The European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) initiative has unveiled an updated, extended, accelerated vision in light of the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan and developments in the hydrogen market.
Published in early April, the vision includes 31 energy infrastructure companies, spanning 28 countries which, by 2030, could see five pan-European hydrogen supply and import corridors emerge, connecting industrial clusters, ports and hydrogen valleys to regions of abundant hydrogen supply. This will help to support the European Commission’s ambition of developing a 20.6mn tonne of renewable and low carbon hydrogen market.
Growing to become a pan-European network, this would span close to 53,000km by 2040 and be mainly based on repurposed existing natural gas infrastructure. There are also potential additional routes that could emerge, including offshore interconnectors and pipelines in regions outside of the area in which EHB members are active.
Realising such a vision would call for an estimated total investment of around €80-143bn, with this including subsea pipelines and interconnectors to link countries to offshore energy hubs, as well as potential export regions. Transporting hydrogen over 1,000km through the proposed onshore backbone would cost €0.11-0.21 per kg of hydrogen, meaning the EHB is the most cost-effective option for large-scale, long distance hydrogen transport. If hydrogen were to be transported exclusively through subsea pipelines, the cost would be €0.17-0.32 per kg of hydrogen per 1,000km.
It further set out how the EHB presents a real opportunity to accelerate the decarbonisation of the energy sector by efficiently integrating substantial volumes of additional renewable and low carbon energy, and by connecting regions that have abundant supply potential with centres of demand. It also has the potential to revitalise Europe’s industrial economy while ensuring energy system resilience, increasing energy independence, and security of supply across Europe.
Therefore, to achieve the European Commission’s Fit for 55 and REPowerEU ambitions, as well as fostering an accelerated development of the EHB, the report set out a series of levers that can facilitate the implementation of infrastructure projects, including introducing the establishment of import corridors as a political objective in the REPowerEU plan; establishing a more integrated energy system planning of hydrogen, natural gas, and electricity infrastructure at EU and Member State level; and promoting efficient measures to facilitate the swift development of a dedicated hydrogen infrastructure by fostering repurposing of existing natural gas infrastructure.
Further levers include simplifying and shortening planning and permitting procedures for renewable energy and hydrogen projects; unlocking financing to fast-track hydrogen infrastructure deployment through leveraging funding mechanisms, including the Connecting Europe Facilitate, Important Projects of Common European Interest, and Horizon Europe funds; and encouraging international cooperating and creating both intra and extra-European energy and hydrogen partnerships.