Liquid Terminals will Serve Today’s Fuel Needs and be Tomorrow’s Hydrogen Hubs
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Think Tank is the blog of the International Liquid Terminals Association that highlights the liquid terminal industry and its importance to the U.S. and world economy.


Kathryn Clay
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Liquid Terminals will Serve Today’s Fuel Needs and be Tomorrow’s Hydrogen Hubs

Dr. Kathryn Clay, who is president of the International Liquid Terminals Association and holds a PhD in Physics from University of Michigan, knows a little bit about the world energy picture. Recently she spoke about the current and future outlook for fuels during a panel at the U.S. Energy Association’s Fifth Annual Advanced Energy Forum.

While liquid terminals may operate behind the scenes, they play a vital role in the world energy supply chain and are critical to getting fuels, agricultural products and other bulk liquid commodities where they need to be and when they need to be there. Kathryn told the audience that the U.S. could be a significant exporter of hydrogen produced from renewables if we can get permitting right.

“The good news is that if we are deploying electrolysis technology to produce hydrogen for our own uses. That’s a good part of the way down the road to being ready to export,” Kathryn said.

“Technologies are coming. To my mind the bigger question is, is this nation going to be able to permit?... It’s going to be less of a technology problem and more of a political will and permitting problem.”

Kathryn’s outlook on the potential for the world’s future fuel profile comes as world leaders are gathering in Dubai for the COP28 Summit. This event is meant to find a path forward on decarbonization and Kathryn provided a great preview of the role hydrogen could play.

Probably not coincidentally, on Nov. 24, IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, said it had reached an agreement with UAE-based global supply chain company DP World to collaborate on decarbonizing the shipping and ports sector. And the U.S, Treasury Department is poised to propose rules of the road for U.S. hydrogen hubs.

IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook says infrastructure upgrades must accommodate the global trade of renewable fuels between low-cost supply and high demand regions, proactively linking countries to promote the diversification and resilience of energy systems. IRENA said the shipping sector will rely on diverse low-carbon fuels with ammonia, methanol, and hydrogen making up nearly 61% of the fuel mix by 2050. IRENA and DP World will collaborate on scaling up efforts to address supply, infrastructure and technological challenges that can increase the uptake of these renewables-based fuels.

Kathryn offered thoughts on the role of liquid terminals in the future of energy logistics.

“Our members, while they are key to the energy systems of today, are keenly aware that the energy transition is upon us and are looking at how they can be facilitators of the energy fuels of today and tomorrow,” she said.

“Increasingly, we believe it will be hydrogen and liquid carriers like ammonia and others that will make transport of hydrogen energy much more feasible as we transition to meet the needs of tomorrow. In the future all ports and terminals especially along the coast will be hydrogen hubs of some sort.”

And the U.S, is going to be well positioned to export these fuels. “Although we are a heavily industrialized nation with large energy demands ourselves,” the U.S. has massive resources, she said. “After we’ve met our own domestic needs and solved our transmission challenges,…we could export to some of those other nations that are slower to decarbonize.”

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