FRANKFURT - Investments of between 15 and 22 billion euros ($15.92-$23.36 billion) could buy a 4,200-kilometre new hydrogen pipeline network linking Germany, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, according to a study from analysts at DNV consultancy on Thursday.
The study, commissioned by German gas pipeline operator Gascade, says that up to 300 terawatt hours (TWh) a year of clean hydrogen made from North Sea offshore wind power could be transported by the grid.
This would meet 15% of demand for the synthetic fuel that the European Union forecasts for the year 2050.
Germany and the European Union are seeking to shift future energy production towards renewables and to produce, import and market hydrogen from wind and sunshine to eliminate climate-warming gases.
"We believe it is important to look now to be able to arrive at an offshore European hydrogen grid in time," said Ulrich Benterbusch, managing director of Gascade, which is jointly owned by oil and gas producer Wintershall Dea and gas importer Securing Energy for Europe (Sefe).
Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark last year pledged to build at least 150 gigawatts of offshore wind in the North Sea by 2050. The EU had 15 GW of offshore wind capacity in 2021.
The four signatories to the so-called Esbjerg declaration will meet again in Belgium in April.
DNV asked whether offshore wind power should be converted on-site into hydrogen via electrolysis plants, or whether the power should be brought to coastal electrolysis facilities.
The coastal option was most price-efficient for wind power produced less than 100 kilometres away from land.
On-site hydrogen production out at sea would save on costly new electricity cables of far lower energy capacity, when compared with pipelines, and would beat costs of seaborne hydrogen imports from overseas.
The cost of North Sea hydrogen could be 4.59 euros per kg in 2030, falling to 3.24 euros/kg in 2050, said the authors.
($1 = 0.9420 euros)
(Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Miranda Murray and Elaine Hardcastle)