Interview with Carina Meyer, Head of Gaspool/Global Gas at logistics provider the HOYER Group.
The need for hydrogen in industry and the logistics sector will continue to increase in coming years. Companies have to rely on specialists for road and rail transport – particularly while there’s still no comprehensive pipeline network. One provider is gearing itself up for the increase in demand – and can rely on decades of experience to do it.
According to the HOYER Group, the hydrogen sector is a key growth market. How is your company preparing itself for the growing demand for transport?
For us, this is not a new market – we’ve already been active in this market for around 30 years. Over the past few decades, we’ve amassed a great deal of experience in both gaseous and cryogenically liquified hydrogen. The HOYER Group has been following the global trend for a long time, and we aim to grow further in this field. Our regular customers usually invest in their own containers, which we transport for them – in addition, we’re building up our own neutral fleet of trailers and containers, which is available for all customers. We’re growing so that our customers can grow as well. Additionally, we maintain a close dialogue with customers and vehicle manufacturers regarding technical development, and provide continuous training for our staff, in particular drivers.
Does your involvement with the climate-neutral energy carrier hydrogen only extend to transporting it, or do you also use it as fuel?
Our transport strategy aims to significantly reduce our CO2 output and convert our vehicle fleet to alternative propulsion systems. We are already using CNG- and LNG-powered tractor trucks, and e-fuels are playing their part as well. Of course, we’re also looking at hydrogen and fuel cell drive systems, but with these there’s the critical issue of the ongoing lack of hazardous goods approval – here we’re dependent on official procedures, and as a result we’ve still no definite timetable for this transformation process. But we’re confident that within the next few years we’ll have our first ADR-approved, hydrogen-powered trucks in our vehicle fleet.
More generally speaking, what particular challenges does the transport of gaseous or liquid hydrogen pose for a logistics provider?
The hydrogen is delivered either compressed at upwards of 200 bar, or in cryotanks at extremely cold temperatures (-252°C). With liquid hydrogen (LH2), the biggest challenge is the limited storage period: in this instance, the transport time between loading and unloading must be kept as short of possible. The majority of present-day hydrogen deliveries are made in compressed form, as LH2 transport is also considerably more cost-intensive. Depending on the way the market continues to develop, we may see a shift here in future years. We will be optimally prepared for this.
What about the hazardous aspect – do the transport and handling of hydrogen pose greater risks than those of other substances?
The transport of this hazardous material presents our transport staff with extreme challenges. This doesn’t mean that transporting hydrogen per se is particularly dangerous – there are other substances with greater risk potential. The specific risk with compressed or cryogenically liquified hydrogen is different in each case, but the hydrogen-specific hazards (e.g. its combustible, odourless characteristics) remain the same. Handling by trained specialist staff guarantees safety during transport and handling of the material. Here we can fall back on many years’ experience and competent personnel.
Are there particular challenges where road and rail transport are concerned?
Anything that is containerised can be intermodal, i.e. transported by train, ship or truck. All our containers also have railway approval and we’re already making very intensive use of intermodal solutions, and continuing to expand these.
What particular requirements does the transport of derivatives such as ammonia, methanol or LOHCs involve? Can you already detect any trend in favour of individual carriers?
We follow the trends in these markets just as closely as we do those of pure hydrogen. Ammonia is a well-known product, and we’ve already been transporting it since the 1980s. Since it’s a gas liquified under pressure, in comparison with pure hydrogen it’s relatively ‘easy’ to transport. Here too, the same applies as above: as long as the complete transport chain is safely carried out by competent personnel, it’s in safe hands – and we can guarantee that. As for the trends you mention: suitable tanker ships already exist. Like methanol, ammonia is another growth market for us. Where LOHCs are concerned, it depends on the classification, but today we’re already conveying the well-known (carrier) oils.
What impact is the announcement of ever more ammonia terminals having on the future outlook for your business model? Do you anticipate a growth in ammonia or hydrogen deliveries?
It’s still too early to predict any predominance; we will have everything – that means hydrogen and various derivatives – nothing is ruled out. We maintain the closest possible contacts with the market, in order to be able to react to market trends. We transport both of the above, and in both sectors we’re growing along with our customers. Basically, we are in fact expecting an increase in demand for the conveyance of both, ammonia and hydrogen.
What percentage of your hydrogen transport is made up of deliveries to service stations? Do you think this will shift in future, e.g. in favour of industry?
Up to now, both sectors have been our customers – i.e. industrial customers and service stations, plus energy companies. We assume that we will shift greater volumes during a transitional period until the comprehensive infrastructure is up and running. In the long term, we foresee a shift to the hydrogen pipeline grid for large quantities, with us situated more in the ‘last mile transport’ sector and in the field of intermodal solutions. The number of service stations will also increase, and they’ll need deliveries. But here it’s important to note: we don’t deal in molecules and we’ve no desire to become our customers’ competitors. We provide successful, conscientious and safe logistics services from one provider and we’re no experts in brokerage activities – and it’s going to stay that way.
How often must your vehicles drive to a hydrogen filling station in order to supply it with fuel?
There’s no general answer to that question. It depends on the location, the degree of utilisation and the buyers. Roughly, however, we could say that we can shift up to one tonne of compressed hydrogen per delivery.
About the HOYER Group
A traditional, independent family firm, HOYER has been one of the leading bulk logistics providers in the world since 1946 and, as a specialist in the field, commands comprehensive expertise in complex services and cultivates particularly close relationships with its customers. The international logistics provider’s headquarters are situated in Hamburg. It develops and implements all-round solutions for European and global bulk logistics, particularly for the gas, chemicals, foodstuffs and mineral oil sectors. Over 6,400 employees and representatives in over 115 countries provide our customers with thoroughly planned logistics solutions to help them become more successful in their respective markets. HOYER has approximately 2,200 trucks, 2,600 tank trailers[A1] , 50,100 IBCs, 37,600 tank containers and numerous logistics facilities with depots, cleaning plants and workshops.