Belgium-Chile deal to boost cheap EU green hydrogen supply

Source: press release, 11 November 2021

Antwerp, Zeebrugge MoU with Chile could supply Europe with low-cost green hydrogen (source: ICIS)
Antwerp, Zeebrugge MoU with Chile could supply Europe with low-cost green hydrogen (source: ICIS)

A new agreement between the Belgian ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge with the Chilean energy ministry could supply Europe with green hydrogen at €1.10/kg, 10% of current baseload hydrogen prices.

The agreement, signed at COP26 in Glasgow on 4 November, commits the two ports and the Chilean Ministry of Energy to develop green hydrogen trade between Chile and Western Europe.

Low-cost green hydrogen
Chile’s energy and mining minster, Juan Carlos Jobet, previously stated that the country’s target to supply green hydrogen at a cost of just $1.30-1.40/kg (€1.06-1.14/kg) by 2030 had been brought forward to 2025. “We are updating those numbers and we think we are going to be below those numbers by 2025,” Jobet said at Reuters Events: Hydrogen 2021 on 20 May.

Chile is able to achieve substantial cost reductions in green hydrogen compared with other countries due to its high availability of renewable energy, however the updated 2025 figure was a result of technology developments, Jobet said.

Transport costs would also need to be taken into consideration.

The McKinsey & Company Hydrogen Insights Report 2021 forecasts that transporting hydrogen in ammonia to the west coast of the US, an 8,200 km route, could add between $1.90-2.40/kg (€1.55-1.96/kg) hydrogen. Taking the average of this analysis on a per-km basis, the cost of transporting hydrogen as ammonia from Chile to mainland Europe would be a further €3.10/kg hydrogen, lifting the delivered cost to €4.20/kg hydrogen.

Despite such a high transport cost, Chilean green hydrogen would still be cheaper than baseload electrolytic hydrogen. ICIS front-month and year+3 baseload hydrogen assessments for the Netherlands were assessed at €11.01/kg and €4.87/kg hydrogen respectively on 5 November.

The cost of hydrogen produced via power from the wholesale market has spiked in Europe amid the rise in commodities prices. This is because the power price makes up 75% of the cost of hydrogen, ICIS data showed.

Price volatility
Imported green hydrogen could also be a means of counteracting high energy price volatility in the hydrogen market, particularly in a context with high volatility on power and gas markets in Belgium and neighbouring countries after a gas bull run driven by tight gas supply, demand recovery and depleted stocks.

ICIS data showed that the Dutch front-month baseload power price has tripled since 1 April, climbing from €54.50/MWh to €170/MWh on 5 November. Equally, the front year power price has more than doubled during the same time, rising from €48.15/MWh to €112.25/MWh over the same period.

Agreement objectives
Port of Antwerp, Port of Zeebrugge and the Chilean Ministry of Energy commited to working together to develop green hydrogen trade between Chile and Western Europe.

The cooperation aims at eliminating the barriers to the preparation for the start-up of green hydrogen production, the deployment of the logistics between the continents, in the Belgian seaports and their hinterland.

The different parties are interested in setting up a corridor to ship green hydrogen produced in Chile and received at the Belgian Ports, for further distribution to meet expected demand in Europe.

The Green Hydrogen Strategy of Chile aims at producing the cheapest green hydrogen by 2030 and become one of the world’s top three exporters of green hydrogen by 2040.

Port of Antwerp and Port of Zeebrugge intend to act as early mover renewable energy hubs by using their infrastructure and network to import hydrogen. They are part of the Hydrogen Import Coalition, whose goal is to combine public and industrial partners to conduct research on renewable energy importing via hydrogen carriers.

Belgium as import hub
The Council of Ministers approved in October the hydrogen vision and strategy proposed by energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten.

According to the vision, Belgium will have to import 3-6 TWh of renewable hydrogen by 2030 and 100- 165 TWh by 2050.

The vision plans for 100-160 km of hydrogen pipelines as open-access network by 2026 and the connection of the import platform to neighbouring countries by 2030.

In January 2021, the Hydrogen Import Coalition – a collaboration between DEME, ENGIE, Exmar, Fluxys, Port of Antwerp, Port of Zeebrugge and WaterstofNet – published a study on the feasibility of a hydrogen import chain in Belgium.

In 2022, the Belgian government will publish a draft vision on the regulatory framework for access and exploitation of the hydrogen transport infrastructure.

By Jake Stones, Hydrogen Editor, ICIS. Additional reporting by Daisy De Selliers.