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High Hopes for Hydrogen Energy in Transportation Zero-Emissions Goals

Categories: Trucking.

The IPCC just released their 2021 report, and the biggest takeaway is that we should be acting right now to work toward zero-emissions goals. As consumers and businesses internalize these revelations, more are looking seriously into their supply chains for ways to improve their carbon footprint.

We’ve talked about more sustainable supply chains coming our way in the near future, and a new development from the department of energy (DOE) is hoping to accelerate that movement. While wind and solar are a key component in building out greener infrastructure, many firms are looking to hydrogen as a potentially fruitful alternative to fossil fuels.

The green revolution in shipping is here

Finding alternative energy options has been a top priority for the transportation industry. Historically, shippers and carriers have been almost entirely reliant on fossil fuels, though some have been working toward efforts to reduce emissions through improved route setting and new technology like electrified trucks.

While electric vehicles are growing in popularity for last-mile and shorter-distance routes, they have weight and range limitations that mean they can’t tackle long-haul trucking very well. Add in the resource-intensive process of container shipping, and it’s hard to see how battery power will transform our transportation economy alone.¬†

Why is hydrogen energy important?

Fortunately, experts say hydrogen may be a better alternative for long-haul trucking and large vessel shipping.

Commercial-use hydrogen is produced using electrolyzers that split a water molecule into its component elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is burned in a carbon-neutral process that produces water vapor as its only byproduct. While much of the world’s hydrogen is currently produced using natural gas and other dirty energy sources, it can be sourced via renewable sources such as solar or wind (and, increasingly, more producers are shifting in that direction).

Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) are extremely fuel-efficient, and don’t require time-consuming charge stops in order to run long distances. The current hydrogen infrastructure is limited outside of California, but investments in new facilities are slated for production as part of a larger build-out of green architecture nationwide.

What’s been done so far?

The Port of Los Angeles is getting out ahead of the trend by providing two hydrogen fueling stations for FCEVs as part of the shore-to-shore project. This is an instrumental component of a larger overall plan to make operations at the port more sustainable by producing a functional clean air model for trucks and cargo-handling equipment.

It also anticipates statewide regulations on diesel trucks that will go into effect within the decade — changes that are expected to transform the way goods are shipped throughout the American west.¬†

Hydrogen energy earthshot initiative 

The DOE wants clean hydrogen to beat the price of natural gas hydrogen. Currently it’s $5 per kilogram where hydrogen produced from natural gas is $1.5 per kilogram. To reach this target, the agency is putting money where its mouth is.

The Hydrogen Energy Earthshot Initiative aims to reduce the price by 80% to $1 per kilogram in a decade. In total, the DOE will provide more than $52.5 million in funds to scale R&D and infrastructure for clean hydrogen tech. That includes:

  • Green hydrogen electrolyzers
  • Hydrogen storage tech
  • Supply chain components and fuel cell tech
  • Fuel cell subsystems
  • Analysis for production pathways, storage, and fuel cell systems

Already, Hydrogen is increasingly popular in the EU for power generation, and experimental container ships have shown promising results. In the all-hands-on-deck scenario the IPCC report outlines, hydrogen could be a valuable tool in mitigating environmental damage caused by the supply chain.

Conclusion

The shipping industry accounts for nearly 3% of total global emissions according to the international maritime organization greenhouse study. Companies know this and as pressure mounts to minimize climate impact, their shipping and logistics partners will need to perform.

Fortunately, this shift toward a greener fuel alternative could lead to a shift in the right direction. Businesses that want to get on the cutting edge of technology and sustainability need look no further than their shipping partners.

Zero-emission drayage and logistics are a big goal for the Port of LA (and the rest of the world). To keep up with the IPCC’s recommendations, substantial changes will be coming our way. Partnering with an experienced and tech-forward 3PL like GlobeCon can help you get ready for what’s to come.

If you need a reliable partner at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, contact GlobeCon today.