The newly patented Pipe-within-a-Pipe technology aims to solve the last mile issues of transporting hydrogen distribution whilst also assuring that its purity is maintained.

The technology enables this and can efficiently transport hydrogen up to 1,000 miles inside virtually any existing oil and gas pipeline, water pipe, sewer line, storm drain, or other pipelines.

According to H2 Clipper, the breakthrough technology provides the safest, most cost-effective, most readily deployable, and scalable way to address end user delivery of fuel cell grade hydrogen.

To find out more about this technology and its potential in the market, H2 View spoke with Rinaldo Brutoco, CEO of H2 Clipper.

H2 View (H2V): Thanks for giving H2 View your time. To start with, could you tell me a little bit about H2 Clipper, its inception, and its role in the hydrogen economy.

Rinaldo Brutoco (RB): H2 Clipper was incubated at the World Business Academy, a non-profit think tank that explores the role of business in relation to critical social and environmental issues; and has been responsible for incubating quite a few major initiatives.

The Academy’s interest in hydrogen arose out of its focus on climate change and energy security, which began with a series of “C-Suite” meetings culminating in a 2006 gathering of 350 executives at a conference the Academy hosted in Santa Barbara.

Electrolysing hydrogen is the answer to the question of what you should do “When the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine.” You would run fuel cells from your hydrogen reserve to provide 100% redundancy and 100% resiliency.

H2 Clipper’s goal was to invent a disruptive way to move large quantities of cryogenic hydrogen from anywhere in the world with the lowest energy cost from renewable resources (2-3¢/kw) where it could be electrolysed, to consumers everywhere in the world.  We refer to this as H2 Clipper’s globe straddling capability for distant, cost-effective delivery of cryogenic hydrogen as our Pipeline-in-the-Sky™.

Once delivered to a distant market, the cryogenic hydrogen will be put into depots (like the one already in Kobe, Japan) where it will be reheated and be able to be pumped out to an unlimited number of metropolitan locations (e.g. gas stations, bus stations, truck & railroad terminals) using our special technology threaded through existing methane, oil, water mains, sewer pipes, storm drains, and even subway tracks to the literal gas pump.

We’ve shown that this is a viable approach to radically reduce the infrastructure costs of the hydrogen economy conversion, which we refer to as a “Pipe-Within-A-Pipe™”.

H2V: Recently, H2 Clipper revealed a new ‘Pipe-in-a-pipe” technology which could provide the best means for transporting hydrogen in a 1000km radius. Why do you believe this could be so significant to the hydrogen economy?

RB: Using H2 Clipper airships, we’re able to economically transport hundreds of tonnes of liquified hydrogen to major consumer markets from places like Australia, Chile, the Middle East and North Africa, and other locations where renewable resources such as solar, wind and geothermal energy make electricity costs very inexpensive.

Once the massive quantities of liquid hydrogen are unloaded at a main depot – whether that’s coming off an airship, a ship or pulled from a local production source – it still must be delivered to the end user car, bus, truck or locomotive.

Our Pipe-Within-a-Pipe™ technology overcomes limitations by providing a safe way to deliver PEM stack fuel cell grade pure hydrogen through any existing water pipe, sewer line, storm drain, gas and oil pipeline, or even subway line or the like.

These sorts of pipes run under virtually every major city in the world; and having a way to safely use them opens a vast network opportunity for hydrogen distribution to reach filling stations, warehouses, factories, and industrial facilities, without the tube truck, without tearing up city streets, and at a fraction of the cost of constructing new dedicated hydrogen pipelines.

There are several major advantages.

The first and most critical one is safety. Everyone realises that hydrogen, like all fuels, requires careful handling. We’ve addressed this through the use of a safety pipe, sweeper gas and continuous monitoring system.

Another is handling what we call “the economics of transition.” The whole world is simply not going to switch over instantaneously from fossil fuels to hydrogen. The transition is going to require a period of decades to achieve, meaning that we can’t just flip a switch and turn off the flow of natural gas and oil, and instead use the lines for hydrogen.

Our system allows this to occur without creating stranded assets in the process; and supports a gradual yet continuous transition as economics justify the on-going reduction of fossil fuel sales as hydrogen sales ramp up.

H2V: Could you provide me with a deep dive into this technology? How does it work? What will it hope to achieve?

RB: The technology works based on having an inner pipe that is rated for hydrogen use at up to 2500 psi. This certified pipe is located inside a safety pipe that has a slightly larger diameter. In between the outside surface of the hydrogen pipe, and the inside surface of the safety pipe, there is room for an inert sweeper gas to freely flow and various sensors continuously collect data about the content of the sweeper gas.

Because hydrogen is such a small molecule it can squeeze through a very small quantity of hydrogen will seep through the wall of the hydrogen pipe.  By the way, this is true even for very thick steel walls and/or stainless steel. This migration feature of hydrogen is one reason for the so-called hydrogen “embrittlement”. This is where the safety pipe is critical.

In the case of our technology, any hydrogen molecules will be monitored, picked up by the inert gas, and immediately swept out of the system. Moreover, if the continuous monitoring sensors ever detect a larger amount of hydrogen than normal, then the flow of hydrogen will automatically be shut off until the issue has been checked and any issues resolved.

H2 Clipper also has many pending US and international applications on other aspects of the system that we look forward to discussing as additional patents issue in the future.

H2V: Once commercially available, will this technology be marketed across the globe?

RB: Absolutely. This technology has applicability in every country contemplating hydrogen – either as a producer, or a consumer for end-use applications. We see H2 Clipper airships being manufactured under licenses in many countries around the globe and intend to actively enter into royalty agreements with government entities and pipeline managers to license our PIP system for use internationally.

H2V: What other projects or developments are H2 Clipper involved in? Could you tell us a little bit about these?

RB: We are actively involved in many additional attributes of the conversion from fossil fuel to a hydrogen economy. Those current, ongoing conversations involve very large players in both the fossil fuel industry as well as the hydrogen and aviation industries and entire nation states.

H2V: What does H2 Clipper hope to achieve in 2022?

RB: Based on the work we’ve done since 2008, we anticipate that 2022 will be a breakout year for H2 Clipper on several fronts.

We are presently in discussions with several strategic investors to arrange funding to construct a 40% scale design concept prototype of the H2 Clipper airship. We anticipate concluding that funding later this year, paving the way to fly the prototype in 2024, and the first full commercial-sized airships in late 2027.

We’re currently in discussions with several major pipeline operators here and in Europe, and quite a few hydrogen end users. We foresee licensing our technology in a way that will enable the broadest and most rapid implementation possible. It is essential for our collective battle with climate change that this infrastructure is in place between now and 2025 to 2030.

We believe the various decarbonisation targets for 2035 to 2050 cannot be met without a rapid conversion to a planetary hydrogen fuel system. We must develop a phalanx of companies and governments to move, as they currently are, to not only produce hydrogen at scale (especially “green” hydrogen), but to be able to economically transport it and achieve wide scale distribution.

Literally, the future of human civilisation depends on it. Climate change is evolving exponentially, not arithmetically. Humanity simply does not have the luxury of extra time. We must launch the hydrogen economy immediately. Our very survival of human civilisation as we know it depends on our rapid deployment.

North American Hydrogen Summit

H2 View is taking its events platform to America’s original clean hydrogen hub of California. Together with the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP), we will stage our North American Hydrogen Summit in San Francisco on July 14-15.

As our summit theme Building Bridges: Hydrogen hubs and investment suggests, the event will explore the $8bn of funding announced to create at least four regional hydrogen hubs in the US. These hubs will turbo-charge the nation’s progress toward heavy trucking and industrial sectors that run without producing carbon pollution – and they may just provide the path forward to a hydrogen-fuelled future.

With California and Texas vying to be America’s hydrogen capital today, where are the hubs of tomorrow? Further still, what can other states, and countries, learn from California’s success story? And how can we build bridges to a successful flow of international investment?

Full information about this event including attendance and sponsorship packages can be found here.