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Hydrogen Liquefaction: A Review of the Fundamental Physics, Engineering Practice and Future Opportunities


Hydrogen is emerging as one of the most promising energy carriers for a decarbonised global energy system. Transportation and storage of hydrogen are critical to its large-scale adoption and to these ends liquid hydrogen is being widely considered. The liquefaction and storage processes must, however, be both safe and efficient for liquid hydrogen to be viable as an energy carrier. Identifying the most promising liquefaction processes and associated transport and storage technologies is therefore crucial; these need to be considered in terms of a range of interconnected parameters ranging from energy consumption and appropriate materials usage to considerations of unique liquid-hydrogen physics (in the form of ortho–para hydrogen conversion) and boil-off gas handling. This study presents the current state of liquid hydrogen technology across the entire value chain whilst detailing both the relevant underpinning science (e.g. the quantum behaviour of hydrogen at cryogenic temperatures) and current liquefaction process routes including relevant unit operation design and efficiency. Cognisant of the challenges associated with a projected hydrogen liquefaction plant capacity scale-up from the current 32 tonnes per day to greater than 100 tonnes per day to meet projected hydrogen demand, this study also reflects on the next-generation of liquid-hydrogen technologies and the scientific research and development priorities needed to enable them.

Funding source: The authors acknowledge the support of the Australian Research Council through FT180100572 and IC150100019, the DAAD, and the Future Energy Exports CRC (CRCXXI000008), whose activities are funded by the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre Program.

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