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Trend Spotting: The Rise of Global Hydrogen Hubs

As the first report in this series on hydrogen demonstrated (see report Apr. 19, 2022), a number of countries are targeting the development of “hydrogen hubs” or production centers to capitalize on and even corner the nascent market. What do we mean by hub? Generally, it’s considered a regional network consisting of the production, end-use, and connective infrastructure needed to produce, transport, store, and use clean hydrogen in a functional regional market.[1]  These hubs are likely to occur where there is mass availability of low cost renewable power resource or natural gas and carbon capture storage and in areas where there will be more supply than domestic demand.

There are several regions/countries that would fulfill both of these criteria: the Middle East & North Africa, Australia and Chile. Australia, Chile and North Africa have massive renewable power resource potential while the Middle East can rely on both its low cost solar power resource and its natural gas supplies and carbon capture and storage capabilities.[2]

It not going to be Europe, though arguably there is the most project development and policy setting going on there. The same dynamic exists in countries such as China, Japan and South Korea. There are less renewable power resources than other countries and the region will be a major consumer (and importer). Moreover, while the U.S. has plenty of renewable power capacity, most hydrogen will likely be consumed domestically.

Figure 1 again refers to recent analysis from Goldman Sachs on the levelized cost of green and blue hydrogen in 2030. The projections support the above analysis but does show the potential for blue hydrogen exports from the U.S., Russia and the Middle East. In addition, the Middle East may also be a world supplier of green hydrogen, along with Australia, Spain and Chile.

A lot of this depends on the implementation of national strategies’ and other policies to support this development. That will be something I will continue to watch for members: that gap (if there is one) between aspiration and actual implementation. Moreover, the supply of hydrogen will be constrained by the pace of deployment of capital and cost of production, particularly where long-term markets are not assured.[3]

Figure 1: Projected Levelized Cost of Green and Blue Hydrogen (LCOH) in US$/kg in 2030

Source: Goldman Sachs, February 2022

Figure 2 shows what trade routes might look like as a global hydrogen market develop, based on bilateral deals countries are already forging.[4] At least one-third of global hydrogen produced could be exported and traded by 2050.

Figure 2: Trade Routes and Bilateral Hydrogen Trade Deals

Source: IRENA, January 2022 citing data from Natural Earth, 2021

IRENA highlights the potential for geopolitical shifting as (or if) the global trade in hydrogen grows:

“A fast-growing array of bilateral deals indicates that these will be different from the hydrocarbon-based energy relationships of the 20th century. More than 30 countries and regions have hydrogen strategies that include import or export plans, indicating that cross-border hydrogen trade is set to grow considerably. Countries that have not traditionally traded energy are establishing bilateral relations centering on hydrogen-related technologies and molecules. As economic ties between countries change, so might their political dynamics.”[5]

That will be interesting to watch.

Select Hydrogen Hub Projects

Last year, I tracked green hydrogen project development for members (see post Oct. 5, 2021) based on data from the International Energy Agency (IEA). There is a great, new resource for members, an online database of hydrogen projects that probably culls from IEA but includes other projects as well available at this link.[6] Most hub projects focus on green hydrogen, and I highlight a few for members (this list is by no means exhaustive):

  • Australia: The Western Green Energy Hub, will cover an area of 15,000 km2 – roughly half the size of Belgium – to produce green hydrogen and ammonia for export. BP announced this week that it would take a 40.5% stake in the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, one of the largest such green hydrogen projects proposed to date. It will encompass a 2,500-square-mile area greater than the size of Delaware. The project is expected to generate up to 26 gigawatts of power at full capacity and will produce 1.6 million tons of ammonia beginning in 2027. Some of that production is expected to be exported to Japan and South Korea.
  • China: Hebei, China’s industrial hub, approved 43 hydrogen projects for production, equipment manufacturing, filling station and fuel cells, totaling 8.75 billion yuan (US$1.23 billion). Zhangjiakou aims to become the hydrogen capital in China, reaching annual hydrogen production capacity of 21,000 tons by 2021 and 50,000 tons by 2035.
  • Germany: The companies Vattenfall, Shell, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Hamburg’s municipal heat supplier “Hamburg Wärme” are planning to build a 100 MW green hydrogen production facility in the port of Hamburg.[7]
  • Namibia: In November 2021, the Namibian Ports Authority signed a memorandum of understanding with the Port of Rotterdam aiming to establish a trading route for green hydrogen. The port aims to import 20 MtH2 by 2050, while Namibia already has plans to develop a 0.3 MtH2 project, starting exports by 2026.
  • Netherlands: The Port of Rotterdam has outlined a vision to become a hub for clean hydrogen, connecting it to high-voltage cables to offshore wind farms in the North Sea and establishing new trading routes to import hydrogen and derivatives. 
  • Norway: A facility at the Port of Rafnes will feature a 20MW electrolyzer planned to lead to a minimum reduction of 22,000 tons of CO2 per year while also serving as a hub to provide hydrogen to the Norwegian transport sector.
  • Portugal: Danish fund manager and offshore wind developer Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) has joined forces with Portuguese developer Madoqua Renewables and Dutch consultancy Power2X to build the €1bn (US$1.08bn) project, which will use 500MW of electrolyzers to produce 50,000 tons of green hydrogen and 500,000 tons of green ammonia annually.[8] 
  • Spain: The 7.4GW HyDeal España was announced in February 2022, a month after the Repsol-led 2GW SHYNEplan in northern Spain was revealed.
  • United Kingdom: The Shoreham Port Green Energy Hub project will initially focus on the provision of green hydrogen and renewable electricity to the Port’s fleet of 39 heavy forklift trucks and 12 heavy goods vehicles.

In addition, the infrastructure legislation signed by President Joe Biden in the U.S. last year, allocated US$8 billion to develop hydrogen hubs across the U.S. The Department of Energy is tasked with distributing this funding announced earlier this month that a project funding announcement would be issued this fall.

The infrastructure bill also provided $12.1 billion to support new carbon management technologies, including money to build out regional CO2 transportation and storage infrastructure networks. Through low-interest loans and cost-share grants, the funding will help the DOE support the development of large-scale commercial geologic storage sites across the country.[9] The NGO Great Plains Institute recently identified 14 areas of the U.S. suited to hub development, shown in Figure 3.[10]

Figure 3: Potential Hydrogen Hubs in the U.S.

Footnotes

[1] Emily Kent, Clean Air Task Force, What Makes for a Good Clean Hydrogen Hub?, June 8, 2022

[2] Goldman Sachs, Carbonomics: The Clean Hydrogen Revolution, February 2022 at https://www.goldmansachs.com/insights/pages/gs-research/carbonomics-the-clean-hydrogen-revolution/carbonomicsthe-clean-hydrogen-revolution.pdf (hereinafter “Carbonomics”). See also International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation: The Hydrogen Factor, January 2022 at https://www.irena.org/publications/2022/Jan/Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation-Hydrogen (hereinafter “IRENA”).

[3] IRENA at 13.

[4] See IRENA at 37.

[5] IRENA at

[6] One drawback: Search results cannot be downloaded, unlike the IEA database, though the interface is cleaner.

[7] Hamburg Marketing, Hydrogen: Hamburg is Setting the Pace for Europe, https://marketing.hamburg.de/europeshydrogenhub.html.

[8] Leigh Collins, Recharge News, Iberia Fast Becoming Europe’s Green Hydrogen Hub After Fourth Large-Scale Project Unveiled This Year, Apr. 20, 2022 at https://www.rechargenews.com/energy-transition/iberia-fast-becoming-europes-green-hydrogen-hub-after-fourth-large-scale-project-unveiled-this-year/2-1-1203685.

[9] Brandon Mulder, S&P Global, 14 Regions Identified for Potential Hydrogen, Carbon Storage Hub Locations, Feb. 1, 2022 at https://www.spglobal.com/commodityinsights/en/market-insights/latest-news/natural-gas/020122-14-regions-identified-for-potential-hydrogen-carbon-storage-hub-locations?utm_source=pocket_mylist.

[10] Great Plains Institute, GPI Releases Carbon and Hydrogen Hubs Atlas for US Decarbonization, Jan. 31, 2022 at https://betterenergy.org/blog/gpi-carbon-and-hydrogen-hubs-atlas/.

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