Snam at the Forefront of Mediterranean Hydrogen

Snam’s Dispatching Centre control room in Milan, Italy.
Photo: Snam
Insights with
Piero Ercoli
Piero Ercoli

Senior Vice President of the Decarbonisation Projects Unit at Snam

Snam’s decarbonization plans targeting a net-zero economy.

Snam’s Decarbonization Projects business unit was set up to support the company in achieving these targets and with the aim of defining the energy transition strategy towards a decarbonized and sustainable economy.

What will be the main focus of the new Decarbonisation Projects unit going forward? How do you see the role of hydrogen in the EU energy system?

We are convinced that hydrogen and its applications will play a central role in the EU energy system, as well as CCS&U (Carbon Capture, Storage and Utilization) solutions that will support the energy transition in the short/mid-term. Our main objective and challenge in focusing on hydrogen stands in the design of the hydrogen market also by leveraging on our infrastructure, in a way to support its development at lowest cost, thereby guaranteeing the efficiency of the system as well as the European security of supply.

Key projects are now under development, with the aim of demonstrating the feasibility of Hydrogen Valleys as a building block of a wider and more integrated hydrogen ecosystem in Italy, from a technical and economic point of view. Moreover, hydrogen asset readiness and the R&D activities carried out by our unit will also play a crucial role in achieving these objectives.

What are the main opportunities and challenges regarding the hydrogen economy?

Snam is actively contributing to modelling and designing the Italian and European hydrogen framework. Hydrogen’s key role in achieving decarbonization targets has been clearly defined and shared by the international energy community, nevertheless there is still an important set of opportunities to be explored and challenges to be addressed.

As infrastructure operators, we are working to ensure we are ready for playing our central role in hydrogen transport across Italy and Europe, from production hubs to consumers. This can be done by using existing infrastructure, through repurposing projects, and by building new dedicated pipelines. One of the main challenges is to guarantee the accessibility of low-cost green hydrogen along the whole national and international framework: the optimization of the production in strategic hubs will be a crucial focus for the development of the entire hydrogen supply chain.

In its RePowerEU plan, the EU Commission envisages the creation of a hydrogen corridor across the Mediterranean. How will this project unfold and what role can Snam play?

North Africa is well placed to become a key area for large scale green hydrogen production thanks to its huge natural potential for low-cost renewable electricity. Moreover, its geographical position on the Mediterranean allows it to project itself as a potential supplier for the countries in Central and Northern Europe, characterized by growing demand going forward.

The EU Commission is a strong supporter of hydrogen role as a “game changer for Europe” – as stressed by the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen in her speech at the EU State of the Union Address last September – and is willing to create a clean hydrogen market by bridging the two shores of the Mediterranean. The RePowerEU Plan envisages 10 million tonnes of domestic renewable hydrogen production as well as 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen imports by 2030. 

Gas infrastructure can play a crucial role in facilitating this development. Leveraging on the existing gas transmission network North Africa and Southern Europe, with relatively low investment requirements for repurposing, it will be possible to bring green hydrogen to other countries. Snam’s pipeline network, extending for about 33,000 km throughout Italy, is already able to export gas to other markets thanks to Snam’s investment in the reverse flow technology.

We have completed a thorough assessment of our assets’ readiness to carry hydrogen and we are among the pioneers in the ‘European Hydrogen Backbone’ initiative, which aims at fostering the development of a hydrogen-ready grid connecting 28 European countries by 2040.

Snam is Italy’s Transmission System Operator and the biggest natural gas infrastructure player in Europe by km of pipelines and storage capacity.

We are firmly committed to the energy transition with a net-zero target by 2040, and we aim at supporting the energy, industry and mobility sectors to reach the ambitious decarbonization targets set out by the EU.

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