The introduction of hydrogen and biomethane to European gas grids as alternative green fuels would require investing EUR 27bn-64bn over 20 years, 11 gas network operators said on Friday.
A proposed hydrogen network would use 75% of existing, converted natural gas pipelines and 25% of new pipelines, the TSOs said in a study titled Hydrogen Backbone Plan.
Gas networks will have to be gradually adapted to carry green gases such as biomethane and hydrogen for the EU to be carbon neutral by 2050. The EU council estimates that green gases could represent 30-70% of total gas use by 2050.
“In the broader context of the European energy shift, the costs are manageable,” the TSOs said.
However, nearly two-thirds of EU gas network operators currently forbid the injection of hydrogen into their systems, Montel reported earlier this week.
The ability of countries to accept hydrogen blends varied widely, so the 11 TSOs propose two parallel infrastructures, one for hydrogen and one for biomethane and natural gas, which would be phased out over time.
“It is crucial that throughout the partial transition of gas infrastructure from natural gas to hydrogen, security of gas supply is ensured,” they said.
“It is expected that alongside dedicated hydrogen infrastructure, a methane transport grid will remain operational to transport increasing quantities of biomethane and decreasing quantities of natural gas, including natural gas for blue [low-carbon] hydrogen,” they wrote in the paper.
The TSOs include Enagas, Energinet, Fluxys Belgium, Gasunie, GRTgaz, NET4GAS, OGE, Ontras, Snam, Swedegas and Terega.
The operators propose a network that would gradually expand from the mid-2020s to 2030 to form an initial 6,800 km pipeline system. The length would reach 23,000 km by 2040.
It would connect hydrogen hubs in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The network would be able to transport 7-13 GW of hydrogen per pipeline across Europe, depending on the diameter of the pipelines commonly in use for long-distance transport of gas within the EU.
Last week, the European Commission said it is targeting 40 GW of “green” hydrogen in the region by 2030, with up to EUR 340bn in investments. Green hydrogen is produced through the electrolysis of water with the electricity sourced from renewables such as wind and solar.