Does the current war in Europe mean the end for blue hydrogen in Europe?
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine saw gas prices spike, with Italy switching back to coal power and Germany fast-tracking the construction of two LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminals while extending the life of its coal and nuclear power plants. With the Nord Stream 2 pipeline now suspended, Europe is in a difficult position moving into next winter, with gas storage levels close to a five-year low and LNG imports near capacity. This has led to a huge effort to move away from Russian gas dependence and an acceleration of the energy transition including €300 million of funding for renewable hydrogen. European exposure to Russian gas is highest in Eastern Europe where 60% of gas demand is supplied through Russia. in Southern Europe this falls to 20% with imports coming via North Africa. Investors in blue hydrogen in Eastern Europe may see the region as an unacceptable risk (due to its high exposure to Russian gas) and look to develop projects in Western European countries such as those in the North Sea region and the Iberian Peninsula where exposure to Russian gas is minimal. However, blue hydrogen projects in Portugal and Spain would have to compete with green hydrogen projects in the region which are likely to produce gas at less than $4/kg based on recent renewables auction prices. With current gas, electricity, and carbon emissions costs, blue hydrogen has reached over $14/kg in recently making it significantly more expensive to produce than green hydrogen. As blue hydrogen costs are highly dependent on gas prices, the effect of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine could lead to long term increases in gas prices and supply risks, boosting green hydrogen investments at the expense of blue hydrogen projects and spelling the end of blue hydrogen in the region.