Eine Rohrleitung mit Ventil als Symbol für die Infrastruktur.

Storage and Transportation

How does hydrogen get from the producer to the consumer?

Hydrogen offers the possibility of compensating for seasonal fluctuations in renewable energies through storage and reconversion into electricity in fuel cells. Alternatively, hydrogen can be converted into various derivatives, depending on its later use. These derivatives can be more easily stored, transported and also used directly later.

Hydrogen storage

Elektrolyseur und Druckbehälter für Wasserstoff

The most common storage variant for hydrogen to date is physical storage, for example in pressure vessels. In this process, the gas is strongly compressed. Typically, pressures of up to 700 bar are used, which corresponds to 700 times normal atmospheric pressure.

Hydrogen can be stored in its pure form. To achieve a high energy density, hydrogen is stored either in gaseous form and under high pressure or it is liquefied (LH₂). In order for hydrogen to be liquefied, it must be cooled to -253 °C. This means that about one third of the energy stored in hydrogen is used for cooling. On the other hand, LH₂ can be used without further pre-treatment, for example in fuel cells. LH₂ begins to evaporate immediately after cooling is completed. For the storage of gaseous hydrogen, salt caverns are being considered in addition to storage in pressure tanks.

Hydrogen can be combined with nitrogen to produce ammonia (NH₃). This important process is carried out on a scale of 150 million tonnes annually worldwide - mainly for the production of fertilisers based on natural gas. Therefore, ammonia is already traded and transported globally. Compared to LH₂, liquefaction only requires temperatures of around -33 °C, which means less energy is needed for cooling. However, energy is needed to synthesise the ammonia. Furthermore, ammonia is toxic and requires handling by trained personnel.

One option for carbon-based storage is synthetic fuels such as paraffin, diesel, natural gas or methanol. An advantage of these fuels is that existing infrastructures such as refuelling facilities can be used. They also offer the possibility of potentially defossilising the non-electrified vehicle fleet.

LOHCs are organic compounds that are liquid at room temperature and can be reversibly charged and discharged with hydrogen. The storage of LOHCs is less energy-intensive than the storage of LH₂ or ammonia. However, when using LOHCs, it must be taken into account that the discharged carrier must always be brought back to a loading station to complete the cycle.

Hydrogen can also be stored in the form of metal or boron hydrides, for example magnesium hydride (MgH₂) or sodium borohydride (NaBH₄). These hydrides offer the advantage of high hydrogen densities. However, not all aspects of charging and discharging with hydrogen have been technically solved yet, which is why these hydrides have not yet become established as storage options.

Hydrogen transport

Verlegung einer Pipeline

Pipeline transport can be used at different scales: Pan-European pipelines distribute hydrogen over large areas across Europe. Starting from distribution hubs, smaller pipeline systems can connect chemical parks or steel mills to this network and bring hydrogen directly to where it is needed.

Hydrogen can be transported via pipeline.  This may require the retrofitting of existing pipelines, especially with fittings and compressors, or the construction of new pipelines. Especially for shorter distances (< 2000 - 4000 km), pipelines are the most cost-effective alternative. For the transport of synthetic natural gas, existing pipeline networks can be used.

Schiff mit Behälter für flüssigen Wasserstoff

Since hydrogen as a gas has a very low density and is difficult to compress, non-pipeline transport of large quantities quickly becomes very expensive. An alternative is the transport of liquid hydrogen. For this, however, hydrogen must be cooled to -253 °C. The first shipment of liquefied hydrogen took place from Australia to Japan in 2022.

Tankers, trains or ships offer the possibility of transporting hydrogen in various storage forms, such as gaseous, liquefied or bound to an LOHC. Especially for long distances, the use of cargo ships can be a cost-effective option. Areas and consumers that are not connected to a pipeline or cannot be connected in time could also be supplied with the help of trucks or trains.

More topics


Hydrogen production today and in the future

More on hydrogen production

Appropriate uses of hydrogen

More on hydrogen usage
Safety and acceptability

Ensuring safe and acceptable hydrogen technologies

More on safety and acceptability


H2-Compass is a project of acatech and DECHEMA. The project is funded by BMBF and BMWK.