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Assessment of using hydrogen in gas distribution grids

Giehl, Johannes; Hollnagel, Jeremias; Müller-Kirchenbauer, Joachim

Substantial changes in the energy system are necessary to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality. Green hydrogen is considered to be a key to defossilisation. However, the sectors and the extent of the use of hydrogen is not entirely clear. The use of hydrogen in the building sector to supply decentrally produced heat is often mentioned by politicians as a potential field of application. An advantage repeatedly mentioned is that the existing gas distribution network infrastructure is an important asset that could still be used in the future. However, there is a lack of analyses and assessments of the conversion of gas distribution networks to hydrogen based on the economic implications for the costs of the distribution network infrastructure. The paper provides insights in this context by means of a further development of the existing model network analysis tool called gas Distribution grId modelliNg tOol (DINO) for gas distribution grids to hydrogen and conversion. The development is computed based on a greenhouse gas-neutral scenario with hydrogen use in the household and trade, commercial and services sector. The analysis is carried out for Germany and considers hydrogen use in all counties. In addition, the development of the grid and costs are compared and discussed with existing network analyses of a synthetic methane and electrification scenarios. The result shows that under greenhouse gas neutral scenarios, the total need for distribution grids is decreasing until 2050. The network length in the electrification scenario is zero in the end. The network length in the case of synthetic methane use is below the network lengths of hydrogen use distribution grids. The annual operation costs are lower compared to today due to declining gas demand and necessary infrastructure. But the total annual cost is potentially higher in the case of hydrogen scenario compared to the other two scenarios due to the conversion to hydrogen pipelines. It should also be noted that in the case of high conversion costs for the hydrogen use, the total annual costs of the gas distribution networks can also be higher than today. Based on the present results, it is questionable whether the advantage of the continued use of the existing gas distribution grid infrastructure in case of synthetic gas or hydrogen scenarios exists.