European Hydrogen Backbone could span 40,000km as new countries join


A further 12 European gas TSOs from 11 countries have joined the European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) initiative, growing the size of the proposed network to almost 40,000km.

On 13 April, the EHB initiative presented an updated version of its vision for a dedicated hydrogen infrastructure across Europe, proposing a network of 39,700km by 2040, involving 23 gas infrastructure companies from 21 countries. It marks a significant increase from the initial July 2020 report which described a 23,000km network, spanning across 10 countries. Around 69% of the proposed network would be repurposed existing natural gas grids, with the remaining 31% newly built pipelines to connect new off-takers.

The infrastructure will call for an estimated total investment of around €43-81bn and could prove a cost effective option for long distance transportation of hydrogen. The report found that transportation over 1,000km would cost an average of €0.11-0.21/kg.

The EHB would develop from an initial 11,600km pipeline in 2030, which connects emerging hydrogen valleys, into a pan-European network by 2040 with further network development expected beyond this date. It would also support integration of renewable and clean energy sources in regions that were not included within the previous report, such as large parts of central and eastern Europe, Greece, Ireland and the UK.

On the UK, in particular, the report set out how a dedicated hydrogen transmission system is expected to emerge through a phased repurposing of the existing natural gas transmission pipelines to join the country’s largest industrial clusters – Grangemouth, Teesside, Humberside, Merseyside and South Wales.

By 2030, it is expected that at least four of the five industrial clusters will be connected, forming the basis of a hydrogen transmission backbone in the UK. There could be connections to St Fergus in Scotland and Bacton that would further provide additional hydrogen supplies capable of integrating large amounts of offshore wind energy.

All clusters could be connected by 2035 with a converted pipeline to Bacton potentially enabling future hydrogen flows across the interconnectors between GB and Belgium, and GB and the Netherlands, once ready. Further pipelines would likely start to emerge between 2035 and 2040, ahead of the hydrogen network expanding throughout the 2040s as production scales. This would allow for a greater reach across the industrial, power, transport and domestic heating sectors.