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Renewable hydrogen: long-distance supply can be competitive

Renewable hydrogen: long-distance supply can be competitive.
Renewable hydrogen: long-distance supply can be competitive.
Jun 11 2021

The Commission’s Joint Research Centre published today a policy brief showing that delivery of large amounts of renewable hydrogen over long distances could be cost-effective.

This finding is important because access to sufficient amounts of renewable hydrogen at low cost is essential for achieving a climate neutral Europe by 2050.

Renewable hydrogen is an energy carrier produced from renewable sources such as wind and solar and can be used to replace fossil-based hydrogen for industrial processes or as alternative fuel in the transport sector, especially in heavy-duty and long-distance trucks, buses, ships and planes. 

Renewable and low-carbon hydrogen cannot currently compete in terms of production costs with fossil-based hydrogen, whereas hydrogen production must become fully decarbonised in order to contribute to climate neutrality goals. Importing hydrogen from places with cheaper renewable energy resources could be an alternative to local production, but would result in higher transport costs.

For its transport, hydrogen is either compressed, liquefied or converted into a hydrogen carrier such as ammonia or liquid organic hydrogen carriers. The “packaging” of the hydrogen together with the transport distance, the amount to be imported, final use, and availability of infrastructure defines the final cost of the hydrogen delivery.

Therefore, it is important to understand under which conditions transporting renewable hydrogen across the European territory or even over longer distances makes economic sense.

Findings

The current lack of hydrogen infrastructure challenges the delivery of large amounts of hydrogen over long distances. One of the options to enable long-distance transport of hydrogen is the repurposing of existing natural gas pipelines for hydrogen use. For long-distance transport within the EU, this is the most competitive hydrogen delivery solution, if available.

Chemical carriers as ammonia or liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC) become more economically competitive with longer delivery distances, opening up import options from suppliers located, for example, in Chile or Australia.

The policy brief recommends support to study the feasibility of this repurposing and improve and upscale current technologies involved in the hydrogen delivery chain.

The policy brief also recommends that the definition, certification and labelling of renewable hydrogen should include  the full delivery chain, to ensure accurate tracking of the emissions associated with large-scale hydrogen delivery chains.

Background

In July 2020, the European Commission published “A Hydrogen Strategy for a climate-neutral Europe”. This policy communication sets out a vision of how the EU can turn clean hydrogen into a viable solution to decarbonise different sectors over time, installing at least 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU by 2024 and 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers by 2030.