacles in tunnels, bridges, and elsewhere. Hydrogen could be a solution. Linde, a partner in the project, is opening a first hydrogen refueling station for the trains, which have a range up to 620 miles between refills and can be refueled in 15 minutes, according to the developers.
Transportation technology also need development. Hydrogen must be in liquid form or transformed into ammonia before it can be transported. Liquifying hydrogen is costly, but converting it into ammonia for transport and then back to hydrogen could add another $2.50 to $3.00 per kilogram by 2030. That would more than double the price, given that green hydrogen production costs could be less than $2.00 per kilogram by 2030, according to the report.
Finally, there needs to be cooperation across countries, customers, and value chains. Long-term agreements between steel or green fertilizer producers, for instance, and hydrogen producers would reduce investment risks in clean-hydrogen projects.
Taken together, industry and governments have much work to do in putting a still nascent green hydrogen industry on its feet. In the meantime, incremental advances such as those in automotive and shipping will continue to make the case for hydrogen.