…..Transatlantic shipments of Canadian green hydrogen do not exist (in the real world), because green hydrogen does not exist, and cannot exist. This is so because hydrogen is not a source of energy. It is a carrier of energy. It takes energy to make it. It is an alternative type of battery. To imagine that Germany can be powered with green hydrogen from Canada is somewhat like thinking that Germany can be powered with batteries charged up in Canada and then shipped across the ocean for discharge. (Although there is a significant difference in that batteries don’t need to be refrigerated to -253 Centigrade before shipment, and don’t evaporate along the way. We’ll come back to that part shortly.)
Nevertheless, within the Gedankenwelt there is a vision of green hydrogen, and it looks like this: While Canada’s significant real world nuclear and hydroelectric capacity are already spoken for, Canada can nevertheless use its abundant Gedankenwelt wind power resources to produce hydrogen by electrolysis. This hydrogen will then be liquified and shipped across the ocean to power Germany.
It should be noted that Germany has plenty of Gedankenwelt wind power resources itself, but for some reason most of the power it generates does not make it into the real world. Canada’s Gedankenwelt wind power might prove to have the same problem as well. But we’ll let that part go, because there is a bigger problem.
In the real world, hydrogen is not produced on a commercial scale by water electrolysis. It is certainly possible to do this, but it is much cheaper make hydrogen by steam reforming methane, (natural gas) into carbon dioxide and hydrogen. (The chemical equation for this is CH4 + H2O + 1/2O2 => CO2 + 3H2.) You then need to separate the hydrogen from the CO2 to get pure hydrogen that you can ship. That takes energy, as does the production of the oxygen used in the steam reformation process itself. Still more energy is lost because while the net energy content of the three hydrogen molecules produced by steam reformation is about 90 percent that of the single methane molecule that was used to make them, they are much harder to ship. While using refrigeration equipment capable of achieve ideal (Carnot cycle) efficiency it would take about triple the power to liquefy the hydrogen as the original methane, using real world equipment it would take at least ten times the power, with the process consuming about half the energy the hydrogen contains. The refrigeration equipment would also be far more expensive than that used to liquify natural gas into LNG, as it must achieve temperatures of -253 Centigrade (20 K), instead of the -165 Centigrade (108 K) needed to liquefy natural gas.
The required hydrogen tankers would not only have to be higher tech than current LNG tankers, but much bigger as well. Liquid methane has six times the density of liquid hydrogen, while hydrogen only has 2.4 times the energy per unit mass. As a result, it takes a tanker 2.5 times as big to transport the same about as energy shipping liquid hydrogen as it does shipping LNG. These tankers will use a lot of oil. To make matters worse, about three times as much hydrogen (by energy content) as LNG would boil off along the way.
It is precisely the overheads of liquefaction and tanker shipping that typically drive LNG costs to be a factor of five times or more that of pipeline natural gas. (Current US pipeline price is $9/thousand cubic feet; price of LNG delivered to Europe is now $74/thousand cubic feet.). That’s bad enough. But these same overheads for hydrogen will be at least ten times greater.
Assuming anyone is willing to pay such enormous prices, once the hydrogen gets to Europe there will be further problems. To be used, the hydrogen will have to be regasifed and transmitted to the point of use by pipeline. But hydrogen gas contains less a third the energy content per unit volume as natural gas. So the cross sectional area of gas pipeline systems will need to be tripled. Also, any vehicles running on compressed natural gas will have to triple the size of their already oversized tanks to maintain the same range using the new, inferior, but vastly overpriced fuel.
The bottom line is that transatlantic hydrogen shipments will not only cost at least ten times as much as LNG, but result in triple the CO2 emissions per unit power as well……