Study confirms hydrogen pipeline from GCC to Europe is feasible

30 June 2023 3 min. read

A pipeline crossing the Mediterranean to transport MENA’s abundant hydrogen supplies to Europe sounds fanciful and cost-ineffective, but a new study has found that such a project could be feasible.

An ambitious project connecting Europe with the Middle East’s low-carbon hydrogen supplies through a deep-sea pipeline would be not only feasible, but could unlock the region’s immense green energy potential according to a landmark study from AFRY Management Consulting – the consulting arm of global engineering group AFRY.

The proposed pipeline would originate in Qatar, before crossing Saudi Arabia and Egypt and entering Europe via the Mediterranean, then scatter across Central European countries.

Study confirms hydrogen pipeline from GCC to Europe is feasible

“The discussion around exporting hydrogen and its synthesis products from the Gulf to Europe is currently revolving around molecule transport by ship,” the report states. “These options receive EU subsidies and drive activity within the gas/hydrogen industry, but they may not be most efficient for bulk transport. A competitive and actionable pipeline project from the Gulf region in the near future could provide a viable and powerful complement.”

Conducted in partnership with inspection and certification engineering consultancy RINA, the initial expert assessment concluded that a suitable pipeline configuration could transport approximately 2.5 million tonnes of green and blue hydrogen annually at a cost of around €1.2 per/kilo. This translates to an initial potential (LCODH) sales price of €2.7 per/kilo for producers in the Gulf from the start of the 2030s, reducing to around €2.3 per/kilo in the longer term.

To arrive at its figures, the researchers calculated a capital expenditure of €28 billion and seven-year construction time-frame, with the annual pipeline cost coming in at just over €3 billion over a 40-year lifespan. The report also noted that transport capacity could be significantly scaled up by constructing additional pipelines of the same nature, capitalising on the Middle East and North Africa’s abundant renewable energy sources and natural gas reserves.

Taking into account technical parameters and feasibility (especially as to the deep-sea section), along with other economic and geopolitical factors, the study puts forward a 3,400 km route beginning at its easternmost point from Qatar’s North Field natural gas production hub Ras Laffan, before then crossing onshore to Riyadh and continuing along a Red Sea route to NEOM. The pipe would then make a subsea crossing into Egypt, and exit the Sinai at Port Said.

The next part would of course provide the biggest challenge – traversing the Mediterranean and navigating considerable seismic activity and potential political conflicts en route to Sicily or Greece before flowing to the rest of Europe – but the benefits would be enormous. Along with providing an alternate supply and greater energy security, the increase in cleaner hydrogen could significantly contribute to Europe’s efforts to lower its carbon emissions.

“The (study) provides a unique and highly interesting view of a significant opportunity to take a step forward in the green energy transition for Europe and the MENA region,” said Antonio Nodari, a member of AFRY’s executive management team. “As well as understanding the opportunities, the expert team who have worked on this report have a realistic view of the obstacles that need to be overcome and have the solutions to address those challenges.”

According to a report by Arthur D. Little, the global green hydrogen market could reach $700 billion by 2050.