onto the next step

Houston company gets greenlight for liquid hydrogen storage system

CB&I got the approval it was looking for on its cargo containment system for liquid hydrogen. Photo courtesy

CB&I, the storage business of Houston-based energy contractor McDermott International, has gotten a preliminary green light for its design of a cargo containment system for liquid hydrogen.

DNV, a classification body for the maritime industry, extended the preliminary approval for the system’s design. CB&I is working on the project with Shell International Trading and Shipping, which transports crude oil, gas, carbon dioxide, and other cargo.

The Shell transportation unit operates the Suiso Frontier, the world’s first ship for hauling liquid hydrogen (LH2). The vessel can carry 75 metric tons of LH2. The Suiso Frontier, which completed its maiden voyage between Australia and Japan in 2022, is the key component of a $360 million coal-to-hydrogen venture.

CB&I designs and builds storage facilities, tanks, and terminals for energy companies. McDermott provides engineering and construction services for the energy industry.

Cesar Canals, senior vice president of CB&I, says his company’s collaboration with Shell and DNV is “making large-scale liquid hydrogen storage and transport more economical. This approval is a major milestone in making this groundbreaking technology available to all companies looking to build LH2 carriers, and we look forward to the possibilities this brings to advancing the hydrogen energy supply chain.”

The containment system’s design is based on CB&I’s technology for onshore storage of LH2. Over the past 60 years, CB&I has designed and built more than 130 onshore storage tanks for LH2.

“The combined cargo containment system and hull design effort aims to address the energy density challenge, benefitting from LH2’s properties and achieving more energy onboard,” says CB&I. “The cargo containment system was integrated into a concept vessel design developed by Houlder, which includes a hull that is optimized for the low-density cargo around … three large tanks.”

Today, LH2 is transported primarily via trucks and pipelines. The Getting to Zero Coalition, a proponent of zero-emission vessels, says the Suiso Frontier represents the first step toward commercializing a global LH2 supply chain by 2030.

“Maritime distribution of hydrogen promises much more flexible energy transfer than transmission of electricity generated from renewables, especially for longer distances,” according to a sponsored article published by Nature.com.

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A View From HETI

A View From UH

A Rice University professor studied the Earth's carbon cycle in the Rio Madre de Dios to shed light on current climate conditions. Photo courtesy of Mark Torres/Rice University

Carbon cycles through Earth, its inhabitants, and its atmosphere on a regular basis, but not much research has been done on that process and qualifying it — until now.

In a recent study of a river system extending from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon floodplains, Rice University’s Mark Torres and collaborators from five institutions proved that that high rates of carbon breakdown persist from mountaintop to floodplain.

“The purpose of this research was to quantify the rate at which Earth naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and find out whether this process varies across different geographic locations,” Torres says in a news release.

Torres published his findings in a study published in PNAS, explaining how they used rhenium — a silvery-gray, heavy transition metal — as a proxy for carbon. The research into the Earth’s natural, pre-anthropogenic carbon cycle stands to benefit humanity by providing valuable insight to current climate challenges.

“This research used a newly-developed technique pioneered by Robert Hilton and Mathieu Dellinger that relies on a trace element — rhenium — that’s incorporated in fossil organic matter,” Torres says. “As plankton die and sink to the bottom of the ocean, that dead carbon becomes chemically reactive in a way that adds rhenium to it.”

The research was done in the Rio Madre de Dios basin and supported by funding from a European Research Council Starting Grant, the European Union COFUND/Durham Junior Research Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation.

“I’m very excited about this tool,” Torres said. “Rice students have deployed this same method in our lab here, so now we can make this kind of measurement and apply it at other sites. In fact, as part of current research funded by the National Science Foundation, we are applying this technique in Southern California to learn how tectonics and climate influence the breakdown of fossil carbon.”

Torres also received a three-year grant from the Department of Energy to study soil for carbon storage earlier this year.

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