After one year of research, four leading Central European gas infrastructure companies (EUSTREAM, the Slovak gas TSO; GTSOU, the Gas TSO of Ukraine; NET4GAS, the Czech gas TSO; and OGE, a leading German gas TSO) finalised the pre-feasibility study to develop a hydrogen “highway” through Central Europe.
“The results of the pre-feasibility study are very positive,” said Andreas Rau, NET4GAS’s Managing Director. “The study clearly indicates that it is technically feasible to transport 120 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of hydrogen per day through Central Europe by 2030. However, there are still many uncertainties remaining, for example, what impact the war in Ukraine will have on the project.”
The REPowerEU Plan sets a target of 10 million tonnes of domestic renewable hydrogen production and a new target of 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen imports by 2030. The Central European Hydrogen Corridor (CEHC) project could transport up to 1.3 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen imports by 2030, an equivalent of 13 per cent of the new renewable hydrogen import target.
In addition to the technical feasibility, the project promoters have also analysed the potential costs of repurposing specific natural gas pipelines for the transport of hydrogen, combined with targeted investments in new dedicated hydrogen infrastructure.
“The initial analysis confirms that the most relevant natural gas pipelines for this project can be repurposed to carry 100 per cent hydrogen,” explained Rastislav Ňukovič, EUSTREAM’s General Director. “That significantly lowers the costs of the project as a whole.”
The 1225-kilometre part of the Central European Hydrogen Corridor from the Ukrainian/Slovak border to large hydrogen demand areas in Southern Germany requires an estimated total investment of 1,000-1,500 million euros. The relatively low investment cost estimate includes necessary upgrades of pipelines, cross-border stations and selected compressor units and is significantly lower than the cost of building a new hydrogen infrastructure. The investment costs of the Ukrainian part of the corridor will depend on the exact location of the hydrogen production sites in Ukraine. The total expected levelised cost of hydrogen transmission is estimated to be in the range of 0.10-0.15 euros/kilogram per 1,000 kilometres, which is in the lower range of the cost estimated by the European Hydrogen Backbone initiative of 0.11-0.21 euros/ kilogram per 1,000 kilometres.
The current plan is to complete the project by 2030, with works starting already in 2024. However, turning this project into reality requires an appropriate legal and regulatory framework and the necessary investment conditions to be in place as the participating companies are fully regulated and unbundled transmission system operators. The project promoters are discussing the project with policymakers and have nominated the CEHC to the EU Ten-Year Network Development Plan. They are also considering applying for the status of Project of European Common Interest (PCI) to be eligible for EU funds.
“The Central European Hydrogen Corridor is important as it offers the possibility of delivering substantial amounts of hydrogen to industrial demand centres in Germany and Central Europe already by 2030”, concluded Dr Jörg Bergmann, OGE’s CEO. “In combination with the H2ercules project, this will speed up the process of developing a hydrogen market in the heart of Europe.”
The war in Ukraine has not lowered the commitment to the project among the project promoters.
“We are still convinced of the importance of the Central European Hydrogen Corridor,” commented Pawel Stanczak, Acting General Director of the Gas TSO of Ukraine. “The EU has significantly increased the targets for biomethane and hydrogen production in the new REPowerEU Plan to become independent from Russian fossil fuels and has identified Ukraine as one of the key partners in the development of hydrogen energy. This corridor will contribute to the shift to renewable gases and energy security in Europe.”