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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

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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