Hydrogen vision for Europe

Renewable and low carbon hydrogen will play a key role in the energy transition of Europe

Renewable and low-carbon hydrogen has received growing attention in Europe and around the world. In its European hydrogen strategy, the Commission refers to hydrogen as a key element to achieving the EU’s net zero emissions target by 2050. In 2022, the European Commission (EC) established the REPowerEU plan highlighting the importance of hydrogen. The plan targets 10 Mt (333 TWh) of domestic renewable hydrogen production, as well as up to 10 Mt on hydrogen (carrier) imports by 2030.

H2 use by sector in 2030

H2 use by sector in 2030 ( Mt H2)

Source: European Commission

Hydrogen can be used both as a feedstock and fuel. It is storable and has many possible applications across the industry, transport, power, and buildings sectors. Most importantly, hydrogen does not emit CO2 at the point of use and can be produced with a very low GHG emission footprint (renewable or low carbon hydrogen). Thus, it offers a solution to decarbonise industrial processes and economic sectors where reducing carbon emissions is both urgent and hard to achieve.

Achieving the REPowerEU targets by 2030 and a fully decarbonised European energy system at the latest by 2050 is ambitious. It will require a rapid deployment of domestic hydrogen production capacities, hydrogen storage and import infrastructure as well as a pan-European hydrogen transmission network. We believe the CEHC initiative will significantly contribute to achieving this vision.

Hydrogen transport

European Hydrogen Backbone: Vision for a pan-European hydrogen transport infrastructure

Expected regional differences in Europe’s hydrogen supply and demand emphasize the importance of connecting regions across Europe. That is why the European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) initiative was created in 2020. The initiative currently consists of a group of thirty-one energy infrastructure operators (including OGE, N4G and EUSTREAM), united through a shared vision of a climate-neutral Europe enabled by a thriving renewable and low-carbon hydrogen market.

The EHB mission is to accelerate Europe’s decarbonization journey by defining the critical role of hydrogen infrastructure – based on existing and new pipelines – in enabling the development of a competitive, liquid, pan-European renewable and low-carbon hydrogen market.

In 2022, EHB presented its plan of a hydrogen pipeline infrastructure with the total length of 28,000 km in 2030 and 53,000 km in 2040. Five extensive pipeline corridors have been envisaged to achieve the accelerated targets for renewable hydrogen set by the REPowerEU plan. These five corridors span both domestic and import supply markets, and are in line with the import corridors identified in the recent REPowerEU roadmap. The CEHC initiative is an essential part of the Corridor E: East and South-East Europe.

European Hydrogen Backbone in 2030

Source: ehb.eu

European Hydrogen Backbone in 2040

Source: ehb.eu

To deliver the 2030 hydrogen demand targets set by the REPowerEU plan, five large-scale pipeline corridors are envisaged. The corridors will initially connect local supply and demand in different parts of Europe, before expanding and connecting Europe with neighboring regions with export potential. Certainty about the deployment of this infrastructure will enable market actors to develop supply and demand more rapidly.

The five hydrogen supply corridors are:

  • Corridor A: North Africa & Southern Europe
  • Corridor B: Southwest Europe & North Africa
  • Corridor C: North Sea
  • Corridor D: Nordic and Baltic regions
  • Corridor E: East and South-East Europe

Cost-effective option for large scale long distance hydrogen transport

The proposed European Hydrogen Backbone for 2040 envisages using 60% of repurposed natural gas pipelines and 40% new pipeline stretches. This significantly drives down the required cost for building the network, leading to an estimated total investment of €80‑143 billion, which is relatively limited in the overall context of the European energy transition.

Transporting hydrogen over 1,000 km along the proposed onshore backbone would on average cost €0.11‑0.21 per kg of hydrogen, making the EHB the most cost-effective option for large-scale, long-distance hydrogen transport. In case hydrogen is transported exclusively via subsea pipelines, the cost would be €0.17‑0.32 per kg of hydrogen per 1,000 km transported.

Estimated investment and operating costs of the European Hydrogen Backbone

Estimated investment and operating costs of the European Hydrogen Backbone (2040)

Source: ehb.eu

Comparison of levelised transport costs for onshore and offshore pipelines

Comparison of levelised transport costs for onshore and offshore pipelines for an average stretch of the backbone in €/kg/1000km

Source: ehb.eu