The world's pursuit of net-zero is driving the emergence of new hydrogen infrastructure. The European Commission as well as the numerous companies are focused on the carbon dioxide composition in the atmosphere. They are actively pursuing the EU Methane Strategy and its international commitments by proposing measures to decrease methane emissions in Europe's energy sector. As with any emerging technology, the adoption of hydrogen pipelines comes with its own set of challenges and ongoing projects aimed at overcoming them. This article explores several projects in Europe and examines the key challenges of H2 infrastructure development. 

AquaDuctus projects and SoutH2 Corridor: paving the way for the hydrogen economy

GASCADE and Fluxys as long-standing partners in pipeline infrastructure united their efforts in the AquaDuctus project for shaping the hydrogen economy in Germany. It is a part of the AquaVentus initiative, which plans to install 10 gigawatts of electrolysis capacity for hydrogen production from offshore wind power between the archipelago Helgoland and sandbank Doggerbank in the North Sea. The project has also participated in the Important Project of Common European Interest process of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Once the construction of the production plants is fully completed, AquaDuctus shall transport up to one million tonnes of green hydrogen annually from 2035 onwards. This significant step will play a pivotal role in driving the decarbonization of energy supply across Germany and Europe.

Of particular relevance are the Hydrogen Corridor projects, i.e. the SoutH2 Corridor, a 3,300 km hydrogen pipeline connecting North Africa, Italy, Austria, and Germany.

Snam, Trans Austria Gasleitung, Gas Connect Austria and bayernets have formed a partnership to develop the SoutH2 Corridor, a hydrogen-ready pipeline corridor connecting North Africa to central Europe and providing the transfer of renewable hydrogen produced in the Southern Mediterranean to consumers in Europe.

The SoutH2 Corridor, which is expected to be fully operational as early as 2030, plays a vital role in enabling the transportation of both imported and domestically produced hydrogen.

Hydrogen Infrastructure Challenges: Storing, Transporting, and Economically Integrating H2 in the Energy Sector

While hydrogen shows considerable potential for the energy sector, several challenges need to be addressed before its widespread adoption. The central question when converting to hydrogen is: how can it be effectively stored and made available?

Several oil and gas companies are addressing the challenge of achieving Net Zero in innovative ways, as recent projects showcase significant progress. However, hydrogen's low energy density presents storage and transportation hurdles, requiring specialized infrastructure and increasing costs. Therefore, the industry suggests adapting the existing methane transmission system and potentially constructing new pipelines to facilitate hydrogen transport in the future.

TANAP is actively exploring the possibility of transporting hydrogen in Europe while simultaneously incorporating renewable energy sources. They are also looking into hydrogen blending options and undertaking modification works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon and methane, by 1%.

In the meantime, the Swiss company H2 Energy Europe AG and Germany-based OGE plan to create a hydrogen value chain covering production, distribution, logistics, and fuel supply for fuel-cell trucks.

The European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) project aims to connect hydrogen producers and users via the existing gas infrastructure, with plans to expand the network to approximately 39,700km of hydrogen pipelines by 2040, including new pipelines and repurposing existing natural gas pipelines. For example, the existing methane transmission system of the Baltic Pipe project could be modified to accommodate the future transportation of hydrogen by incorporating new pipelines.

As we delve deeper into the challenges of H2 integration, it becomes apparent that economic viability holds significant importance. The upfront costs of transitioning to hydrogen-based technologies can be substantial. The industry must navigate the economic challenges associated with infrastructure overhaul, technology adoption, and hydrogen production costs.

TOGC 2024: illuminating the hydrogen discussion

As we can see, there are a number of obstacles that energy companies will have to overcome in order to achieve global decarbonization goals. By examining the above-mentioned projects, the challenges are as follows: infrastructure costs, repurposing pipelines or gas blending, safety considerations, and adaptation to new technologies. The upcoming Transportation Oil and Gas Congress 2024 on 19-21 February, in Milan, Italy, serves as a platform for O&G pipeline leaders to share their progressive vision on the future of the market. To hear what solutions energy companies propose, join the specialists from ElinOil, OGE, Tractebel Engie, SNAM, DESFA, NEUMAN & ESSER Deutschland, Wood, Israel Natural Gas Lines and Danish Energy Agency as they will present cases on H2 transition during TOGC 2024 Leaders Panel “H2: creating a value chain” and Panel 4 “H2: readiness of infrastructure”.

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