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EC to present EU hydrogen strategy on July 8

Brussels — The European Commission wants to focus on developing renewable "green" hydrogen, but other types of low-carbon hydrogen can play a role, EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said July 7.

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"Our focus is renewable hydrogen, because it brings the biggest added value: it is fully emission-free [and] it helps manage our electricity system," Simson said during a visit to the 10 MW Refhyne electrolyzer project at Shell's Rheinland refinery in Wesseling, Germany.

The EU has "global leadership" in producing electrolyzers, Simson said.

But "in order to scale up demand for green hydrogen, we need to take industry on board and they need security of supply," she said.

This means other types of low-carbon hydrogen could be used to help develop both a hydrogen economy and the EU's transition to climate-neutrality by 2050, she said.

Low-carbon "blue" hydrogen is produced from natural gas via steam methane reforming and carbon capture and storage, or via pyrolysis.

The EC plans to launch a public-private Clean Hydrogen Alliance on July 8 to help scale up industrial production and demand for low-carbon hydrogen, focused mainly on renewable hydrogen.

A similar initiative for developing a sustainable European battery sector has mobilized billions of euros of public and private investment since it was set up in 2017.

Hydrogen projects involving several EU countries and significantly contributing to the EU's climate goals could be designated Important Projects of Common European Interest, allowing them to receive state aid from national governments.

Push on electrolysers

The EC wants to see at least 4 GW of electrolyzer capacity installed in the EU by 2024, it said in an unofficial draft of the EU hydrogen strategy it plans to present on July 8, along with the Clean Hydrogen Alliance launch.

Europe currently has less than 1 GW/year of electrolyzer capacity, with a project pipeline for additional capacity of more than 1 GW, according to the draft made available to EU news agency Euractiv.

The Refhyne project, which is to use renewable electricity to produce green hydrogen, is "a great example of partnership between the European Commission, European industry and researchers," Simson said.

The EU's Fuel Cell Hydrogen Joint Undertaking helped fund the Refhyne project, which aims to show renewable hydrogen can be a viable option for refineries, coupled with revenues from helping the power grid balance.

The renewable hydrogen is to help cut emissions by replacing some of the refinery's current hydrogen supply which comes from steam methane reforming natural gas.

UK hydrogen company ITM has installed and started testing five 2 MW PEM electrolyzers on the site, but the planned 2020 start may be delayed by coronavirus restrictions, it said in June.

The electrolyzers are the largest of their kind to be deployed at industrial scale, according the project website.

The EC wants to see 100 MW electrolyzers developed by 2024, according the draft EU hydrogen strategy.

These electrolyzers could be installed next to existing demand centers in larger refineries, steel plants and chemical complexes, preferably using locally-produced renewable electricity, the draft said.