If estimates and targets are to be believed, roughly 6 to 10 million tonnes of hydrogen will be imported into the EU every year by the end of the decade, requiring very significant infrastructural investment decisions. At times, the policy debate appears to frame shipped deliveries of liquid hydrogen or hydrogen carriers and pipeline deliveries as two sides of the same coin, particularly in the wake of a strong shift away from pipeline gas and towards LNG since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In this paper we explore the cost, scalability, technological maturity, and project evolution of these two delivery methods. We find that although shipping of hydrogen in carriers could in some scenarios deliver the single cheapest tonne of hydrogen, shipping does not appear to have the scalability to meet any meaningful portion of the EU’s needs within the next decade or so. We make the case that Europe should have a two-step approach to infrastructure planning. First leveraging its competitive advantage in pipelines, allowing island and remote nations to innovate and scale shipped delivery options, with experimentation for derivative imports in the EU being used to directly decarbonize those sectors. In a second phase the EU can take advantage of advances in shipping to diversify import options if hydrogen begins to constitute a meaningful share of the energy mix.
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