European Hydrogen Backbone

The EHB – a strong backbone for Europe’s energy future

The backbone of European cooperation in matters of energy was originally based on the coal and nuclear industries. Yet the future of energy generation and supply in Europe depends on renewables: solar energy, wind power – and green hydrogen.

Peace comes from trust. And trust comes from cooperation. This is the Europe we have known since the end of the Second World War: a community of nations and people that have grown together, first through treaty-based agreements and ultimately through increased trust.

The European Union has a backbone that has grown ever stronger over decades. It all began with the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community: In 1951, Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands chose to pursue a peaceful future based on economic cooperation. As political ties grew ever closer, in Maastricht in 1992 the states then concluded the Treaty on European Union as the successor to the EEC: a peaceful coexistence of nations that support, strengthen and benefit from each other.

With the growing number of member states, the EU has also become active in other policy areas. These include climate protection and the energy transition. As part of the so-called “EU Green Deal”, important paths were set out from 2019 onwards: among other things, with the first European Hydrogen Strategy.

EU Hydrogen Strategy

In its Hydrogen Strategy, the European Commission summarises the importance of hydrogen for the EU’s climate neutrality by 2050: “Hydrogen is enjoying a renewed and rapidly growing attention in Europe and around the world. Hydrogen can be used as a feedstock, a fuel or an energy carrier and storage, and has many possible applications across industry, transport, power and buildings sectors. Most importantly, it does not emit CO2 and almost no air pollution when used. It thus offers a solution to decarbonise industrial processes and economic sectors where reducing carbon emissions is both urgent and hard to achieve.”

Successful climate-neutral energy production and supply with hydrogen in Europe essentially requires three things: the supply, the demand – and the infrastructure to connect supply and demand.


The European supply of hydrogen is currently ramping up and will be based primarily on three pillars: solar energy from southern European regions, offshore wind from the North and Baltic Seas together with onshore wind from Eastern Europe – and imports of hydrogen from countries outside the EU.

By 2030, the EU aims to achieve own production amounting to more than 10 million tonnes of green hydrogen and to import an additional 10 million tons. European production alone would require around 120 GW of installed offshore wind capacity.

It’s an ever-growing supply that will not only meet the demand for hydrogen but will even increase it.


The requirements of the EU climate targets create a demand for hydrogen for the purpose of decarbonisation in almost all sectors. By 2050, demand could increase to around 1,700 TWh of hydrogen per year within the EU, a perspective that is outlined in the Gas for Climate study “Gas Decarbonisation Pathways 2020 to 2050”. Hydrogen is expected to replace fossil fuels in steel production and the chemical industry, for example, while in the transport sector hydrogen could be a solution for decarbonisation, especially in heavy-duty road transport as well as in shipping and aviation. Hydrogen can also be worthwhile in cars – on long-distance journeys. And in heat supply hydrogen can likewise contribute to cutting carbon emissions.


On the way from the supplier to the consumer, hydrogen must be transported as cheaply and reliably as possible. In practical terms, the transport of hydrogen as a gaseous energy carrier can in fact be integrated into already existing infrastructure. Europe’s gas transport infrastructure is in place, with pipelines from the high-pressure gas transmission level down to the local distribution systems serving end users installed in the ground. These can already transport large amounts of energy, have been approved and are ready for operation. A large proportion of them will – and must – be suitable for use with pure hydrogen in the future. To ensure that is the case, 31 European gas transmission system operators have developed a shared vision that can be implemented in practice: the “European Hydrogen Backbone”.

The European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB)

It is a renewed backbone for Europe, one that will secure the future energy supply on our continent. The EHB initiative comprises 31 European transmission system operators whose infrastructure covers 25 EU Member States plus Norway, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Together, they all want to make the existing trans-European gas infrastructure a pathfinder for the development of a European hydrogen market where possible and appropriate and provide a secure supply of the energy carrier. The vision? A nearly 53,000-km-long pipeline network for pure hydrogen in Europe – based predominantly on the existing gas pipeline infrastructure.

Europe – built close to hydrogen

The EHB makes use of Europe’s recipe for success: trusting cooperation to the benefit of all countries. It’s a truly European project that reaches from north to south and from west to east. The pipeline network is designed to help transport hydrogen to where it will be needed in Europe in the future, and more than two thirds of the nearly 53,000 km envisaged could consist of existing gas pipelines.

The EHB makes use of Europe’s recipe for success: trusting cooperation to the benefit of all countries. It’s a truly European project that reaches from north to south and from west to east. The pipeline network is designed to help transport hydrogen to where it will be needed in Europe in the future, and more than two thirds of the nearly 53,000 km envisaged could consist of existing gas pipelines.

The European Commission’s REPowerEU plan aims to achieve a total volume of 20.6 million tonnes of hydrogen by 2030 to replace Russian natural gas. For this, the EU has identified five pipeline corridors through which hydrogen is to be imported into Central Europe, each from regions with favourable conditions for production.

Corridor 1 – Southern Europe

In southern Europe, there is likely to be a corridor to transport hydrogen from Tunisia and Algeria via Italy to central Europe. This corridor could make use of existing natural gas pipelines in Italy, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Corridor 2 – France, Portugal, Spain

A corridor could take shape on the Iberian Peninsula to export green hydrogen produced there. New connections between Portugal and Spain as well as France could enable all three countries to use the green hydrogen.

This corridor would extend all the way to Germany, and a connection to North Africa is also possible. Hydrogen could thus also be delivered to the demand centres in Germany at low cost.

Corridor 3 – North Sea

Another interconnected corridor is set to emerge in the North Sea region, building on offshore wind, large integrated hydrogen projects and ship imports of hydrogen derivatives such as ammonia and methanol. This should meet demand in the industrial clusters of Rotterdam, Zeebrugge, Antwerp, Wilhelmshaven, Brunsbüttel and Le Havre. Across Germany, hydrogen clusters will be created which will be connected to the hydrogen networks in other north-western European countries.

Corridor 4 – Baltic Sea

A dedicated supply corridor will connect the supply of hydrogen in the Nordic and Baltic countries with the rest of Europe, building on industrial clusters in the regions of Jutland, Gothenburg, the Gulf of Bothnia and industrial clusters in the Baltic States and Poland. This corridor will mainly consist of newly built pipelines.

Corridor 5 – Eastern and South-Eastern Europe

In Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, a corridor will connect hydrogen exit points in Central Europe with countries such as Romania, Greece and Ukraine. The large capacities for solar and wind energy there and the possibility of repurposing large transit gas pipelines make this region an attractive candidate for large-scale hydrogen production.

Mature hydrogen infrastructure by 2040

Between 2030 and 2040, the EHB will continue to grow, covering more regions and creating new connections between member states. Driven by the ambitious policy environment and a rapidly growing number of projects and initiatives, supply corridors will naturally expand to areas where cost-effective pipeline transport of hydrogen is needed to meet market demand by the year 2040.

Hydrogen imports from Namibia, Chile, Australia and the Middle East are expected to complement existing natural gas imports and account for a significant share of future hydrogen volumes.

Through the linking of hydrogen producers and consumers with large-scale underground hydrogen storage, the proposed European Hydrogen Backbone could help integrate renewables and achieve much-needed “green security of supply” and European energy sovereignty.

Time for political action

The EHB clearly shows that the European gas network operators are ready to gear the gas infrastructure to the future with green hydrogen. Now it is politicians who must set the course to ensure that ambitious plans become climate-neutral reality.