European Hydrogen Backbone grows to 40,000 km, covering 11 new countries

13 April 2021

• The three European TSOs are contributing altogether through a 100 million euros investment in the Clean H2 Infra Fund managed by Hy24

The European gas Transmission System Operators (TSOs) Enagás (Spain), Snam (Italy) and GRTgaz (France), signed an agreement to set up shared initiatives aimed at supporting and exploring projects to accelerate the clean hydrogen market.

In line with the decarbonization goals set by the European Union, the three TSOs have addressed that hydrogen will play a critical role in the Energy Transition and have agreed to jointly explore further possibilities for cooperation in this field. Enagas, GRTgaz, Snam have joined the European Hydrogen Backbone Initiative: its last report shows that a pan European hydrogen infrastructure largely based on repurposed existing gas infrastructure is possible. This study showed a hydrogen pipeline network of nearly 40,000 km by 2040, connecting 19 EU Member States plus the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

This initiative of Enagás, Snam and GRTgaz, underlines the crucial role that the European gas TSOs will play by combining their experiences in the development of the European hydrogen ecosystem through the management of critical infrastructure.

As their first joint initiative, Enagás, Snam and GRTgaz will respectively invest 33 million euros in the Clean H2 Infra Fund in their role of anchor investors, for a cumulated investment of approx. 100 million euros.

Clean H2 Infra Fund is an impact fund managed by Hy24, a joint venture between Ardian and FiveT Hydrogen, aimed at supporting the development of the clean hydrogen infrastructure sector, with a commitment of 1,500-1,800 million euros in partnership with industrial and financial investors. This is the world’s largest platform for clean hydrogen infrastructure investment.

Hy24 combines Ardian’s experience in infrastructure and asset management and FiveT’s Hydrogen knowhow in the hydrogen value chain, along with the role and experience of the three TSOs in the management of energy networks and hydrogen technology.

By investing in Clean H2 Infra Fund, Enagás, Snam and GRTgaz aim at fostering the clean hydrogen industry with a positive impact on the use and development of hydrogen transmission grids.

According to Marcelino Oreja, CEO of Enagás, “The European Transmission System Operators are key elements in the battle against climate change, and this initiative fits perfectly with the projects promoted by Enagás based on its strategy of contributing a fair energy transition. This consortium is a clear example of joint co-operation between three European TSOs, which have an important role for future decarbonization of energy”.

Marco Alverà, CEO of Snam, commented: “With this agreement, three leading European TSOs commit to working together and contributing to the acceleration of the energy transition across the continent and beyond, in line with the Fit for 55 package and the EU hydrogen strategy. Our existing hydrogen ready networks and storage facilities will play a key role in enabling cost-efficient decarbonization. We are ready to share our capabilities and support new investment initiatives like the Clean H2 Infra Fund in order to boost green hydrogen projects on the road to net zero”.

Thierry Trouvé, CEO of GRTgaz points out: “In the future, hydrogen will play a major role to balance the electric system and in decarbonising industry, as the first lessons of the national hydrogen consultation, launched in France by GRTgaz with Teréga last June show. Industry is expressing a need for reliable access to competitively priced clean hydrogen, and it is therefore interested in the progressive development of a dedicated infrastructure to achieve that”.

Pierre-Etienne Franc, Hy24’s Chief Executive adds: “The joining of key TSO of the European gas infrastructure is a fundamental move for us as it shows the role we are expected to play in support to the whole industry development, from production to distribution and usage. We are honored that the first joint move of this consortium is to select Hy24 Clean H2 Fund as a first investment and expect this will trigger many scale projects on this part of the value chain”.

Enagás’ initiatives on the hydrogen field

Enagás is promoting 55 specific projects throughout Spain in the fields of renewable gases and decarbonisation (34 green hydrogen projects and 21 biomethane projects) alongside more than 60 partners. In total, these projects could mobilise a joint investment of 6.3 billion euros.

The company has achieved milestones in major projects such as ‘Power to Green Hydrogen Mallorca’, which is at final construction phase of the Lloseta photovoltaic plant, one of the two that will feed the first green hydrogen plant in Spain that Enagás is promoting together with its partners. As part of this same project, the Iberostar hotel group has signed the first green hydrogen supply contract for the tourism sector in Spain with Enagás and Acciona Energía.

The Repsol and Enagás’ renewable hydrogen production project -directly from solar energy- have received European Commission funding support. In addition, the company has developed the first commercial hydrogen station in Spain and has joined forces with Naturgy and Exolum to develop the first major green hydrogen alliance for mobility in Spain, which will promote the construction of 50 hydrogen stations.

Also, Enagás and LatemAluminium signed a deal for the development of an industrial project to promote two green hydrogen production plants in Castilla y León. Enagás is also involved in six biomethane projects that have received support from the Institute for Diversification and Saving of Energy (IDAE).

Snam’s initiatives on the hydrogen field

In its vision to 2030, Snam has identified investment opportunities for 23 billion euros in energy transport and storage and in new green projects, with hydrogen being at the core of this plan. Snam was the first gas transport company in Europe to experiment with blending hydrogen with natural gas into its network, which is currently undergoing hydrogen-ready certification. The company also tested the possibility of blending up to 100% hydrogen in its storage fields.

More than two years ago, Snam launched a Business Unit dedicated to hydrogen, with the aim of being a leader in a sector with great prospects, contributing with its skills and technologies to enable a hydrogen value chain both at an Italian and international level. The initiatives are located on three strategic lines.

The first concerns the logistics and use of hydrogen in various countries and in various sectors such as hard-to-abate industries and mobility, in partnership with other relevant operators. In this field, Snam is managing more than 150 projects, from the conversion of diesel-powered railway lines to hydrogen to initiatives involving steel, glass, ceramics, paper, chemicals, ports and airports. Some of these projects fall within the scope of national and European funding programs (IPCEI, PNRR, Innovation Fund, Horizon 2020).

The second line concerns R&D and venture capital initiatives. Snam, for example, is cooperating with leading international universities and research centers to build an international network around its Hydrogen Innovation Center.

Finally, Snam is working with over 50 international partners along the entire hydrogen value chain, including partnerships with leading companies in the main electrolysis technologies, i.e. Alkaline (Industrie De Nora) and Proton Exchange Membrane (ITM Power).

GRTgaz’s initiatives on the hydrogen field

GRTgaz plays an active role in the various hydrogen development pathway, the first project began in 2015 with the launch of the multi-partner Jupiter 1000 power to gas project. Located in Fos-sur-Mer (Bouches-du-Rhône), Jupiter 1000 has been injecting hydrogen molecules into the gas network since February 2020. Its testing programme will allow GRTgaz’s industrial sites to prepare for the arrival of hydrogen in the networks.

GRTgaz will play a full role in the emergence of the hydrogen market by developing 700 km of hydrogen pipelines by 2030, partly through new pipelines, partly through conversion of the current gas network. The most advanced of these, the MosaHYc project, aims to develop Europe's first hydrogen network by converting gas pipelines between the Moselle, the Saar and Luxembourg. GRTgaz is also strengthening its R&D resources with the development of the FenHYX test platform dedicated to hydrogen. This platform inaugurated last November aims to test the compatibility of materials and network equipments with hydrogen.

• Twelve European gas TSOs from eleven European countries have joined the EHB initiative
• EHB group presents a vision for a 39,700km hydrogen pipeline infrastructure in 21 countries
• Two-thirds of the network is based on repurposed natural gas pipelines
• Lower investment cost per kilometre of pipeline compared to previous estimate

Today, the European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) initiative presents an updated version of its vision for a dedicated hydrogen transport infrastructure across Europe. The group proposes a hydrogen network of 39,700km by 2040, with further growth expected after 2040. This grid connects 21 European countries. The vision launched today follows the EHB report published in July 2020, which sparked a debate across Europe. That report described a network of 23,000km covering ten countries.

Two-third share repurposed pipelines

Some 69% of the proposed hydrogen network consists of repurposed existing natural gas grids. The remaining 31% newly built pipelines are needed to connect new off-takers and are located in countries with small gas grids today, yet with high expected future hydrogen demand and supply.

Lower investment costs per kilometre of pipeline

The almost 40,000 km envisaged 2040 backbone requires an estimated total investment of €43-81bn. The investment per kilometre of pipeline is lower compared to last year’s EHB report because the previous report only included cost estimates for pipelines with a diameter of 48 inch, while the present report takes into account that a large part of today’s natural gas infrastructure and of tomorrow’s hydrogen infrastructure consists of smaller pipelines. Smaller pipelines are cheaper to repurpose while leading to somewhat higher transport cost per kilometre. Transporting hydrogen over 1,000 km would on average cost €0.11-0.21 per kg of hydrogen, making the EHB a cost-effective option for long-distance hydrogen transportation.

Stable regulatory framework required

The hydrogen infrastructure maps for 2030, 2035 and 2040 published today reflect the vision of 23 European gas TSOs, based on their analysis of how infrastructure could evolve to meet decarbonisation targets. It is important to stress that the hydrogen transportation routes and timelines in the maps are not set in stone. The final Backbone design and timeline depend on market conditions for hydrogen and natural gas and the creation of a stable, supportive and adaptive regulatory framework.

Regional Corridor

Through Spain and France, a corridor towards Germany could emerge by 2035. This route could connect hydrogen demand clusters in the north of Europe with sources in the Iberian Peninsula, or even North Africa. This enables these intermittent renewable energy sources across Europe to complement one another, while also providing connection to storage options. This further enables the transport of large quantities of hydrogen to facilitate a liquid, cross-border hydrogen market.

“Europe needs to rapidly develop dedicated hydrogen pipeline infrastructure. This new EHB report shows a clear roadmap of how this could work”, says Prof. Ad van Wijk, author of the 2x40 GW Electrolyser Plan and advisor to Hydrogen Europe.

“We are glad that eleven new countries have joined the EHB initiative. Our new report shows that a truly pan-European hydrogen infrastructure largely based on repurposed existing gas infrastructure is possible”, says Daniel Muthmann, Coordinator of the EHB initiative and Head of corporate development, strategy, policy and communication at OGE.


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