New pipeline proposed to export Scotland hydrogen to mainland Europe

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Scotland has been urged to boost its domestic hydrogen production by building a dedicated pipeline for transporting the carbon-neutral fuel to central Europe.

The country already boasts one of the most developed wind power sectors globally – the energy can be used to produce carbon-neutral ‘green’ hydrogen, which is produced by splitting water via electrolysis into hydrogen and oxygen. It also has access to considerable supplies of oil and gas in the North Sea. This can be used to make ‘blue’ hydrogen, which is not carbon neutral.

The Hydrogen Backbone Link (HBL) project, proposed by the Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC), would connect Scotland’s east coast with Emden in Germany to deliver a direct link to a growing European market for hydrogen. It is estimated to cost around £2.7bn to build and has already received some initial funding from the Scottish government’s Scottish Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (SIETF) and match funding from industry.

The body said the pipeline would achieve “favourable economics” when compared to other global sources. While production costs would be higher in Scotland than regions such as Canada, Chile and the Middle East, the pipeline would lower transportation costs to make it competitive, an NZTC report said.

The HBL project also has the potential to generate up to 300,000 jobs in Scotland alone by 2045 while delivering on the Scottish government’s aim to reach net zero by the same date.

If built, the new pipeline could enable Scotland to meet up to 10 per cent of Europe’s projected hydrogen import demand by the mid-2030s.

According to the report, the technology needed to deliver the pipeline is already well developed, but there remain several key areas where investment is needed to reduce costs and scale up solutions to enable the system to function.

Emerging compressor technologies such as turbo, electrochemical and compact centrifugal designs require accelerated development and scale-up. In parallel, experimental testing of existing meter and valve designs with hydrogen as a test medium would be needed to understand the operational limits.

As a catalyst, the NZTC urged the Scottish government to develop a national energy storage strategy that would deliver an integrated renewables and hydrogen storage system by 2030.

Myrtle Dawes, NZTC CEO, said: “The HBL project represents a huge opportunity for Scotland to secure its place on the world stage as a major exporter of green energy.

“If we act with pace and deliver the backbone, we can place Scotland at the heart of Europe’s near- and long-term decarbonisation strategy and play a central role in delivering a secure and efficient European hydrogen supply system.

“Phase 1 of the project has outlined a credible, direct and cost-competitive route to market, as well as a review of the technologies existing and in development that will enable the backbone.

“When delivered, the project will act as a catalyst for green hydrogen production in Scotland, providing a direct, low-cost transport option for emerging hydrogen producers.”

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