Importing hydrogen leads to the transfer of larger amounts of ammonia

As part of its energy transition, the Netherlands wants to import a large amount of sustainably produced hydrogen from other countries in the coming years. This carries risks, because much of the hydrogen is transported as ammonia. Initially, this should be done by train and barge, until at least 2035.

The Dutch government would do well to visualize the risks on paper for the foreseeable future. Research institutes and consulting firms TNO, Arcadis and Berenschot write this in their new report Environmental safety of future flows of hydrogen-rich energy carriers. They worked on research conducted by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

Café floors

The researchers focused in particular on the period from 2030 to 2035. It would take a lot of time to say anything meaningful about the period after that. Any risks in the medium and long term (after 2035) are closely related to the choices that the government makes regarding the necessary infrastructure: railways, roads, water and pipelines. The researchers wrote that there is a high probability that the current basic network It is no longer enough.

This basic network describes the ways in which hazardous materials can be used by water, rail and road, and in what quantities. Existing hazard standards provide very little room for the transfer of hydrogen and ammonia. The space is particularly tight on the Brabant Road and the railway route between Amersfoort and Bad Bentheim. In any case, as long as there are no ammonia pipelines in Dutch soil (yet), and as long as alternative options for transporting hydrogen are still in the research stage. In relation to the latter, liquid hydrogen can be considered, but also LOHCs (liquid organic hydrogen carriers).

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very important

By the way, the researchers criticize the basic legislation of the network. In their view, this is a “blocking force”, because this law narrows the debate as to whether the specified risk ceilings have been exceeded or not. They believe this hinders a more substantive discussion of how to transport hydrogen (the derivatives) as safely as possible.

An infographic from the report, showing broad bandwidth among three future scenarios. In the second and third scenarios, transit to Germany and Belgium is greater than domestic use. Hydrogen (tankers) are shown in Megatons.

TNO / Arcadis / Bernchott

transport ammonia

The transport of ammonia on a large scale is nothing new. Until 2010, an average of 2,000 tank cars loaded with ammonia traveled on the railway from Geleen to IJmuiden, via Eindhoven, Utrecht and Amsterdam. But since 2004, the national government has discouraged the transportation of ammonia by train. Ammonia trains only run between the port of Rotterdam, Delfzell and Crevel. Transportation to the Chemelot industrial region in South Limburg is via inland ships.

Because ammonia transportation is a proven technology, this is the easiest option for importing hydrogen, especially in the early years. But the researchers noted that this could create “significant tensions and challenges” with regard to urban developments. The current government has big housing plans. These may contravene safety standards that have been observed to temporarily increase the transfer of ammonia.


In addition, according to the researchers, the national government should enter into discussions with the decentralized authorities about the route of the pipeline corridors. Then local interests can become an obstacle to national ambitions. Recently raised in Helmond Municipality insurmountable obstacles Against the construction of hydrogen pipelines, intended for the Chemelot Industrial Park.

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