Export of “green” hydrogen from Ukraine to the EU: current capacity and future potential

Foto: Crea­tive Travel Pro­jects /​​ Shut­ter­stock

Ukraine has a high potential for the produc­tion of “green” hydrogen. DiXi Group’s info­graphic explains what condi­tions must be met for hydrogen export.

Relevance of the “hydrogen” issue

According to the European Green Deal, hydrogen power must become the main component of the EU’s inte­grated power system during 2025–2030, and the capacity of elec­trol­ysis plants must increase to at least 40 GW.

Ukraine is an important part of the EU’s future hydrogen power system. The Hydrogen Strategy envisages coop­er­a­tion with Ukraine on the devel­op­ment of renewable energy sources and the produc­tion of “green” hydrogen and the involve­ment of Ukraine in the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance. Hydrogen Europe’s 2×40 GW initia­tive envisages the construc­tion of elec­trol­y­sers with a rating of 9.8 GW in Ukraine to produce “green” hydrogen. Therefore, Ukraine may become an indis­pens­able factor in achieving the ambitious goals of the European Green Deal.

Real­iza­tion of the EU’s goals in the context of Ukrainian realities

Since the EU counts on Ukraine producing specif­i­cally “green” hydrogen, i.e., by elec­trol­ysis of water using “green” elec­tricity, what capacity of solar and wind power plants (SPPs and WPPs) would be required to meet this demand?

Hydrogen Europe stated in its report on the 2×40 GW initia­tive that by 2030, Ukraine may create 1.8 GW of capacity to produce almost 1 million tons of “green” ammonia (for the domestic market) and 8 GW of capacity to produce “green” hydrogen (for export to the EU). Based on expec­ta­tions that 32.5 GW of capacity outside the EU will make it possible to contribute 3 million tons of “green” hydrogen, Ukraine’s share in the 8 GW elec­trol­ysis capacity would corre­spond to the produc­tion of almost 738  thousand tons of “green” hydrogen.

However, since wind and solar power plants actually have a lower installed capacity utiliza­tion factor (ICUF) than hydro­elec­tric or nuclear power plants, a much greater gener­a­tion capacity would be required to achieve this goal. According to calcu­la­tions by Siemens Gamesa experts, almost 13 000 GW of SPP capacity (with the assumed 24% ICUF for a solar power plant and the electrolyser’s effec­tive­ness of close to 79%) or 6 200 GW of WPP capacity (with the assumed 50% ICUF for wind power gener­a­tors) will be needed to produce 550 million tons of “green” hydrogen per year.

Accord­ingly, Ukraine would need almost 17.455 GW of SPPs or 8.324 GW of WPPs to produce 738 thousand tons of “green” hydrogen. 

For compar­ison: as of November 2021, the installed capacity of SPPs in Ukraine was only 6.226 GW, or only a third of what is needed. For WPPs, the figure is 1.529 GW, which is one-fifth the required capacity. According to Ukrenergo’s opti­mistic scenario, the capacity of solar and wind power plants may still reach the required levels by 2035 (18.5 GW for SPPs and 11.7 GW for WPPs). And overall, the potential of Ukraine’s solar and wind power produc­tion capacity is assessed to be at least 537 GW (466 GW for WPPs and 71 GW for SPPs). Conse­quently, the country’s hydrogen produc­tion potential is also substan­tial, assessed at approx­i­mately 45.4 million tons.

At the same time, it is worth noting that not the entire renewable elec­tricity gener­a­tion capacity will be allocated solely for the produc­tion of “green” hydrogen, because these produc­tion oper­a­tions would be the most econom­i­cally viable for large renewable power installations.

The domestic demand for “green” hydrogen

Allowance should also be made for the potential increase of domestic demand for hydrogen due to the effect of the Carbon Border Adjust­ment Mechanism (СВАМ), partic­u­larly on part of the metal­lur­gical and chemical indus­tries to produce “green” steel, cast iron and ammonium fertil­izers. The metal­lur­gical industry faces the most acute need to decar­bonize its produc­tion processes. 94% of Ukraine’s steel is produced by energy-intensive and outdated methods that use coal, which can be replaced with “green” hydrogen, while almost 26% of the Ukrainian metal­lur­gical sector’s produc­tion output is exported to the EU.

For example, 1 billion tons of “green” hydrogen would be needed to fully decar­bonize the annual steel produc­tion output of 20.6 million tons (the 2020 figure). Let’s assume that the priority require­ment will be the produc­tion of “green” steel for export to the EU (26%), i.e., 5.4 million tons. In that case, 270 million tons of “green” hydrogen would be needed for that purpose, and to produce that volume, 6400 GW of SPPs or 3000 GW of WPPs would be required.

It is an open question whether such addi­tional capacity could be created over a rela­tively short period (by 2030) in the Ukrainian realities, given that the renew­ables sector is in a state of crisis. Currently, Ukraine does not have an approved hydrogen power devel­op­ment strategy. The draft Roadmap for Devel­op­ment and Produc­tion of Hydrogen in Ukraine defines three phases for imple­men­ta­tion of regu­la­tory and economic objec­tives between 2021 and 2029. However, this plan does not envisage achieving 2×40 GW goals.

Land and water as important resources for the produc­tion of “green” hydrogen

When planning the produc­tion of “green” hydrogen, consid­er­a­tion must be given not only to the instal­la­tion of SPP and WPP gener­a­tion capacity but also to land use. Depending on the location, the renewable elec­tricity gener­a­tion potential, and tech­nolo­gies,  the land require­ments are estimated at approx­i­mately 0.3 ha/​MW for WPPs and 1.6 ha/​MW for SPPs on average.

Therefore, between 2.5 thousand and 28.2 thousand hectares of land would have to be allocated in Ukraine for renewable power instal­la­tions for producing “green” hydrogen. In compar­ison: on geograph­ical scale, this area the size of Vyshneve (a town in the Kyiv Oblast) or of Mykolaiv, respectively. 

There might be enough land to accom­mo­date powerful renewable elec­tricity produc­tion facil­i­ties, espe­cially consid­ering the capa­bil­i­ties of offshore WPPs, but this approach does not take into account certain specifics of every region and its renewable energy potential.

Besides the avail­ability of land, the unin­ter­rupt­ible access to signif­i­cant water resources is another important factor in the operation of elec­trol­ysis plants for the produc­tion of “green” hydrogen.

According to estimates, the total consump­tion of water to produce hydrogen from SPPs and WPPs may reach approx­i­mately 22–32 liters per kilogram of hydrogen on average.

Therefore, depending on tech­nolo­gies, Ukraine would require between 16.25 and 23.63 billion litres of water per year to produce “green” hydrogen. 

At the same time, Ukraine has one of the lowest water avail­ability indi­ca­tors among European countries: approx­i­mately 1 thousand cubic meters per resident. Water avail­ability differs signif­i­cantly between regions of Ukraine, and the scarcity of water is espe­cially acute in southern regions.

Therefore, water resources are signif­i­cantly limited in Ukraine. Even though the country has access to seawater, it would have to be desali­nated. That, in turn, would only make hydrogen produc­tion projects more expensive.

The above calcu­la­tions are only estimates, but it is already obvious that substan­tial resources would be needed not only to meet the domestic demand for “green” hydrogen and deriv­a­tive products (ammonia, fertil­izers) but also for exports. It means not only the land use but also invest­ments in wind and solar power gener­a­tion, and espe­cially access to water resources, which in the condi­tions of adap­ta­tion to climate change could become even more scarce.

DiXi Group is a Kyiv think tank involved in research and consul­ta­tions in the energy sphere – on the cross­roads of politics, public relations, safety, and investments.


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