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Energy consortium releases European hydrogen network plan
A plan to build a dedicated hydrogen pipeline network of almost 23,000 km within nine European countries by 2040 has been released by 11 European gas infrastructure companies, reports Keith Nuthall.
Enagás, Energinet, Fluxys Belgium, Gasunie, GRTgaz, NET4GAS, OGE, ONTRAS, Snam, Swedegas (Nordion Energi), Teréga and the consultancy Guidehouse have called their proposed network a ‘European Hydrogen Backbone’. It would serve Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland, with links to neighbouring European states (including the UK) and to North Africa.
The conversion of existing natural gas pipelines will be key. The consortium believes such 36- and 48-inch diameter pipelines can transport around 13 GW of hydrogen per pipeline (at lower heating value) across Europe, ‘providing an indication of the vast potential of the gas infrastructure to take up its role in the future zero emission EU energy system’.
The initiative comes as the European Commission launched on 8 July 2020 an EU Hydrogen Strategy, including supporting the production of 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers across Europe by 2030.
Some €27–64bn is expected to be required to build a ‘backbone’ network serving this capacity, with the network comprising 75% converted natural gas pipelines and 25% new pipelines. The wide range of the estimate is due to uncertainties in compressor costs, explains the consortium. This is because the energy density of hydrogen is three times lower than natural gas. So, to produce the same energy output, three times more hydrogen must be transported. Given its low mass and large volume flow, ‘greater efforts for compression are to be expected with hydrogen’, which means some compressors will need to be replaced and others refitted. However, the consortium estimates overall operational costs at €0.09–0.17/kg of hydrogen per 1,000 km², ‘allowing hydrogen to be transported cost-effectively over long distances across Europe’.
Hydrogen compressor pump
Photo: Cambridge Bay Weather