Hydrogen Supply – Analysis – IEA

Currently hydrogen is mostly produced and consumed in the same location, without the need for transport infrastructure. With demand for hydrogen increasing due to decarbonisation pledges and the advent of new distributed uses, there is a need to develop hydrogen infrastructure that connects production and demand centres.

Transporting hydrogen via pipeline is generally cost-competitive up to a distance of 5 000 km. About 2 600 km of hydrogen pipelines are in operation in the United States and 2 000 km in Europe, mainly owned by private companies and utilized to connect industrial users. Several countries are developing plans for new hydrogen infrastructure, with Europe leading the way. The European Hydrogen Backbone initiative groups together 31 gas infrastructure operators with the aim of establishing a pan-European hydrogen infrastructure. In June 2022 the Dutch government announced plans to develop a national hydrogen transmission network of 1 400 km, with initial parts to be completed by 2026.

For distances over 5 000 km, shipping hydrogen and hydrogen carriers are more cost-competitive than hydrogen pipelines. In February 2022 the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain demonstrated for the first time the shipment of liquefied hydrogen (75 tonnes of LH).2 from Australia to Japan) and it plans to scale up operations by the end of the decade. However, the extremely low temperature needed to ship liquefied hydrogen (-253°C, compared to -162°C for LNG) makes its transportation over long distances challenging and costly. For this reason a growing number of projects are considering the possibility of transporting ammonia, such as the ACE Terminal in the Netherlands and the NEON project in Saudi Arabia. However, all these projects are still under development and their realization would depend on a number of factors, including the development of the required infrastructure (particularly import and export terminals), the creation of demand for hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels, the development of standards, certification schemes and adequate regulatory framework, and the adoption of supporting policies.

The development of infrastructure for hydrogen storage will be also needed. Salt caverns are already in use for industrial-scale storage in the United States and the United Kingdom. The potential role of hydrogen in balancing the power grid, helping deal with the short- and long-term variability of renewables and the potential development of international trade would all require the development of more storage capacity and its flexible operation. Several research projects are ongoing for the demonstration of fast cycling in large-scale hydrogen storage, such as HyCAVmobil in Germany and HyPSTER in France, with both tests planned to start by 2023. Other research projects in the Netherlands, Germany and France are also working. on analyzing the potential for repurposing natural gas salt caverns for hydrogen storage.

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