Regional hydrogen supply and demand mismatch will force global trade links by 2050, report predicts



The most recent report from the Hydrogen Council has highlighted a regional mismatch between hydrogen supply and demand but estimates extensive trade links could connect the globe by 2050.


In its Global Hydrogen Flows report, the Hydrogen Council found that 660 million tonnes of hydrogen is needed to meet global Net Zero emissions by 2050. however identified that a gap between high demand, low supply regions and low demand, high supply area could be closed through global trade flows by the mid-century.


China is expected to be the largest market for clean hydrogen by 2050. with a demand for 200 million tonnes, followed by Europe and North America, each generating demand for 10 million tonnes; India with 55 million tonnes; and Japan and South Korea with 35 million tonnes.


Based on the discrepancy between demand for hydrogen and optimal location for hydrogen production, the report established three general categories of hydrogen-producing regions and consumers:


High export potential – substantial amounts of competitive hydrogen at under $1.15 per kg, but lack demand, such as, the Middle East, South America, and Southern Africa

Cheap supply and large demand – regions such as China and North America are likely to meet most of their demand through competitive domestic production, and internal long distance transport

High demand and limited cheap supply – densely populated regions of Europe, Japan, and South Korea, has typical hydrogen costs of at least $1.80 per kg up to $2.50 per kg.



The report reads, “Hydrogen can be produced in almost every global region, but competitiveness across regions varies. Japan and South Korea will have very limited competitive production resources and will need to resort to imports, while Central and Western Europe will not be able to locally produce the volumes they need because of capacity limitations.”


Key trade flows


Between now and 2050. the report expects to see global trade of clean hydrogen deepen, evolve, and expand, to see 400 million tonnes of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen and its derivatives transported over long distances.


It is expected that by 2030 to ease constrained domestic production, the first piped exports of hydrogen will enter Europe, markets such as Japan, South Korea, and Singapore will begin imports via carrier ships. Trade routes for clean ammonia and methanol are likely to emerge between Australia, the Middle East, and North America to Asia.


Once we hit 2050. the Council predicts that there will be more than 40 different trade routes with capacity of more than one million tonnes per annum, with the largest reaching more than 20 million tonnes per annum. The report expects that Europe will primarily be supplied via pipelines, while Asia’s demand is likely to be met by ships.


The Hydrogen Council predict that by 2050. the highest priority trade routes will include:


Europe to require more hydrogen imports, opening up significant piped imports, primarily from North Africa

Middle East to emerge as export powerhouse, with extensive and large trade flows to Asia in the form of shipped hydrogen, ammonia, and synthetic kerosene

South American exports to meet demand for green steel and synthetic kerosene in Asia and Europe

Australia likely to diversify its exports as it increasingly becomes a key exporter of ammonia to Asia

North America could also become key ammonia exporter, as well as methanol exporter to China due to CO2 production capacity.


In order to facilitate the scale of trade required by 2050. according to the report, over 1.100 ships will be required to allow the maritime trade of hydrogen and its derivatives, around 75% of the current global liquified natural gas (LNG) carrier fleet.


Additionally, to facilitate shipped exports and imports of hydrogen, the report calls for the global port tonnage of hydrogen carriers to be increased to more than 2.000 million tonnes.




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