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

Read more: Global trade of hydrogen could reduce supply chain investment by $6 trillion, says a Hydrogen Council Report

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.

© Hydrogen Council – Global Hydrogen Flows

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.

H2 View understands it is also likely that competitive production locations such as Brazil, Chile, North Africa, and Southern Africa will open small flows to Europe and Asia in 2030.

© Hydrogen Council – Global Hydrogen Flows

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.

© Hydrogen Council – Global Hydrogen Flows

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.

Exclusive: The unveiling of hydrogen’s bigger picture

The momentum in hydrogen investments and deployment has been building for many years and has rapidly accelerated since 2020, but we’re now seeing the bigger picture in hydrogen unveiled and the direction of the task ahead.  

Connecting the dots in infrastructure, renewable energy hubs and demand centres will be the focal point in unlocking hydrogen’s undoubted potential. 

That’s according to Daryl Wilson, Executive Director of the Hydrogen Council, speaking to H2 View upon the release of the new Global Hydrogen Flows report. 

Click here to read more.