Four European gas transmission operators have agreed to jointly fund research efforts to determine the feasibility of converting existing gas trunklines to transport hydrogen from Ukraine to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany.

The agreement comes hot on the heels of promises from Germany and the US to invest billions of dollars into solar and onshore and offshore wind farms in Ukraine to compensate the country for the expected loss of Russian gas transit to Europe.

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Operators that will provide initial financing are Eustream of Slovakia, GTS of the Ukraine, Net4Gas of the Czech Republic and Open Grid Europe of Germany.

The goal of the research is to explore the technical feasibility of creating what the operators call the Central European Hydrogen Corridor. The system would transport up to 120 gigawatt hours of hydrogen per day, or 13 billion cubic metres per year, by 2030, with the bulk expected to be produced in Ukraine using renewable energy sources and its nuclear power stations.

The operators said that besides parts of the existing network, the study will propose new dedicated hydrogen pipelines and compressor stations to be added to the network in the four countries.

Eustream, Net4Gas and Open Grid Europe are already members of the European Hydrogen Backbone, an earlier initiative of all major gas transmission operators in Europe to consider options for repurposing the existing gas pipeline network in Europe to transport hydrogen.

The operators said that hydrogen producers, large hydrogen consumers and other gas infrastructure companies in Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany are welcome to join the initiative or to form partnerships with them.

Because of the complexity and scope of the proposed feasibility and cost studies, the initial results will not be available before 2022.

Spare capacity

Ukraine is widely expected to have more spare gas pipeline capacity after the end of 2024 when its current gas transit contract with Gazprom expires.

Multiple lines of the country’s vast gas transportation network currently are empty or underutilised, as Russian state monopoly Gazprom has contracted to transport just 40 Bcm of gas per year to Europe between 2021 and 2024, versus the annual transit throughput capacity of 140 Bcm from Russia to Europe offered by Ukraine’s network.

Ukraine has been actively looking at renewable energy options in the last several years after Russia repeatedly hinted that it may further reduce gas transit across the country once its subsea gas pipeline project, Nord Stream 2, is completed.

US-German renewable energy funding

Earlier, Germany and the US have reached an agreement in principle to support the creation of a $1 billion investment pool that will consider funding prospective renewable energy proposals in Ukraine.

Berlin has already committed to providing €150 million ($175 million) to the fund after the US eased its opposition to Nord Stream 2.

Ukraine has strong hopes of getting into onshore wind power generation along the coast of the Black Sea, and also in the shallow waters offshore, after already attracting tens of millions of dollars from international investors for solar energy installations.

According to reports in Kiev, the authorities have already certified a Toyota-made fuel cell passenger vehicle to operate in the country, with a first hydrogen retail station expected to be built in the capital city next year.