The Euro-Quebec Hydro-Hydrogen Project
The Euro-Quebec Hydro-Hydrogen Project
has been promoted since the early 1990s and is a well thought out proposal
for the practical and economic transport of large quantities of liquid
hydrogen by sea. As the name indicates the proposal is to transport by
sea hydrogen manufactured in Quebec, Canada to Europe, initially Hamburg
in Germany. The hydrogen is to be manufactured by the electrolysis of
water using hydroelectricity.
Using relatively cheap hydroelectricity in Quebec the resulting cost
of the liquid hydrogen delivered to a port in Europe is similar to the
cost of liquid hydrogen manufactured in Europe using electricity
generated using offshore wind power. (see below). It is important
that hydrogen is made from non-fossil fuel sources if it is to be promoted
as a clean fuel and diverse supplies give security of supply. The proposed
method of transport is as follows:
The transport uses the concept of a "mother ship" that carries smaller
barges each of which is an highly insulated hydrogen tank. The barges
are filled with liquid hydrogen and the "mother ship" is ballasted to
pass under the barges to facilitate loading and unloading. Each barge
is 29m long by 18m wide carrying an insulated tank 15m diameter by 22m
long overall dimensions which will hold 200 tons of liquid hydrogen. The
first proposal "mother ship" carrying 5 barges will be 180m long by 29m
wide. Using barges greatly facilitates storage at each end of the journey
and makes possible a quick turnaround of the "mother ship" as with container
The following is a guide as to the quantities of hydrogen that might
In the UK the total amount of diesel used by buses and coaches is approximately
one million tons per year. The energy density of hydrogen is approximately
3 times that of diesel and hydrogen-powered fuelcell buses with regenerative
braking operating in cities have approximately 3.3 times the fuel utilisation
efficiency of diesel buses under the same operating conditions. Therefore
if 1/3 of the UK buses and coaches operate under city driving conditions
that favour hydrogen power then the amount of hydrogen required will be
1,000,000 / 3 x 3.3 x 3 = approx. 34,000 tons per year.
If all this hydrogen came from Quebec it would require: 34,000 / 200
= 170 barge trips (i.e. 200 tons per barge ). The "mother ship" described
above is the proposed prototype carrying 5 barges and subsequent ships
will be larger. If second generation "mother ships" carry 10 barges (
2,000 tons of hydrogen ) this corresponds to 17 round trips per year which
allows 365 / 17 = 22 days per round trip. Allow 6 days in port per trip,
so the sailing time is 16 days for a round trip of 8,000 miles, this corresponds
to a ship speed of 8,000 / 16 x 24 x 1.25 = 17 knots which is reasonable
for an ocean freight ship.
As a further guide to the possible permutations of world trade in liquid
hydrogen the total transport use of petroleum products in the UK excluding
aircraft, is approximately 36 million tons. Assuming hydrogen power is
2.5 times more energy efficient than diesel or petrol averaged over all
transport applications, then the quantity of hydrogen required to replace
petroleum would be:
36,000,000 / 3 (energy density factor) x 2.5 (fuel utilisation factor)
= 4,800,000 tons. If we imported say 10 % of this from say North Africa
to secure diversity of supplies, (see solar-photo-voltaic
( PV ) electricity generated in North Africa ) using "mother ships"
carrying say 20 barges (i.e. 4000 tons ) then the number of ships required
would be as follows:
Quantity of liquid hydrogen for 10% of UK transport use of energy =
4,800,000 / 10 = 480,000 tons per year
Number of barge trips = 480,000 / 200 = 2,400 per year
Number of voyages by a "mother ship" carrying 20 barges = 2,400 / 20
= 120 per year
Return voyage from North Africa to UK is 4,500 miles. Ship speed is
Therefore sailing time for round trip = 4,500 / 17 x 24 x 1.25 = 9 days
Allow 5 days in port, therefore total round trip time = 14 days
Therefore number of ships required = 120 x 14 / 365 = 5 "mother ships"
As can be seen this is a realistic scheme in terms of the number and
size of ships required to meet a market need and illustrates the likely
viability of a world wide trade in liquid hydrogen developing to distribute
hydrogen production to the best locations for the production of clean
renewable electricity. The world trade in hydrogen will also moderate
prices and ensure security of supply.
Comparison of the costs of UK offshore-wind-power produced
hydrogen and hydrogen from Quebec.
With the benefit of 'Green Certificates' and continuous production using
offshore wind power the cost of producing hydrogen by the electrolysis
of water will be approximately £20 per Gigajoule delivered by pipeline
(see offshore wind
The additional cost of a liquid hydrogen delivery system over a gas
pipeline system is mainly due to the extra cost of liquefying the hydrogen.
The liquefaction process will require 29% more electricity over the electrolysis
requirement and so the liquid hydrogen will cost approximately 1 / ( 1.0
- 0.29 ) = 1.4 times the cost of hydrogen as a gas. So the cost of liquid
hydrogen produced using offshore generated electricity will be: 1.4 x
£20 = £28 per Gigajoule = 2.8 pence per Megajoule.
The Euro-Quebec Hydro-Hydrogen Project is described in detail in a paper
presented to the "Low Temperature Engineering and Cryogenics Conference"
13-15 July 1992, held in Southampton, England, entitled "Euro-Quebec Hydro-Hydrogen
Project (EQHHPP): a challenge to cryogenic technology" by G. Giacomazzi
and J Gretz Copyright 1993 Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd. ref: 0011-2275/93/080767-05
According to this paper the cost of liquid hydrogen from Quebec, using
hydroelectricity costing 2 cents ECU per kWh, landed in Hamburg, Germany
is approx. 15 cents ECU per kWh energy content.
1 kWh = 3.6 Megajoules.
£1 = 60 cents ECU (at the time of the publication of the
Therefore cost of liquid hydrogen from Quebec
= 0.15 x 0.60 x 100 / 3.6 = 2.5 pence per Megajoule
The paper further states that doubling the cost of the electricity increases
the cost of the hydrogen by only 20%.
As can be seen the cost of Quebec liquid hydrogen and offshore-generated-electricity
liquid hydrogen are similar at approximately 2.8 pence and 2.5 pence per
Megajoule so the two sources of supply are interchangeable.