Green Hydrogen Transport Cost - Realistic Cost for Green Hydrogen Transportation in Pipelines, Road and Rail - India Renewable Energy Consulting – Solar, Biomass, Wind, Cleantech
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Themes and Topics

  • Ammonia transportation
  • Green hydrogen transportation cost
  • Hydrogen carriers
  • LOHC
  • Pipeline infrastructure
  • Pipeline transportation
  • Rail infrastructure.
  • Rail transportation
  • Road infrastructure
  • Road transportation
  • Realistic Cost for Green Hydrogen Transportation in Pipelines, Road and Rail

    Transporting green hydrogen to where it’s needed is a critical component of developing a hydrogen economy. The cost and feasibility of transporting hydrogen vary significantly based on the mode of transportation—pipelines, road, or rail—and each has its own set of challenges and considerations.

    Pipeline Transportation

    • Cost Considerations: The cost of transporting hydrogen via pipelines is generally lower than road or rail, especially over long distances. However, the initial investment in pipeline infrastructure is significant. Retrofitting existing natural gas pipelines for hydrogen or building new hydrogen-specific pipelines involves substantial capital expenditure. Costs can range widely depending on the distance, pipeline diameter, and whether new pipelines are constructed or existing ones are repurposed.
    • Challenges with Natural Gas Pipelines:
      • Material Compatibility: Hydrogen can embrittle the steel and welds in traditional natural gas pipelines, potentially leading to cracks and leaks.
      • Leakage and Safety: Hydrogen’s small molecule size increases the risk of leaks compared to natural gas. Ensuring the safety of hydrogen pipelines requires additional measures.
      • Purity Requirements: Hydrogen used in fuel cells, for example, requires high purity. Mixing hydrogen with natural gas (hydrogen blending) can be a temporary solution, but it may not be suitable for all end uses.

    Road Transportation

    • Economic Viability: Transporting hydrogen by road, typically in high-pressure tube trailers or cryogenic liquid tankers, is more expensive than pipeline transport. The cost depends on the distance, the amount of hydrogen being transported, and the local road infrastructure. It’s generally considered for short distances or where pipeline infrastructure is not available.
    • Challenges:
      • High Costs: The cost of road transport includes not just the specialized trailers but also the fuel for the trucks, driver costs, and maintenance.
      • Safety and Regulations: Transporting hydrogen by road requires adherence to strict safety and regulatory standards to manage the risks associated with high-pressure gases.

    Rail Transportation

    • Cost and Feasibility: Rail transport of hydrogen, either as compressed gas or liquid, can be a cost-effective solution for intermediate distances, especially when pipelines are not feasible, and road transport is too expensive. Costs will vary based on rail fees, leasing or purchasing tank cars, and the infrastructure at loading and unloading sites.
    • Challenges: Similar to road transport, rail transport of hydrogen must comply with safety and regulatory standards. Additionally, the availability of rail infrastructure and the need for transshipment points can add complexity and cost.

    Unique Ways to Transport Hydrogen

    • Hydrogen Carriers: Chemical hydrogen storage in the form of liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC) or ammonia can offer a unique way to transport hydrogen. These carriers can be transported using existing infrastructure (like oil pipelines, tankers, and rail cars) and then converted back to hydrogen at the destination. This approach can potentially reduce the need for high-pressure or cryogenic storage systems.
    • Hydrogen Blending in Natural Gas Pipelines: Blending hydrogen into existing natural gas pipelines up to certain limits (typically below 20% by volume) is being explored as a transitional strategy to leverage existing infrastructure without significant modifications. However, this approach has limitations regarding end-use applications and requires careful consideration of the impact on gas turbines, appliances, and material compatibility.

    Case Study:

    In a recent study conducted by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the cost of transporting green hydrogen via pipelines, road, and rail was examined in various scenarios. The study focused on a hypothetical green hydrogen production facility located in a remote area with abundant renewable energy resources.

    • Pipeline Transportation: The cost of transporting green hydrogen through pipelines was estimated to be approximately $1.50 to $2.50 per kilogram over a distance of 1000 kilometers. This cost includes the construction, operation, and maintenance of the pipeline infrastructure.
    • Road Transportation: For road transportation, the cost was significantly higher due to the need for specialized vehicles and safety measures. The estimated cost ranged from $3.50 to $5.00 per kilogram over the same distance. This higher cost is primarily attributed to the lower efficiency and higher energy consumption of trucks compared to pipelines.
    • Rail Transportation: Rail transportation of green hydrogen was found to be less common and more expensive compared to pipelines and roads. The estimated cost ranged from $4.00 to $6.00 per kilogram over 1000 kilometers. This higher cost is primarily due to the limited infrastructure for transporting hydrogen via rail and the higher operational costs associated with trains.

    Specific Challenges:

    Several specific challenges were identified in each mode of transportation for green hydrogen:

    • Pipeline Transportation: The main challenges include the high upfront investment required for pipeline infrastructure, the need for extensive planning and permitting processes, and potential leakage issues associated with transporting hydrogen over long distances.
    • Road Transportation: Challenges include the limited range of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the need for specialized refueling infrastructure along transportation routes, and safety concerns related to handling and transporting hydrogen in densely populated areas.
    • Rail Transportation: Challenges include the lack of dedicated infrastructure for transporting hydrogen via rail, the need for specialized tank cars and loading/unloading facilities, and regulatory barriers related to transporting hazardous materials.

    Case Study:

    • One case study to consider is the HyDeal Ambition project in Europe, which aims to produce and transport green hydrogen at scale. The project involves building electrolyzers in Spain to produce hydrogen from renewable sources and then transporting it via pipelines to various locations across Europe, including France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The cost of transporting hydrogen through pipelines in this project is estimated to be around €0.10 to €0.15 per kilogram of hydrogen, depending on the distance traveled.

    Another example is the H2South Australia project, which involves building a pipeline network to transport green hydrogen from renewable energy projects in South Australia to industrial users and export facilities. The cost of transporting hydrogen through pipelines in this project is estimated to be around AUD $3 to $5 per kilogram of hydrogen, depending on the distance and pipeline capacity.


    Transporting green hydrogen via pipelines is generally the most cost-effective option, followed by road transportation and then rail transportation. However, each mode of transportation has its own specific challenges and considerations that need to be addressed to ensure efficient and safe transportation of green hydrogen.

    Investments in infrastructure, technology development, and regulatory frameworks are essential to overcome these challenges and facilitate the widespread adoption of green hydrogen as a clean energy carrier. Collaboration between governments, industry stakeholders, and research institutions will be crucial in addressing these challenges and unlocking the full potential of green hydrogen transportation.

    About Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi)

    Narsi, a Director at EAI, Co-founded one of India's first climate tech consulting firm in 2008.

    Since then, he has assisted over 250 Indian and International firms, across many climate tech domain Solar, Bio-energy, Green hydrogen, E-Mobility, Green Chemicals.

    Narsi works closely with senior and top management corporates and helps then devise strategy and go-to-market plans to benefit from the fast growing Indian Climate tech market.

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