Damen launches its first hybrid tug
PSA Peugeot Citroën and GM confirm key steps in global strategic alliance; four vehicle projects, joint purchasing

Air Products dedicates world’s largest hydrogen plant and pipeline system

Air Products, the leading global hydrogen provider, held a dedication ceremony for what is now the world’s largest hydrogen plant and pipeline supply network. Air Products had operated two hydrogen pipeline systems in Texas and Louisiana before joining them with a new 180-mile segment. The Gulf Coast Connection Pipeline (GCCP) is now able to provide hydrogen to customers along the 600-mile pipeline span from more than 20 hydrogen production facilities.

The company announced the pipeline project in 2010 and placed it onstream in August 2012 to begin supply of more than 1.2 billion cubic feet of hydrogen per day to Louisiana and Texas customers.

Hydrogen is widely used in petroleum refining processes to remove impurities found in crude oil such as sulfur, olefins and aromatics to meet the product fuels specifications. Removing these components allows gasoline and diesel to burn cleaner and thus makes hydrogen a critical component in the production of cleaner fuels needed by modern internal combustion engines.



Piping hydrogen was presented as a show stopper by opponents of the use of hydrogen in cars.
We can't assume from this that all the problems are fully solved, but it is obvious that we can manage it perfectly well.


Good point Davemart.


and people think an infrastructure of fast electric chargers is expensive


The problem isn't the fast chargers for batteries.
It is needing at least one charger per car.
That adds up quicker than the ~1 hydrogen station for 2,000 cars needed.


AC Propulsion proved that the car's charger and its motor electronics can be the same thing.  There's no particular need for a stand-alone charger, and the standard behind the J1772 interface needs precious little except ground-fault detection and an on-off relay.


"but it is obvious that we can manage it [infrastructure] perfectly well."

Sure, and from the Palo Verde Nuclear plant, at 3 gigawatts in 1988, it is obvious that . . .

And from the Concord SST, in 1969 it is obvious that . . .

It is obvious that the future is not guaranteed by one step, however big.


Hmm, I believe I qualified my comment sufficiently.

Note that the article says that they had already been running two hydrogen piping systems, and the difference is that they are now linked, so it is hardly at prototype stage.

Considering some of the comments here about the supposed near impossibility of piping hydrogen, that seems good progress to me.

Just like any fairly new technology, we could hit snags, but at the moment there does not seem to be any reason that hydrogen can't be pumped about successfully.


Indeed, it is being pumped about... in very large pipelines, among a limited number of sites, across rather short distances (180 miles is tiny compared to the span of the natural gas distribution system).

The large size and relatively short span reduces pumping losses.  The small number of branches/sites allows a high level of inspection and repair activity to catch leaks.  None of this scales up to "hydrogen economy" sizes.  The kicker is that this network is explicitly for an application (chemical processing) where there is no substitute for H2.  Vehicular propulsion is not one of those applications.


It is not a '180 mile network'
' Air Products had operated two hydrogen pipeline systems in Texas and Louisiana before joining them with a new 180-mile segment.'

Any references for your claim of large size?


It's a 1 billion SCFD pipeline, and from the construction pics it's about half as big in diamater as a man is tall.  It's not small.


'The Gulf Coast Connection Pipeline (GCCP) is now able to provide hydrogen to customers along the 600-mile pipeline span from more than 20 hydrogen production facilities.'

600 miles is a fair chunk of the 3,000 miles of the US, in contrast to what you were saying.
It appears that you did not scan the article to thoroughly before critiquing it.
We have all done that at one time or another, but it seems that maybe you are tending to see what you wish to.

Presumably the '20 hydrogen production facilities' feeding in may use smaller diameter pipelines compared to the main one.


The network does not appear intended for continuous traffic; it's there to interconnect regions which appear to be mostly self-sufficient except for intermittent outages.  The value of the pipeline is to allow all other processes to continue to run even if there is a temporary outage in something which supplies or consumes H2.  This would allow the processes to continue to run rather than requiring a shutdown and restart just because something else paused.

The problem with long-distance traffic in H2 is that the per-unit losses in pumping are far higher than even natural gas.  I've lost my references, but if memory serves the losses due to pumping power in NG transport can be 20% or more end-to-end.  H2 could get close to triple that.  By comparison, HVDC is 3% per 1000 km.  Even coal is being used to generate electricity right at the mine mouth; moving H2 on a continental scale just doesn't make sense.


Always informative, I much enjoy debating with you.
I am not sure that H2 would actually have to be moved on a continental scale.

I have located a formal appraisal of natural gas transmission losses.
The equations are way, way over my head, but the overall losses are, apparently, a very low figure of 1.4%, which is amazing considering that the US looses around 7% of electricity in transmission losses.

I can't account for it other than on the assumption that maybe they are talking about something else?


Ah! Found an article about piping hydrogen!
Full of hairy equations again:

'Hydrogen can be transported in pipelines similar to natural gas. There are networks for hydrogen already operating today, a 1500 km network in Europe and a 720 km network in the USA. The oldest hydrogen pipe network is in the Ruhr area in Germany and has operated for more than 50 years. The tubes with a typical diameter of 25-30 cm are built using conventional pipe steel and operate at a pressure of 10 to 20 bar. The volumetric energy density of hydrogen gas is 36% of the volumetric energy density of natural gas at the same pressure. In order to transport the same amount of energy the hydrogen flux has to be 2.8 times larger than the flux of natural gas. However, the viscosity of hydrogen (8.92·10-6 Pa s) is significantly smaller than that of natural gas (11.2·10-6 Pa s).'

'The transmission power per energy unit is therefore 2.2 times larger for hydrogen as compared to natural gas. The total energy loss during the transportation of hydrogen is about 4% of the energy content. Because of the great length, and therefore the great volume of piping systems, a slight change in the operating pressure of a pipeline system results in a large change of the amount of hydrogen gas contained within the piping network. Therefore, the pipeline can be used to handle fluctuations in supply and demand, avoiding the cost of onsite storage.'

Talking about the great length presumably indicates that the 4% loss is for the 1500km Ruhr pipe, although it is far from clear.

So at least on the limited data I have been able to dig up, it seems that perhaps the losses you thought were the case are far too high.

If you manage to dig up anything better, let me know!
In the meantime I will let you play with the equations.
I will simply contemplate them from afar!


NB 4% is ball park 2.2 times the 1.4% for natural gas piping losses, so perhaps we are in the right area.


The EIA page you cite refers to Table XVIII for the pumping energy requirements, but it neither includes nor links to the table.  Given that, I'm not sure what the figures are supposed to come from, or even what they are.

The EIA figures on NG consumption for transport includes consumption by NGVs, but does not include NG burned in electric powerplants to power electric compressors.  The 686 BCF figure is a floor, and a rather low one.


The EIA is a 1998 paper, so I am not too surprised the data table has got lost.

How are you doing with the Ruhr paper?


I have found a paper on natural gas in the CIS:

I have not fully studied it, but Table 2 looks interesting.
it shows domestic supply as 662 of whatever units they are using, I have not spotted what that is, distribution losses as 11 and pipeline transport as 49, with the last presumably pumping etc.

That is around 1.6% for losses, which correlates well with the EIA's figure, and around 7.4% for the pumping etc.
That would put the total at about 10% energy cost.

2.2 times that would come to around 22% if it were hydrogen being transported that distance, which is a pretty big figure but then again the CIS is pretty big, and I can't think of many reasons why one would want to pump hydrogen so far, at least if you are producing it from natural gas.
It would be less lossy to transport it as NG and convert nearer to where you want it.

If you were using electrolysis to produce hydrogen presumably you would just transport the electricity or generate it by solar or whatever near to where you needed the hydrogen.


Sorry, I may have been confusing in the way I got 22% as total losses for a posited equivalent CIS hydrogen system.
That was roughly, and really I should have used the losses from the Ruhr hydrogen system, 4%, and added that to the 7.4%*2.2 which is the pumping and compression costs for the CIS NG system times the factor of 2.2 in the Ruhr paper for hydrogen = 16.28 plus 4% = 20.28%
The CIS system is bigger than the Ruhr hydrogen one though, presumably, so the rough of something like 22% may be around the right figure as losses would presumably be higher.


Hmm, not sure I have adequately allowed for hydrogen losses.
Clearly the CIS natural gas piping system is huge. Page 30 of the CIS document shows the Gazprom controlled part of it as 611,800 km, a totally different matter to the Ruhr hydrogen network at 1,500 km which apparently looses 4%.

I can't see much reason why hydrogen would normally need to be pumped huge distances or have anything like as extensive a network as it is not going to every home, but tomorrow I will see if I can get hold of any better figures on losses.


Although the NG network is much larger in the CIS, clearly the gas does not travel all around it.
Each molecule will have a comparatively short journey.
Most of the supplies are based in the West where the people are fairly adjacent, with supplies in Eastern Siberia less exploited due to their very remoteness.
The Wiki includes a map of pipelines for the western regions, including some of the other CIS states:


'Hydrogen leakage was assumed to occur during electrolysis of water, hydrogen compression, hydrogen storage at the filling station, vehicle fueling, in-vehicle hydrogen storage, in-vehicle flow through the fueling system, and hydrogen usage in the fuel cell stack. Studies have suggested a future hydrogen leakage rate of 3%, since the rate of natural gas leakage today is about 1% and that since hydrogen is a smaller molecule and more permeable than methane [Schultz et al., 2003; Colella et al., 2005]. Here, the leakage rate was similarly assumed to be 3%, the upper limit considered by Zittel et al.[1996] and Shultz et al. [2003]. This leakage rate is lower than that used in Colella et al.[2005], since they used a 10% leakage rate to ensure a conservative result, recognizing that the real leakage rate is most likely 1-3%.'


They are not specifically talking about pipeline transport, but perhaps the tendency to leak is the same.

So the best guess I can put on things is that the leakage rate might be around 3 times that of NG, and the pumping losses 2.2 times.

Not good, but not disastrous either.
Clearly efforts would be made to minimise losses by pumping natural gas and then converting it nearer point of use, and the same for electrolysis.


In other words, it's not simple.  Creating H2 from natural gas isn't a long-term option either; going renewable means it all has to be made from electrolysis or biomass.  If you're starting from e.g. purified landfill gas anyway, you might as well use it straight in a solid-oxide fuel cell and skip the conversion to H2.  You get higher energy storage density and a simpler system overall.  The same system could probably use syngas from pyrolized biomass (energy density roughly the same as H2).

Hydrogen is also a very stable molecule and H2 leakage allows water to form high in the stratosphere where it finally gets photolyzed.  The hydrogen economy may be undesirable for environmental reasons even if it is technically feasible.


I find that assessment a real stretch.
Lots of things aren't simple, but that doesn't mean they can't be done.

What we were assessing is piping hydrogen.
It is clear that it is technically possible at reasonable losses, and that for the past many years we have been accumulating expertise, considering there is no reason to build a comparable network to natural gas.

If you are using electrolysis there is even less reason to be pumping the hydrogen vast distances, as it could be made anywhere you fancy if you provide the electricity, as is actually being done in these portable hydrogen stations:

Solar can of course also be used.

The comment about some imagined ill effects of releasing hydrogen sounds frankly completely random, as the releases would be trivial compared to the natural water cycle.

At least once you start running the car, a fuel cell and an ICE emit comparable amounts of water, the only difference being that the emissions from the ICE contain lots of nasties as well as water, and those from fuel cells don't.

If you are using electrolysis there is even less reason to be pumping the hydrogen vast distances, as it could be made anywhere you fancy if you provide the electricity
Which turns the hydrogen system into a rather complex and lossy battery.  As Dr. Bossel notes, it's awfully hard for hydrogen to compete with its own raw energy supply.
The comment about some imagined ill effects of releasing hydrogen sounds frankly completely random, as the releases would be trivial compared to the natural water cycle.
The issue is that H2 gets past the "cold trap" at the bottom of the stratosphere, and this has been a known issue since at least 2003.

We have to choose our poisons here.  In the near term the alternatives are BEVs for short-range vehicles, plus PHEVs and possibly FCEVs.  The PHEV uses the existing fueling infrastructure and creates no new pollution issues; further, there are a number of likely advances for turning various existing waste streams into liquid fuels.  Do we want some local air-quality issues in places like the Los Angeles basin (which have less and less to do with vehicles anyway), or a brand-new global problem with a massive increase in stratopheric water?  Given what we've learned from CFCs, I'd rather stick to the devil we know.

The comments to this entry are closed.