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Five potential hydrogen supply corridors to cross all CEE countries

To deliver the accelerated 2030 hydrogen demand and supply targets set by the REPowerEU plan, five large-scale pipeline corridors are envisaged by the European Hydrogen Backbone initiative. The corridors will initially connect domestic local supply and demand in Europe, before expanding and connecting European regions and neighbouring countries with low-cost hydrogen export potential.

The corridor analysis has identified sufficient hydrogen supply to exceed the European 2030 domestic supply targets, contributing to European energy independence and security of supply. The EHB has identified 12 million tonnes (Mt) (approximately 400 terawatt-hours, TWh) of potential EU hydrogen supply, exceeding the domestic, REPowerEU target of 10 Mt of green hydrogen by 2030. In addition, hydrogen import potentials have been identified.

hydrogen supply corridors
Source: EHB.

These five corridors cross all Central and Eastern European countries, giving an important role to play for regional Gas Transmission System Operators (TSOs) like Slovakia’s Eustream, Czechia’s Net4Gas, Hungary’s FGSZ, Lithuania’s Amber Grid, Poland’s Gaz-System and so on.

In particular, Corridor A (North Africa and Southern Europe) would transport large quantities of cost-competitive green hydrogen potential from Tunisia and Algeria through Italy to Central Europe leveraging existing gas infrastructure. A major driver of this development is the need to meet hydrogen demand from industry, transport and power in Central Europe. A big opportunity of the corridor is the ability to repurpose a large share of existing gas pipeline infrastructure across countries like Slovakia and Czechia. The hydrogen supply potential in this corridor will reach 97 TWh in 2030 and 340 TWh in 2040 with a 6 per cent of emissions reduction in 2030 and 18 per cent in 2040.

Most countries have developed, or are in the process of developing national strategies. Slovenia’s NECP has set an indicative target to have 10 per cent of renewable methane or hydrogen in the network by 2030. Croatia foresees a growing demand in industry, buildings, transport and power, with a supply potential of 1.3 gigawatts (GW) electrolysers. Hungary expects production of 36,000 tons/annum with approximately 240 MW of electrolyser capacity to be used to decarbonise the industry and transport sectors. Also, Czechia has a focus on the transport sector followed by the energy and chemical industry. As well as Slovakia which expects to use hydrogen in the chemicals, petrochemicals, steel and heating industries as well as in transport.

Corridor D (Nordic and Baltic regions) would transport green hydrogen supply potential from onshore and offshore wind from countries surrounding the Baltic Sea. Corridor D would be built around regional networks around industrial clusters, serving numerous new green steel, e-fuel, fertiliser and green chemicals projects in the Nordics as well as decarbonising existing industry in the Nordics, Baltics, Poland and Germany along the corridor route.

The major driver behind the development of this corridor is the adoption of hydrogen associated with the decarbonisation of industry, transport and power in the Nordics, the Baltics, Poland and Germany. Initially, the development of the corridor will be driven by new green steel and e-fuel projects and early national decarbonisation targets in Sweden and Finland. In the near term, the corridor offers access to abundant low-cost, onshore wind and grid-based hydrogen supply from the Nordics. In the longer term, the corridor also provides access to hydrogen supply from offshore wind in the Nordics and the Baltics. The corridor would be stood up by 2030, covering 13,500 kilometres of large-scale hydrogen pipelines across all countries of the corridor, of which approximately 45 per cent will be repurposed pipelines.

Here, more work is needed for countries to develop national strategies. Indeed, Estonia has so far only shown the intention to create a national hydrogen strategy; Latvia has not a specific national hydrogen strategy; and Lithuania’s is in progress. Only Poland has a clear plan focused on the power/heat sector, transport, industry, production, network and the creation of a regulatory framework.

Finally, Corridor E (East and South-East Europe) would connect high supply potential regions such as Romania, Greece and Ukraine – leveraging vast land availability and high-capacity factors for solar and wind.

The major driver behind the development of this corridor is the adoption of hydrogen associated with the decarbonisation of industry, transport and power across Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, particularly new green steel projects and existing industry along the corridor through Greece, Romania, Hungary, Austria and Germany.

A significant opportunity of the corridor is to leverage the abundant renewables potential in Eastern Europe with its vast land availability and high-capacity factors for solar and onshore wind, particularly in relation to the high hydrogen export potential of Ukraine. Another major opportunity relates to the potential for hydrogen storage provided by depleted fields along the corridor in Greece, Czechia, Austria and Germany.

Some countries have developed national strategies, while in others they are under development. Moving forward, the development of hydrogen regulation in all countries will be key in enabling investment in infrastructure. In 2020, the Greek government formed a Committee to work on a national hydrogen strategy and the final draft is expected by the second half of 2022. Also, Romania plans to publish a strategy by the end of this year while Bulgaria doesn’t have a specific national hydrogen strategy and hydrogen is only considered in the NECP.

Overall, to ensure the development of these supply corridors by 2030, speed is of essence and action is needed now. The EHB recommended some key concrete actions, including the development of new and repurposed hydrogen infrastructure; unlocking financing to fast-track hydrogen infrastructure deployment; the simplification of planning and permitting procedures; intensifying energy partnerships with exporting, non-EHB countries; and the facilitation of integrated energy system planning.

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