Poland’s transmission system operator GAZ-SYSTEM operates a large and increasing network of over 11 000 km of gas pipelines, connecting to Germany, the Czech Republic, Belarus, Ukraine and in the end of 2022 also Denmark, Slovakia and Lithuania, to accelerate the switch from coal to gas, foster competition, market integration and ensure security of supply. Natural gas and its infrastructure will play a pivotal role in the Polish energy transformation by contributing to emission reduction by allowing a switch away from coal. An increase in gas demand is expected until the 2030s.
Poland has recently published Polish Hydrogen Strategy aiming for 2 GW of installed electrolyser capacity by 2030. Moreover, the Polish government has also published ambitious offshore wind capacity targets of 5.9 GW by 2030 and 11 GW by 2040. The Polish Hydrogen Strategy indicates the need to build a hydrogen highway, which in its main objectives is to connect the north with the south and the emerging hydrogen valleys. Poland is the third European country in terms of current hydrogen demand (1 million tons), mainly located in the industry in the South plus industrial clusters across the country.
A hydrogen backbone in Poland would be crucial to transport energy produced offshore in the North to the demand regions in the South and other consumption centres, while also opening the possibility of green hydrogen imports from Scandinavian wind and decarbonise hard-to-abate heavy industry. Import from other directions such as Ukraine, could be considered, once production ramps up. However, due to the specificity the Polish energy transition, it is important to bear in mind a certain fluidity concerning the timeframes.
A possible scenario assumes that the initial hydrogen network in Poland will be formed around 2035mainly around offshore wind energy potential in the North and industrial clusters in its vicinity (Pomorskie voivodship), as well as the centre (Kujawsko-Pomorskie and Mazowieckie voivodship). In addition, the potential of an underground storage facility - the Damasławek Project - is expected to be significantly exploited at this time. This storage facility is based on a system of salt caverns and makes it possible to store energy from wind at sea and use it later during periods of low wind speed. This makes it an important alternative to gas or even coal peaker power plants. The Damasławek project will play an important role in linking industrial clusters and planned hydrogen valleys.
In this perspective also a transit connection between Finland and the Baltic States via Poland to Germany may be implemented. This is strictly connected with a pace of H2 production potential in these countries and the demand level in Germany, as well as ability to create a feasible financing structure (relevant tariff scheme, long term commitments, etc.) for such size infrastructure project. Implementation of this transit connection would allow to integrate the emerging Polish hydrogen network, in particular UGS Damasławek, with the rest of Europe. In case that the very promising forecasts of hydrogen supply from the direction of Finland via the Baltic States would materialize, the construction of a dedicated hydrogen transit link to Germany in parallel to the gas interconnection GIPL (currently under construction) might be justified.
Since the Polish Hydrogen Strategy provides for verification of its assumptions in 2025, it will then be possible to make preliminary verification of the dedicated hydrogen interconnection plan with Lithuania assuming a transit connection with Germany in order to enable a transfer of hydrogen from Finland to Germany about 2035.
After 2040, all planned Polish industrial clusters (Hydrogen Valleys) are to be connected, and a north-south connection would complete the integration of large amounts of renewable energy in the north from offshore wind, as well as potential imports from Scandinavia (via Baltic Pipe) and the Baltic States via GIPL that would be repurposed. Additionally, around 2040 there may be a possibility of repurposing a section of the gas pipeline connecting the FSRU in the Gulf of Gdansk with the rest of the planned infrastructure (North-South corridor). This gives flexibility in the form of using hydrogen supplies delivered by sea (with favourable market conditions possible replacement of the Floating Storage Regasification Unit).
The development of the internal H2 transmission system after 2040 (as well as interconnections), is associated with the forecasted increase of hydrogen consumption in Poland that may lead to becoming a H2 net consumer. Such market circumstances would create the potential need for repurposing of the interconnections (GIPL, Baltic Pipe) and creating new ones, i.e., Poland – Czechia interconnections.
Moreover, the increasing demand for hydrogen in Western Europe, in particular in Germany is expected to be a reason for implementing the second transit infrastructure corridor via Poland, i.e., from Ukraine to Germany.
Finally, in the perspective of 2040+, it is possible to create a mature H2 infrastructure giving the possibility of connecting Poland, additionally, with the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Denmark / Sweden These infrastructure developments would contribute very much to the role of Poland as a real integrator of the regional hydrogen market.
Since repurposing of existing network is not always an option due to increasing demand for natural gas in Poland, technical constraints and the age of existing pipelines, the development of the H2 transmission system in Poland will consists also of the newly built infrastructure.
It should be noticed that an important factor to consider for a hydrogen network in Poland is the currently growing consumption of natural gas, which will still require a significant portion of the Polish transmission system by 2040.
Any repurposing/reconstruction solution will be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis due to the technical limitations and heterogeneity of the existing network. The analysis of such potential in the material area has already been started by GAZ-SYSTEM - mapping of the potential, analysis of the transmission system itself and its possible cooperation with hydrogen is underway.