Wouldn’t it be ironic if the vendors who now supply hydrogen to the big oil companies were to one day overtake them as the major suppliers of fuel for our nation’s cars? I’ve talked about the concept of large industrial specialty gas companies such as Air Products, Air Liquide and the Linde Group one day replacing Big Oil before.
One company I neglected to mention is Praxair, who is one of the leading hydrogen suppliers along the Gulf Coast. Hydrogen is typically used to de-sulfur crude oil when refining it into gasoline and diesel fuel.
Critics of hydrogen cars typically play the fear card saying that it’s too dangerous, we don’t know much about it and there is no infrastructure set up to support it. The truth is that the U. S. has over 900 miles of hydrogen pipelines along the Gulf Coast (Europe has another 900 plus miles), and most of it is now being used by Praxair and Air Products to move hydrogen from their manufacturing facilities to the big oil refineries.
Hydrogen pipelines have been in use since the 1930s and so the technology is not new, scary stuff. Air Products has just announced that they have completed a 37-mile extension of hydrogen pipeline under Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana. This completes a 150-mile continuous hydrogen pipeline network in the area.
Air products has another hydrogen pipeline network of around 300 miles. Praxair, on the other hand, also has a 300-mile network of hydrogen pipeline in the Gulf Coast region.
Praxair has also just announced that they are building a hydrogen pipeline infrastructure in Alberta, Canada. While some people are focusing on transporting hydrogen on long-haul trucks to support the building of the hydrogen car infrastructure or creating H2 onsite and on demand, let’s not forget about the possibility of building a hydrogen pipeline component as part of the overall infrastructure plans.
Large wind, solar, nuclear or biomass facilities may benefit from creating hydrogen on location and then piping it to other locations where it can be used for distribution or to run through fuel cells to create energy.
While I’m not advocating recreating the U. S. natural gas pipeline system with hydrogen pipelines, I’m also saying let’s not dismiss hydrogen pipeline networks as being too new or untested, especially for specific uses in certain geographical areas. Let’s keep our options open when deciding what we want the building of the hydrogen transportation infrastructure to look like going forward.