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Avoid blue hydrogen, go all-in on green, advisory council urges Germany

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Avoid blue hydrogen, go all-in on green, advisory council urges Germany

Germany's hydrogen strategy should center around "green" hydrogen, made using renewable power, and avoid investments in hydrogen made with fossil fuels, including "blue" hydrogen deriving from natural gas with carbon capture, a government advisory council recommended June 23.

The German Advisory Council on the Environment, which brings together academics and industry experts, said green hydrogen should be utilized in hard-to-electrify industrial settings, as well as in marine and air transport.

The production of blue hydrogen is not sustainable, the council said in a report, adding that carbon storage is associated with risks to the environment and human health. There are also residual emissions in the natural gas production chain.

"Blue hydrogen is not suitable as a so-called transitionary solution," the group said.

Germany's national hydrogen strategy is focused strongly on green hydrogen but also envisages using blue hydrogen in certain energy-intensive sectors.

Meanwhile, the European Commission's hydrogen strategy sees a range of low-carbon hydrogen solutions as being necessary in the medium term to reduce emissions — an approach criticized by the German advisory council.

The council recommends against the construction of infrastructure for blue hydrogen in parallel with green hydrogen infrastructure. "The processes are based on different production sites — natural gas reforming with [carbon capture and storage] for blue, and electrolysis for green — as well as different distribution infrastructures; CO2 pipelines for blue hydrogen and electrical grids for green hydrogen," the council said.

A desire by industry to avoid stranded asset risk could lead to a prolonged use of blue hydrogen, to the detriment of cleaner green hydrogen, the council said.

Across Europe, existing or planned carbon capture and storage capacity falls short of the required volumes that would be needed to make blue hydrogen at scale, the council added. "Given the long lead times for building new [carbon capture and storage] capacities, a proportionate expansion in the coming years is deemed unlikely." Carbon storage capacity is also a limited resource in Europe, the group added.

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze took receipt of the report on June 23, and echoed the findings in a statement, including the concerns over blue hydrogen. "The council showed that only green hydrogen ... is truly sustainable and climate-friendly," Schulze said.

"Germany has to do much more to protect the climate. Green hydrogen will play a central role in this where renewable electricity cannot be used directly. From today's perspective, that is above all in the steel and chemical industry and parts of transport, such as aviation and shipping," Schulze said.