Large future hydrogen demand to put climate-neutral Europe in reach


Within the EU and UK there is sufficient potential to produce enough hydrogen to exceed projected demand, a study has found.

On 15 June, the European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) initiative published analysis from Guidehouse exploring the future demand, supply and transport of hydrogen across Europe, building on its previously published maps outlining a 40,000km hydrogen pipeline network across 19 EU Member States, the UK and Switzerland. By 2050, it found 2,300TWh of hydrogen demand across the EU and UK, corresponding to 20-25% of their final energy consumption. Industry (1,200TWh) and dispatchable electricity production (650TWh) account for the majority of this, with 300TWh of demand in transport.

In heating for buildings, hydrogen demand is set to depend on renovation rates, relative shares of biomethane and hydrogen, and the mix of technologies. Using an accelerated renovation scenario, the study forecast gas demand from the building stock to be 600TWh by 2050, met by biomethane and hydrogen, which would account for around 150TWh.

Building on this, the study found domestic European green and blue hydrogen supply potential is vast and would exceed projected demand in all sectors. Green hydrogen supply potential in the EU and UK was estimated at 450TWh in 2030, 2,100TWh in 2040 and 4,000TWh in 2050. By 2040, green hydrogen supply potential would be sufficient to meet projected demand in all sectors at lower costs than grey hydrogen and fossil alternatives. By 2050, almost all of the potential 4,000TWh of green hydrogen could be produced for less than €2/kg, with as much as 600TWh of this produced for €1/kg or less. However, it stressed that realisation of this potential is subject to both public acceptance and an accelerated expansion of renewable installed capacity beyond what is currently planned.

There is also significant potential to produce blue hydrogen as supply is virtually unlimited due to natural gas supply and CO2 storage potential exceeding total foreseen hydrogen demand. Blue hydrogen will be key to quickly driving down emissions and accelerating the transition, especially during the ramp-up phase of the market from 2030.

As for transport, the report emphasised how the EHB itself will prove essential in facilitating the creation of a European hydrogen market. By 2030, even under modest flows, countries with low domestic hydrogen supply potential compared to their expected demand will have to import hydrogen to meet national requirements, creating a clear role for repurposed existing gas infrastructure connecting hydrogen supply and demand. 

Hydrogen pipelines were deemed the most cost-efficient option for long-distance, high volume transport at €0.11-0.21/kg per 1,000km, outcompeting transport by ship for all reasonable distances within Europe and its neighbouring regions. Furthermore, transporting volumes of energy corresponding to a single 48-inch hydrogen pipeline – up to 16.8GW – through power transmission would require the equivalent of seven overhead transmission lines. It also highlighted how the favourable economics of pipeline transport would allow for cost-competitive imports from the likes of North Africa, Norway and Ukraine, as well as the EU and UK.