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MIT team exploring using LOHCs directly on-board hydrogen-fueled trucks

A team of MIT researchers led by William H. Green, the Hoyt Hottel Professor in Chemical Engineering, is developing a technology that allows liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs) not only to deliver hydrogen to the trucks, but also to store the hydrogen onboard.

Their findings were recently published in the ACS journal Energy and Fuels.

Currently, LOHCs, which work within existing retail fuel distribution infrastructure, are used to deliver hydrogen gas to refueling stations, where it is then compressed and delivered onto trucks equipped with hydrogen fuel cell or combustion engines.

This current approach incurs significant energy loss due to endothermic hydrogen release and compression at the retail station. To address this, our work is exploring a more efficient application, with LOHC-powered trucks featuring onboard dehydrogenation.

—Prof Green

To implement such a design, the team aims to modify the truck’s powertrain to allow onboard hydrogen release from the LOHCs, using waste heat from the engine exhaust to power the dehydrogenation process.

LOHC Bill Green 2_0

Proposed process flow diagram for onboard dehydrogenation. Component sizes are not to scale and have been enlarged for illustrative purposes. Image courtesy of the Green Group.

The dehydrogenation process happens within a high-temperature reactor, which continually receives hydrogen-rich LOHCs from the fuel storage tank. Hydrogen released from the reactor is fed to the engine, after passing through a separator to remove any lingering LOHC. On its way to the engine, some of the hydrogen gets diverted to a burner to heat the reactor, which helps to augment the reactor heating provided by the engine exhaust gases.

The team’s paper underscores that current uses of hydrogen, including LOHC systems, to decarbonize the trucking sector have drawbacks. Regardless of technical improvements, these existing options remain prohibitively expensive due to the high cost of retail hydrogen delivery.

We present an alternative option that addresses a lot of the challenges and seems to be a viable way in which hydrogen can be used in this transportation context. Hydrogen, when used through LOHCs, has clear benefits for long-hauling, such as scalability and fast refueling time. There is also an enormous potential to improve delivery and refueling to further reduce cost, and our system is working to do that.

—Sayandeep Biswas, first author


  • Sayandeep Biswas, Kariana Moreno Sader, and William H. Green (2023) “Perspective on Decarbonizing Long-Haul Trucks Using Onboard Dehydrogenation of Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers” Energy & Fuels doi: 10.1021/acs.energyfuels.3c01919



The relatively high temperature of combustion engines against PEM fuel cells would seem to favour their use in this kind of system, as of course they would have more 'waste' heat to drive the reaction.

That does not apply to SOC fuel cells, which are way higher temperature, however they don't much like stop-start so may not be very competitive for this use.

Roger Pham

The problem with LOHC is that it releases a lot of heat, 9 kWh per kg of H2, at the site of production which is energy rich, and requires input of 12 kWh per kg of H2 heat energy at the side of consumption, which is energy poor that may need this heat energy for local heating in winters.

A much better solution would be pipeline transport of H2, wherein the energy required to compress the H2 at the energy-rich site will be significantly recoverable at the side of consumption by the use of pressure recovery turbines. Germany can get a H2 pipeline from North Africa whereby H2 will be produced from solar PV and sea water, to transport to Germany, now that the Nord Stream pipelines were destroyed. Japan and Korea can get H2 pipeline from China going briefly under the sea. China can produce a lot of H2 from the desert areas in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia to transport all around China via pipelines.
Compression energy from the compressed H2 on board vehicles can also be recoverable during consumption by the use of pressure recovery turbines.

Liquid H2 is more energy intensive and more expensive than compressed H2, and should be reserved for aviation wherein the extreme lightness of LH2 would give big advantage in payload and fuel consumption to more than offset the higher cost of making LH2.


In 2021,about 96% of global hydrogen production came from natural gas, coal oil; only around 4% came from electrolysis


Point is unless there is some fast and immediate innovation, the production of hydrogen will continue to be supplied by fossil fuels.
I hope for those here who so viciously advocate for H2, that the innovation to produce clean H2 will be a reality.

Roger Pham

There have been many fast and immediate innovation recently to improve the efficiency of Green H2 production. For example, Advance Ionics recently announced major reduction in electrical energy required for electrolysis, via the use of higher temperature steam electrolysis, to reduce electricity requirement from 50-55 kWh per kg of H2 down to 30-35 kWh per kg.
Green H2 is projected to cost $1.5 per kg before the end of this decade.

Waste heat is used to produce steam in the Advance Ionics process, which will require a lot less electricity to make H2 than water. This is beneficial to LOHC because during the hydrogenation process for the Hydrogen to bind to the Di-Benzyl-Toluene ( the most promising LOHC mollecule) , 9 kWh per kg of H2 of waste heat is released from this chemical reaction at 250 degree C. So, this waste heat generated from the exothermic Hydrogen binding reaction with the LOHC can be supplied to make steam at around 250 dgr C to lower the electricity required to make the H2.

Then, as the LOHC is carried on board cars and trucks, the engine's waste heat will be supplied to the hydrogenated LOHC to remove the Hydrogen, and it takes 12 kWh of heat supplied per kg of H2 generated. Since waste heat from the engine is required to remove the Hydrogen from the LOHC, the use of LOHC as Hydrogen carrier is only efficient when used with combustion engines, like in cars, trucks, and power plants, and not for general heating applications which are better off to use pipeline transported H2.

However, pipeline transport of LOHC will cost double the H2 pipeline or petroleum pipeline because a return line will be needed to bring back the H2-depleted LOHC, although still doable because existing petroleum pipelines can be repurposed, with the addition of another parallel line for returning the H2-depleted LOHC.

So, a future scenario could use existing natural gas pipeline to transport the pure H2 gas from Solar and Wind Farms to end users for heating purposes, while for transportation fuel, the LOHC will be transported long-distance using existing petroleum pipelines with an additional line parallel to it to return the depleted LOHC. Of course, trucks can be used to bring LOHC to and from the retail fuel stations like gasoline stations of today.

Not a bad scenario when H2 stored within LOHC could be used to power surface transportation using combustion engines, similar to petroleum being used to power combustion engines today.



' those here who so viciously advocate for H2...'

:-0 :-0!!

We may occasionally point out that many of your arguments agin hydrogen are nonsensical, but that it hardly being 'vicious'

For instance your present notion that because most hydrogen is currently produced by reforming fossil fuels, that it fixed and immutable, and it is inconceivable that that could change.

Aside from the umpteen billions going in right now to build green hydrogen production chains, if your argument were valid it would have been impossible to switch to electric cars, as the vast majority of cars ever produced are ICE.


Japan has been doing a lot of research in LOHC.
Two companies in particular(ENEOS - formerly JX Nippon Oil and Chiyoda).
ENEOS has been working on The Hydrogenation side of LOHC and their new technology is called Direct MCH. ENEOS has already built a demo plant in Australia
This is the original technical paper:
“Electrochemical reduction of toluene to methylcyclohexane for use as an energy carrier” ,

Japan is also researching the dehydrogenation side using Solid Oxide Fuel Cells.
This is some recent research by Waseda University.
“ Dehydrogenation of methylcyclohexane using solid oxide fuel cell – A smart energy conversion”,

Roger Pham

Thanks, Gryf for the info. Direct electro-reduction of Toluene is great if it costs less than and is more efficient than producing the H2 first and then hydrogenate the Toluene.
The disadvantage of LOHC for power generation is that it requires higher temperatures waste heat not available with current combined-cycle gas turbine power plants. Only single-cycle gas turbine power plant can be used, and this would really limit the efficiency.
Furthermore, a system for returning the depleted LOHC back to the generating source is another big disadvantage in comparison to the use of a single line natural gas piping to feed to the power plant. This natural gas piping can later transport H2 if and when green H2 will replace natural gas, so no major infrastructure change would be necessary with the use of green H2 directly. Using trucks to transport the LOHC to and from the power plants would be too costly and inefficient.

However, for surface transportation, the use of LOHC with combustion engines would overcome the public fear of compressed H2 and would be meet with easier acceptance, and perhaps with lower certification cost and maintenance cost for the fueling stations and fueling system due to no high-pressure involved and very low flammability of LOHC like di-benzyl-toluene, although the potential for leakage with ground contamination and cancer-causing potential will have to be dealt with.


I will admit I have a H2 bias; however, not against Green H2; but, with the use of fossil fuel feedstock and the gross pollution caused by the current steam reform process, as used by the FF interests. Hats Off if someone can figure a way to make H2 available at a low enough price to be used in airliners and long distance shipping.



I am completely on your side in arguing that sequestration etc is often used as a very poor cover story for the continued extraction of fossil fuels - 'cough' - Sunak - 'cough'

However, we should not throw out the baby with the bath water, and the underlying validity of technologies should not be assessed on the basis of the way that they are misused and misrepresented.

Whenever you can, of course you don't go through the energy losses, expense and hassle of converting electricity to hydrogen et al and back again, although that is becoming far more viable than your use of the present percentages of hydrogen from fossil fuels against green hydrogen indicates.

But the fact remains that many sectors are utterly impossible to decarbonise without the use of hydrogen etc, which is why it is being done.

Here is a just out analysis from the Royal Society of the need in the UK for truly massive amounts of hydrogen storage, to make it viable to run a grid on 100% renewables:

Alternatives are orders of magnitude too small, or much more expensive, they reckon; but hydrogen storage on the needed scale is wholly practical, according to their considerable expertise.

A few caveats from me, as I am far from a one-eyed hydrogen enthusiast as some seem to imagine:

The need for storage in most other places is lower, for instance in the US, as they are nearer the equator with less seasonal variability - it is wind, not solar, which really makes it dicey allowing against variability, although volcanic eruptions although rare woud certainly have a major impact.

And they assess against compressed air storage, when in my NVHO compressed carbon dioxide as being built right now by Energy Dome is way superior.

And perhaps to a presently undetermined degree natural hydrogen simply pumped from the ground will reduce the need for storage, and drastically reduce costs.
We don't know how exploitable or big the resource is, but so far, it is coming in at the top end of all the tests.

Evan with those caveats though, hydrogen including storage as an energy vector will play a major, major role.

It ain't a fight against batteries, but another weapon in decarbonisation, which can reach the places batteries can't.


It's not that we're hateful, but we might occasionally point out that many of your reasons against hydrogen are ridiculous.

For instance, you may believe that the fact that most hydrogen is produced by reforming fossil fuels is set in stone and cannot possibly alter krunker.

It would have been difficult to switch to electric automobiles if your reasoning were correct, given that the great majority of cars ever created are internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

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