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Press Release | Monday, 25 March 2024

Covering the future demand for hydrogen: ESYS presents options for importing green hydrogen

Joint press release by the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering and the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities

Hydrogen is an important element that can act as a stepping stone on the pathway to achieving climate neutrality. With a view to decarbonising industry and certain transport sectors in particular, it is a critical strategy alongside direct electrification. However, it will only be possible to meet the high demand for hydrogen anticipated for the future by importing significant amounts. At this stage, it is essential to learn from the past and minimise dependencies. This analysis paper by ESYS experts presents transportation options, considers their advantages and disadvantages and outlines the obstacles and challenges standing in the way of transportation routes and hydrogen partnerships being established.

Some forecasts suggest that the domestic demand for hydrogen and its synthesis products will be between around 45 and 110 terawatt hours by 2030, increasing to around 400 to 700 terawatt hours by 2045. It is unlikely that Germany will be able to produce these volumes domestically and so the country must add complementary imports from countries within the EU – and potentially further afield – to ensure that future demand can be met for this element that is so vital to the energy transition. So where could all that hydrogen come from? And how much is it going to cost to transport it to Germany?

A working group representing the “Energy Systems of the Future” (ESYS) initiative of acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities presents the potential transportation options in its analysis paper called “Options for importing green hydrogen into Germany by 2030” and compares them based on different criteria. The report includes cost and energy efficiency calculations for each of the transportation options along with considerations of qualitative criteria, such as the environmental impact, existing infrastructure and feasibility in view of political and regulatory frameworks.

The analysis paper shows that the volume of hydrogen imports expected to be required by 2030 can be met in principle, provided that effective action is taken swiftly to lay the foundations in the form of infrastructure, regulatory and business frameworks. Rather than recommending one favoured transportation route, the expert team has shown that a series of options – each with their own implementation requirements, advantages and disadvantages – can be drawn upon to ensure that the demand is covered in 2030. The analysis paper also indicates that the distance is not necessarily the main factor determining the costs and that a number of regions could feasibly produce the hydrogen required and export it to Germany.

Relevant transportation options by 2030: pure hydrogen by pipeline and synthesis products by ship

Ship and pipeline are two feasible transportation options that are more or less suitable in different scenarios depending on the usage and distance to be covered. Pipelines are an ideal way of transporting pure hydrogen, but the construction of new pipelines by 2030 poses a challenge. Adding onto and tapping into existing infrastructures would save costs and crucially cut down on the time required for planning and implementation. Meanwhile, transportation by ship is an attractive alternative for synthesis products like ammonia and methanol. The production and transportation structures already in place can be capitalised on. If this option is exploited, though, the synthesis products being transported should only be used as they come. Extracting the hydrogen from them again would make this an expensive system that would be less energy efficient.

Laying the foundations for the green hydrogen economy by 2030: technology, law and cooperations

An ambitious shift towards the hydrogen economy is called for. And yet it is important to avoid quick fixes and lock-ins, while always thinking about the bigger European and global picture for 2030 and beyond. Relevant technology needs to be advanced from the development phase to industrial series production. Plus, the regulatory and political frameworks must be established to give potential producers, investors and buyers the added clarity and assurance they need. This should involve trusted certification for green hydrogen and its derivatives.

When it comes to forging international links, countries being considered for exports must have sufficient renewable energy potential to allow them to move away from fossil fuels themselves and export hydrogen on top of that. Potential conflict surrounding resources also needs to be considered, which could possibly be related to the availability of land or the supply of water. German hydrogen policy should ultimately be based on sustainable arrangements that benefit both trade partners.


The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering, and the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities provide policymakers and the public with independent, science-based advice on current issues of crucial importance for our future. The Academies’ members and other experts are leading researchers from Germany and abroad. Working in interdisciplinary working groups, they draft position papers that are published in the series of papers Schriftenreihe zur wissenschaftsbasierten Politikberatung (Monograph Series on Science-based Policy Advice) after being externally reviewed and approved by the Standing Committee of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.
The lead institution of the joint initiative “Energy Systems of the Future” (ESYS) is acatech. Within the Academies’ Project, over 160 energy experts from the science and research communities develop policy options for the implementation of a secure, affordable and sustainable energy supply.

Main contact:
Claire Stark, Press and Public Relations Officer
acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering | “Energy Systems of the Future” Project Office
Tel.: +49 (0)89 5203 09-929

Other contacts:
Caroline Wichmann, Head of Press and Public Relations
German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
Tel.: +49 (0)345 472 39-800

Dr. Annette Schaefgen, Head of Press and Public Relations
Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities
Tel.: +49 (0)30 325 98 73-70




Julia Klabuhn

Acting Head of the Department Press and Public Relations

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 800
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 809
E-Mail presse(at)leopoldina.org