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Gascade and Fluxys step up plans for North Sea hydrogen pipeline

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Pipeline operators Gascade and Fluxys are stepping up the pace on plans for a green hydrogen pipeline in the North Sea by applying to the European Commission to qualify for fast-track approvals and funding, they said on Monday.

Germany and the European Union are seeking to shift future energy production more to renewables and to produce, import and market clean hydrogen, derived from carbon-free wind and solar power, to eliminate climate-warming gases.

The two pipeline infrastructure companies said in a joint statement they are seeking to help to speed up the development of a hydrogen economy.

Germany's Gascade and Belgium's Fluxys are seeking Project of Common Interest (PCI) status from the EU, under which they could benefit from accelerated permissioning procedures and funding. Financial details were not disclosed.

Their 400 km pipeline, called AquaDuctus, could become a collecting path, or "backbone", for electricity output from offshore wind power production sites that would be converted on-site into clean hydrogen via electrolysis plants.

Shipments would start in 2030 from the wind park SEN-1 in the North Sea. In subsequent years, wind farms further offshore in Germany's exclusive economic zone in the North Sea may be linked up to transport hydrogen from plants operated by other countries, such as Norway or Britain, into Germany.

Studies identify up to 100 gigawatts (GW) of hydrogen capacity potential in the German and European North Sea, the statement said.

Gascade is a subsidiary of Wiga which is jointly owned by oil and gas producer Wintershall Dea and gas importer Securing Energy for Europe (Sefe).

Some climate campaigners say new forms of energy are best developed outside the influence of fossil fuel incumbents.

(Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Jane Merriman)