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Hydrogen trade potential in African pipeline infrastructure

Hydrogen trade in Africa doesn’t necessarily demand a complete new infrastructure. There’s exciting potential for the proposed hydrogen economy from Africa’s existing and planned pipeline infrastructure, currently used for the transmission of natural gas, oil and other chemical products. Large parts of this infrastructure could be used for hydrogen transport too. This could reduce set-up costs and help establish a large-scale hydrogen economy in Africa more quickly.

Economic potential for European-African collaboration

Using existing pipelines would support green, collaborative technological and economic development in Europe as well as Africa. The topic of using existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure in Europe to transmit hydrogen blends or pure hydrogen gas with no natural gas is getting more and more attention. Take a look at the many articles and studies on producing hydrogen in North Africa and exporting it via existing pipelines to Europe in the links below.

An end to African dependency on fossil fuel imports?

Internal African hydrogen production, storage and trading could make fossil fuel imports obsolete. Most existing gas and oil pipelines extend to harbours, offering the possibility of trading hydrogen overseas using tankers. Temporary local shortages or surpluses of hydrogen could be addressed by internal African hydrogen trade via pipelines and tankers or overseas import and export from other continents.

Hydrogen transmission methods

There are many proven and pre-existing ways to store and transport hydrogen. These include compressed and liquid hydrogen (CH2 and LH2), liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC), methylcyclohexanes (MCH) and ammonia (NH3). They each have different economic, physical and integration properties - there is a need and market for all of them.

Studies indicate that only minor modifications are needed to natural gas pipelines in order to use them for hydrogen only. We’re not aware of any existing studies on reuse of oil and other chemical product pipelines for LOHCs/MCHs or ammonia (NH3) and we would welcome research and insight into the specific potential.

A diverse pipeline model?

Existing and future pipelines can be grouped into three categories:

- Natural gas pipelines

conversion to carry hydrogen gas - hydrogen blends or pure hydrogen.

- Oil pipelines

conversion to carry liquid organic hydrogen (LOHC) or methylcyclohexanes (MCH)

- Chemical products pipelines (e.g. gasoline, propane, heating oil and ethylene)

conversion to carry liquid organic hydrogen (LOHC), methylcyclohexanes (MCH) or anhydrous or liquid ammonia.

Connections beyond pipelines

In remote areas with suitable, low cost land available, Power to Hydrogen (P2H) installations located close to the pipelines could feed into them and supply cities and industries. These could carry hydrogen in the form of gas, liquid ammonia or liquid organic hydrogen (LOHC).

The map below shows the location of the 3 major pipeline types on the African continent, including some connections to Europe. We have included existing pipelines, future planned pipelines and those under consideration for feasibility.

*Disclaimer. The pipeline routes are indicative and do not represent exact routing. Modifications and errors are reserved.

Selection of sources:

Studies on using existing natural gas pipelines and infrastructure for hydrogen transport:

Switching a city from natural gas to hydrogen, H21, Northern Gas Networks, DNV-GL, Kiwa

Former salt cavern to be transformed into green hydrogen storage facility, Gasworld, HYPOS East Germany,

Dutch gas network suitable for hydrogen (translated from Dutch: “Nederlands gasnet geschikt voor waterstof”), Kiwa and Netbeheer Nederland

Gasunie hydrogen pipeline from Dow to Yara brought into operation, Gasunie

More cooperation needed between electricity and gas grids in the new energy system, Gasunie and Tennet

African pipeline infrastructure: existing, planned and under feasibility:

Sub-Saharan Africa - the next 20 years, SAOGA Southern African Oil and Gas Alliance

East Africa Gas - Potential for Export, David Ledesma, The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies

The Future of Natural Gas in Mozambique: Towards a Gas Master Plan - Executive Summary, ICF International

30-year long term planning framework - 2016 edition, Chapter 6 Natural gas infrastructure planning, Transnet

30-year long term planning framework - 2017 edition, Chapter 5 Pipeline Development plan, Transnet

Trans-Kalahari corridor route, New Botnam Company, New Namibia Corporation, AVG Gibson International

Zim revives fuel pipeline deal with Bots, Zimbabwe Independent

Zambian and Angola signs an MOU on trade in oil and gas worth US$ 5 billion, Lusaka Times

30-year long term planning framework - 2017 edition, Chapter 7 Transport Infrastructure Planning, Transnet

Niger's growing oil output ambitions rely on Benin pipeline, S&P Global

East African Infrastructure Development, Part 4: Pipelines, Stratfor

Whatever happened to East Africa’s oil boom?, African Arguments

Hydrogen from renewables: Supply from North Africa to Central Europe as blend in existing pipelines – Potentials and costs, S. Timmerberg and M. Kaltschmitt

Phased Gas Pipeline Network Strategic Environmental Assessment Focus Groups and Public Meetings, Gasnetwork CSIR, Eskom, Transnet

Africa Pipelines map - Crude Oil (petroleum) pipelines - Natural Gas pipelines - Products pipelines, Theodora-ITA

Trans-Saharan gas pipeline - Wikipedia

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