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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