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The Haralds of Hydrogen

Floris Jacobus Adrianus de Klerk Wolters

Chapter 12: Transporting and Storage

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  • 1 This includes all companies listed under NACE section H: Transporting and storage. Companies from H (...)

1The transporting and storage section has, like mining and quarrying, very few registered companies (N=59, 3.53%), but needs to be discussed because of the presence of key actors.1 The main actors in the broader hydrogen coalitions here are in land transport (excl. pipelines), and the several major Benelux ports that fall under warehousing and support activities. It should be noted that some major airport companies, including London Heathrow Airport and Fraport (operating Frankfurt Airport among others), are also supportive of these coalitions. However, they mostly focus on decarbonising airport services (e.g. hydrogen airport buses), rather than a broader push for hydrogen in the aviation sector. This chapter discusses the motivations behind the support of land transport companies and the ports.

12.1 Land Transport

2The companies registered under land transport (N=24, 51.06%) include interurban public transport heavyweights Deutsche Bahn, Transdev, RATP Group (which includes Paris’ public transport), and SNCF (incl. subsidiary Keolis), as well as the national railway companies of Latvia (Latvijas Dzelzceļš) and Slovakia (Železničná spoločnosť Slovensko – ŽSSK). At the local level, it includes the public transport operators of Cologne, Gdansk, Gelsenkirchen, Lisbon, Riga, Tallinn, Wiesbaden, and Zaragoza. Generally, the difference is that the former focus on the operation of hydrogen trains, and the latter on hydrogen buses.

3 The motivation for local public transport operators to look for hydrogen mostly lies in the need to decarbonise bus transport. Transportation companies have looked to hydrogen as one way to do this, often supported by EU funding. The €16.1 million H2Nodes project began the operation of ten hydrogen trolley (“Hytrolley”) buses in Riga and was also the opportunity to construct the first public HRS in Latvia (Rīgas satiksme, n.d., 2019). Reducing emissions from public transport is named as the motivation for the deployment of hydrogen buses in Gdansk (Orcholska, 2018), the 35 buses in Cologne as part of Projekt Null Emission (RVK, n.d.), and ten buses in Zaragoza (J.H.P., 2019). This was also the case for previous projects, such as a project with hydrogen buses in Aberdeen.

4 The situation is a bit different for interurban transportation, which mostly concerns trains. One-fifth of traffic and 40% of the European mainline train network is still on diesel (IEA, 2019a). Given the very high costs of electrifying lower-intensity railroads, viable other fossil fuel alternatives are preferred to decarbonise them. Hydrogen rail (“hydrail”) or Fuel Cell and Hydrogen (FCH) trains are being explored as an option to do this. French rail operators SNCF (2020, p. 8) and Keolis (2018, p. 9) are primarily motivated to explore hydrogen as an energy solution for the challenge of reducing the carbon intensity of the energy consumed. For Deutsche Bahn (2019, p. 121), the explanation for pursuing hydrogen solutions also lies in the environmental dimension of their regional business unit (which also includes buses), and the replacement of diesel there. FCH trains can already be price competitive in some regions (e.g. Scandinavia) for specific train types (FCH JU et al., 2019). The world’s first FCH trains have been operating in Germany since 2018 (Deutsche Welle, 2018), France will start phasing them in by 2022 (SNCF, 2019), and similar projects are underway in Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland (FCH JU et al., 2019).

Figure 13: FCH train market prospective

Figure 13: FCH train market prospective

FCH JU et al., 2019, p. 14.

12.2 Ports & Warehousing

  • 2 They fall under H52: Warehousing and support activities for transportation.

5 An additional small number of entities (N=13, 27.66%) form a cluster of independent Benelux ports that explicitly support the hydrogen coalition.2 It includes the port authorities of Amsterdam, Antwerp, Bruges, Groningen, Rotterdam, and the North Sea Port that combines the ports of Terneuzen, Vlissingen and Ghent. It also includes storage companies Géométhane, Oiltanking and Royal Vopak in France, Germany and the Netherlands respectively. Various multibillion euro projects are being explored, with those in Groningen and Rotterdam at the most advanced stage. This goes beyond the decarbonisation of some direct port services with hydrogen, such as the introduction of hydrogen tugs in Antwerp.

6 The key reason for this (aside from emissions reductions) seems to be an acceptance of the changing role of the ports due to the energy transition. Europe’s two largest ports are examples of this. The ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam both function as key transport hubs connected to a dense and industrialised hinterland (incl. the Ruhr Area) and form the heart of the biggest cluster of heavy (petro)chemical industry in Europe. The share of fossil fuels in the energy mix is expected to decline in the long term, and the makeup of the feedstock of the industrial hinterland these ports serve will most likely change too. The ports need to anticipate these long-term changes to stay competitive, and this is one reason why they are actively looking into the deployment of hydrogen.

7 The decision to explore hydrogen as an option for these ports’ futures is not very surprising. With 613 kilometres of dedicated hydrogen pipelines, Belgium already has by far the largest network in Europe (Port of Antwerp, n.d.). The Port of Antwerp is the central hub of this network, and multiple other ports (including Ghent, Bruges, Rotterdam, and Terneuzen) are directly connected to these hydrogen pipelines (Port of Rotterdam, 2016). Moreover, the Port of Antwerp already produces between 10-15% of all hydrogen manufactured in the EU, with other major production clusters (e.g. other Belgian clusters, Rotterdam, the Ruhr Area, Northern France) either directly connected or very close. This combines with the presence of various large wind fields, existing natural gas infrastructure (including LNG terminals), and large potential offshore storage sites to create opportunities for producing both blue and green hydrogen. Apart from the port infrastructure that facilitates the export and import of hydrogen by ship, the central position of the Benelux ports within Western Europe also allows access to a large market of potential hydrogen consumers.

Figure 14: Graph of hydrogen network in Belgium connecting Benelux ports

Figure 14: Graph of hydrogen network in Belgium connecting Benelux ports

Port of Rotterdam, 2016, p. 39.


1 This includes all companies listed under NACE section H: Transporting and storage. Companies from H49.5: Transport via pipeline are excluded, as they were discussed in the chapter on electricity and gas.

2 They fall under H52: Warehousing and support activities for transportation.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 13: FCH train market prospective
Crédits FCH JU et al., 2019, p. 14.
Fichier image/png, 220k
Titre Figure 14: Graph of hydrogen network in Belgium connecting Benelux ports
Crédits Port of Rotterdam, 2016, p. 39.
Fichier image/png, 191k


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