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Large future hydrogen demand to make Europe a climate-neutral continent: new study from the EHB

The European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) initiative (which also includes gas and electricity Transmission System Operators from CEE, like Estonia’s Elering, Slovakia’s Eustream, Hungary’s FGSZ, Poland’s GAZ-SYSTEM, Greece’s DESFA, the Czech Republic’s NET4GAS and Slovenia’s Plinovodi) has presented an analysis on future demand, supply and transport of hydrogen across Europe. This study complements the recently published EHB maps, which showed a hydrogen pipeline network of nearly 40,000 kilometres by 2040, connecting 19 EU Member States plus the United Kingdom and Switzerland. 

The EU and UK could see a hydrogen demand of around 2,300 terawatts-hour (TWh) by 2050. This equals about 45 per cent of EU+UK natural gas consumption in 2019. 
Hydrogen is crucial to decarbonise industry, in particular chemicals (ammonia and high-value chemicals), iron and steel and fuel production. Hydrogen is also expected to play an important role in providing dispatchable electricity, as a heavy transport fuel and in some countries in the heating of buildings.

“Our new study shows that hydrogen will be crucial in multiple energy demand sectors,” said Daniel Muthmann, Coordinator of the EHB initiative and Head of corporate development, strategy, policy and communication at OGE, Germany’s largest gas transmission system operator. “And the Backbone will be an enabler to connect supply with demand within Europe as well as allowing for cost-competitive imports.”

The total expected hydrogen demand could potentially be met by green hydrogen produced in the EU and UK, using renewable electricity. Yet producing such quantities of green hydrogen domestically is subject to public acceptance of an accelerated expansion of renewable installed capacity, financing, regulation and quality standard setting.

It is anticipated that the economics of green hydrogen production costs will improve, allowing a rapid scale-up. In addition to green hydrogen, large quantities of relatively cheap blue hydrogen can be produced in Europe to quickly drive emission reductions and accelerate the pace of the transition. The study also shows that hydrogen imports by pipeline can provide an attractive complement to domestic supply.
Repurposed existing gas infrastructure plays a crucial role in connecting hydrogen supply and demand locations. Hydrogen pipelines are the most cost-efficient option for long-distance, high-volume transport at 0.11-0.21 euros/kilogram per 1,000 kilometres, outcompeting transport by ship for all reasonable distances within Europe and neighbouring regions.

Also, the study shows that for high-volume transport of energy when the desired end-product is hydrogen, even without including flexibility costs such as energy storage, pipelines are more cost-effective than powerlines delivering the same amount of energy.  

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