June 5, 2023

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Government researchers have warned of significant transportation safety risks with more hydrogen

Government researchers have warned of significant transportation safety risks with more hydrogen

Green hydrogen is already being produced on the Neptune Energy offshore platform in the North Sea

NOS News

If hydrogen does indeed become the energy carrier of the future, as intended, this will have disastrous consequences for the Netherlands. This means, among other things, that very large amounts of toxic ammonia, which is used to make hydrogen, will be transported through our country.

This is according to a report before Arcadis, Berenschot, and TNO Commissioned by the Ministries of Infrastructure and Water Management and Economic Affairs and Climate. Ammonia can be transported by water, rail or – the researchers suggest – a system of pipelines that have not yet been built. The call stated that the government should already take measures to reduce safety risks.

“It’s hard to make an accurate prediction, but we’re moving towards more transportation,” says research project leader Vincent van der Waals. “We are talking about megatons that will be transported by thousands of ships and tens of thousands of carts.” For comparison: in the current situation, about 2,000 wagons and 250 ships annually transport ammonia.

Big consequences

“In principle, the transfer is very safe,” emphasizes Van der Vlies. “But it’s large quantities and the substance is so toxic that at a certain point we decided to minimize it. Because if something were to happen, the consequences would be really big.”

Since 2004, the government has been prohibiting the transportation of ammonia by rail because the safety risks are too great and the effects of a major accident cannot be foreseen. In order to safely move this exponential increase in ammonia materials from A to B, the researchers argue that the government must now make choices.

The researchers concluded, “When we were working on the research, we were surprised at some point by the volumes that could come our way. With that volume, the current policy would become unsustainable.”

“As far as we are concerned, choices must be made now, or it will be too late and things like this will happen to you,” Van der Waals said. Research institutes have determined what hydrogen energy transmission will mean for various forms of transportation in ten years’ time. And I also looked for how to arrange it safely.

pipe fittings

Researchers identify a possible alternative: transporting hydrogen through a system of pipelines. This will take years to build, so they are calling on the government to start thinking about this now. A complication is that the ammonia supplied to the port must first be converted into hydrogen.

This is done in what is called an ammonia biscuit. Studies are already underway at the Port of Rotterdam on a large-scale ammonia cracker which should be capable of producing 1 megaton of hydrogen per year. According to research, dozens of these types of squatters are needed.

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