As one of the most vital cogs in the industrial gases supply chain, bulk gas distribution plays a key role in the industrial gas supply chain. According to gasworld Business Intelligence, the bulk supply of gas represents up to 29% of revenues in 2020, equating to roughly $21.2bn.

Driven by innovation, the bulk gas supply chain has seen optimisation and improvement in cryogenic trailers, ISO tanks, and digital solutions such as smart sensors. With more industries adopting future fuels such as hydrogen, bulk supply is set to change further. 

Featuring a contribution from Calvera Director Rafael Calvera, an exclusive gasworld feature explores the scope of the bulk gas distribution industry, how the gases are transported, and trends around digitisation and hydrogen.

Notable by their distinctive cigar-shaped design, cryogenic trailers are typically used to transport cryogenic liquid bulk gases via road. ISO tanks are also used for long-distance transportation due to their ability to retain gases for long periods of time before venting occurs, these 20ft containers usually have a capacity of 20,000 litres at mid-high pressure.

To optimise a trailer, developers must focus on the container’s ability to carry the highest payload possible while adhering to a country’s rules and regulations around maximum weight and dimensions for road transport. To do this, companies have sought to reduce total weight by using lightweight materials such as aluminium for the construction of trailers for insert liquefied gases like liquid nitrogen and liquid argon.

Future fuels

As the energy transition continues to gain traction, fuelled by the proliferation of Net Zero targets, industry is looking towards safe and efficient methods of transporting renewable fuels such as hydrogen.

With the hydrogen revolution very much still in its infancy, existing infrastructure is nowhere near developed enough to account for the delivery of the sheer quantities of hydrogen that will be required in the future.

Cost, too, is currently prohibitive. As adoption of hydrogen technology widens and investment increases, this could be set to change. A 2021 study from Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that the use of renewable electricity in hydrogen production – generating so-called ‘green’ hydrogen – will see fuel costs decline by as much as 85% by 2050.

Despite increased investment, challenges remain. A suitable hydrogen pipeline is thought by industry as not being a realistic target for most within 20 years and there exist safety concerns over the transport of ammonia – the main carrier for hydrogen – over long distances. A highly toxic gas, ammonia also presents safety concerns when sitting in ports. Bulk gas distribution could mitigate the need to use ammonia by enabling the long-distance transport of liquid hydrogen.

Calvera Director Rafael Calvera spoke to gasworld to find out more about the ability for the company’s end-user focused technology to enable the scaling up of bulk hydrogen distribution. Over the past 40 years Calvera has manufactured tube trailers designed for the bulk transport of hydrogen. After observing growth in the direction of green solutions and services, the company has begun to transform and scale-up every aspect of its hydrogen solutions.

“From 2003 we cast an eye into the new ‘Hydrogen Economy’ after being founders of the Hydrogen Foundation of Aragon,” said Calvera.

“We decided to upgrade our technology skills, making huge efforts in higher technology solutions; from refuelling systems, compression units, and high-pressure storage through to dispensing and all the controls of a plant.”

Full feature article coming soon.

Available in the June edition of gasworld magazine and currently online for subscribers, the full article explores current and future trends in bulk gas distribution, including transport, supply, and the hydrogen revolution.