Last week I explored the current costs and methods used for hydrogen logistics today. This week will be about the future of this part of the value chain: what new methods are in the process of being developed and commercialized?
Innovation in storage seems to be bifurcated between 1) improvements to current physical methods and 2) developing new materials or molecules to capture and/or transform the hydrogen. Most startups and research labs seem to be working on #2, which is perhaps a symptom of the fact that there are an incredible number of materials to explore for this application. In fact, the DOE hosts a great database that lists out 250+ hydrogen-storing materials that researchers have discovered.
I won’t come even close to going into all of those methods, but hopefully the below gives a high level overview of what methods are actually being worked on by startups in the ecosystem.
(Note that these are not vetted or sorted. This is just a list I compiled of advertised hydrogen storage methods from various startups):
Distributed hydrogen production does somewhat belong in this section too. Having onsite production at demand points like fueling stations eliminates the need for any hydrogen transport. Companies like IVYS Energy are working on building these all-in-one fueling stations.
It’s also worth mentioning the prospect of shipping hydrogen. Maritime transport of hydrogen is still in its infancy. It will be interesting to see whether or not international shipping of hydrogen will be necessary given the widespread availability of hydrogen-bearing sources. There are also some efforts in recent years to test out actually producing (then shipping) hydrogen on ships.
In terms of costs, there aren’t great sources for the potential costs of transport in the future based on all of the methods described above. According to one study examining Germany by 2050, transport + logistics could get down to $0.30 - $1.60 / kg vs. the ~$1.50 - $6.00 / kg range we determined last time for current methods. This study only looked at gas, liquid, and LOHC methods though.
Finally, I’ll just end on the size of the future market. Luckily, this was actually a bit easier to find than the size of the current market, thanks to the smart people at IEA. According to their Net Zero scenario, they believe storage needs could amount to ~50 Mt by 2050, which is just under 10% of the 500+ Mt of hydrogen that they believe will be needed for Net Zero. That is a lot of hydrogen to store, considering the current total hydrogen produced right now is ~70 Mt. But considering the number of new methods that are under development, I'm optimistic that we'll have plenty of economic storage by that point.