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Gas groups sign blue hydrogen MOU in Slovakia

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Gas groups sign blue hydrogen MOU in Slovakia

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Gas infrastructure companies EP Infrastructure (EPIF), Eustream and Nafta have partnered with RWE Supply and Trading on a low-carbon hydrogen development in Slovakia, the companies said Sept. 24.

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The companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly explore potential development of blue hydrogen production facilities in eastern Slovakia, produced from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage.

RWE is looking to receive the renewable gas for pipeline shipment to Germany and other Western European core markets for the company, it said.

"We expect a significant need for low-carbon hydrogen imports to Germany in order to meet domestic demand already in 2030," RWE Supply & Trading CCO Ulf Kerstin said.

"To potentially off-take low-carbon hydrogen produced in Slovakia and import it to Germany via repurposed pipeline infrastructure would address this demand and at the same time support establishing the infrastructure required for future imports of green hydrogen from Eastern Europe, including Ukraine," Kerstin said.

Slovak natural gas transmission system operator Eustream aims to be technologically ready to blend up to 5% hydrogen into its gas system by 2023, and plans to move to a dedicated hydrogen transmission pipeline in the future, CEO Rastislav Nukovic said in the statement.

EPIF is focused on gas transmission, gas and power distribution, heat and power generation and gas storage.

"EPIF's companies are operating infrastructure which is important for international transmission of hydrogen and storage," CEO Gary Mazzotti said.

"We lie between the anticipated production centers in Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, and the consumption in Germany and other Western European countries," Mazzotti said. "The cooperation with RWE will enable us to jointly explore opportunities instrumental to successful energy transition of the EU."

The companies will set out a road map for the project, and will speak to stakeholders in Austria, the Czech Republic and Ukraine in coming months.

RWE is involved in several renewable hydrogen projects across Europe, producing the energy carrier from electrolysis powered by renewable electricity.

Its trading arm, RWE Supply and Trading, is seeking opportunities to import hydrogen and its derivatives such as ammonia to Germany and other countries to complement RWE's own production, the company said.

International pipeline projects

Eustream joined an Austrian and German partnership earlier in September to supply and transport green hydrogen produced from wind and solar power in Ukraine.

The H2EU+Store project will transport the hydrogen it via the Slovak gas TSO`s network to neighboring Austria and Germany, and will store the energy carrier for seasonal demand in Central Europe in the future.

As part of the project, H2EU+Store will expand storage volumes in Austria and Germany, accompanied by adaptations in the area of gas transport to Central Europe.

On Sept. 23, four Central European gas grid operators including Eustream said they would develop a hydrogen highway through the region. The other companies involved are Ukraine's GTSOU, Czech NET4GAS and Germany's OGE.

The Central European Hydrogen Corridor initiative is also focused on developing the transport of hydrogen from potential green hydrogen supply areas in Ukraine via Slovakia and the Czech Republic to customers in Germany and the EU.

The corridor will also enable hydrogen to reach consumers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

CO2 storage

CO2 captured from the process could be stored in depleted natural gas fields in Slovakia, or neighboring countries including Ukraine, the companies said.

"Our long-term storage experience and our strategic location allows us to substantially contribute to the cooperation in the area of hydrogen and CO2 storage," Nafta CEO Martin Bartosovic said.

Nafta has natural gas storage facilities in Slovakia, and is the country's leading hydrocarbon exploration and production company.

Blue hydrogen production costs are currently substantially below those for renewable hydrogen, though costs for the latter are expected to decline rapidly.

S&P Global Platts assessed the cost of producing renewable hydrogen via alkaline electrolysis in Europe at Eur8.52/kg ($10.00/kg) Sept. 23 (Netherlands, including capex). PEM electrolysis production was assessed at Eur10.30/kg, while blue hydrogen production by steam methane reforming (including carbon, CCS and capex) was Eur4.61/kg.