A group of ten influential green hydrogen trade bodies and environmental think-tanks have demanded that the EU adopt a “robust” definition blue hydrogen made with fossil gas and carbon capture and storage (CCS) that specifically excludes the use of gas from new wells.

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In a letter to the European Commission’s (EC) energy commissioner Kadri Simson and executive vice-president for the Green Deal, Maroš Šefčovič, the ten signatories warned that adopting a “quick” definition of blue hydrogen would leave the bloc with regulation that is “unfit for purpose”.

The letter was sent yesterday (Tuesday) by the Renewable Hydrogen Coalition (RHC), the Green Hydrogen Organisation and the Environmental Defense Fund among others, as the EC mulls a formula for calculating the lifetime emissions of low-carbon hydrogen as part of the Hydrogen and Gas Decarbonisation Package.

Low-carbon hydrogen must achieve 70% fewer lifetime emissions compared to fossil-fuel equivalents, under already approved EU regulations, and the EC is due to publish a Delegated Act on the emissions formula — setting out the rules that must be followed — by 31 December 2024.

But the letter also comes as a response to calls for a definition to be adopted quickly.

“We are deeply concerned by calls to adopt a ‘quick’ low-carbon hydrogen definition, which would fall short of being fit for purpose and aligning with the mandate given by the Hydrogen and Gas Decarbonisation Directive,” the letter reads. “Article 8 of the Gas Directive lists several complex issues [including certification, imports and the need for competent authorities to supervise the process] that will require novel regulation and cannot be done quickly.”

It adds: “A robust definition is crucial to provide market players with investment certainty, ensure a true level playing field with renewable hydrogen, and guarantee that low-carbon hydrogen contributes effectively to climate mitigation efforts, rather than hampering them. Only through a transparent process that puts scientific knowledge at the forefront can we make sure that so-called “blue hydrogen” serves as a meaningful tool for climate action”.

The letter was responding to lobbying from blue hydrogen producers, who are pushing the EC to adopt a definition of low-carbon hydrogen as soon as possible.

This lobbying was mostly happening behind closed doors, Hydrogen Insight understands, however the International Organisation for Gas Producers (IOGP) today called for an accelerated definition of blue H2 on Twitter.

“It’s time to adopt the Delegated Act on the Hydrogen and Decarbonised Gas Market Directive ASAP,” the tweet read. “Why?...It will strengthen the business case for low-carbon hydrogen. Adopting it fast will create certainty for investors.”

In addition to a more measured response, the ten signatories to yesterday’s letter call for the lifetime emissions calculations to mandate that only existing gas production can be used in blue H2 production — defined by the EU as “low-carbon hydrogen” — because allowing newly drilled wells would only add to overall greenhouse gas emissions and increase Europe's fossil fuel dependency.

Wells should also have a maximum methane leakage rate, the carbon capture rate should exceed 98% and emissions should be calculated via a “full lifecycle climate warming emissions assessment based on real world data”, the letter adds.

The signatories to the letter are:

  • Renewable Hydrogen Coalition (trade body)
  • Environmental Defense Fund (a non-governmental organisation [NGO])
  • Transport and Environment (umbrella NGO for the transport sector)
  • Green Hydrogen Organisation (trade body)
  • Bellona (Norwegian climate NGO)
  • Danish Shipping (shipping trade body)
  • Energy Tag (carbon accounting NGO)
  • E3G (climate think tank)
  • Ecos (standards NGO)
  • Germanwatch (public policy NGO and think tank)