President Emmanuel Macron has said that France will provide “massive funding to explore the potential” of natural hydrogen.

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The unspecified amount of financing will come from the €54bn ($58.2bn) “France 2030” national investment programme, which has already invested billions in the hydrogen sector, notably to help finance four electrolyser “gigafactories”, with the further allocation of €4bn for the production of green and nuclear hydrogen by 2026.

In a speech on Wednesday at Airbus facilities in Toulouse, marking two years since the introduction of the investment programme, Macron said: “To strengthen us, I wanted to tell you here that we are going to go further and that in ‘France 2030’, we are going to provide massive funding to explore the potential of what we call white hydrogen, that is to say natural hydrogen.”

He then pointed out that the government recently authorised a “research project” to explore the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region for natural hydrogen.

“France can become one of the pioneering countries in the production of this energy of the future,” he said. “We are going to massively accelerate this research and work to see to what extent this technology can help us take a step forward in terms of hydrogen availability.

“When we look at all the studies today, France is one of the countries with the most reserves of natural hydrogen… we cannot let this resource lie dormant and we must innovate. For what? To search, map and move forward on the most environmentally friendly extractive techniques that will allow us to fully use it.”

He added: “We are going all out on electrolysers, but now we are going twice as fast on natural hydrogen.”

Earlier in his speech, Macron said that France had an advantage by its strategy of producing low-carbon hydrogen from nuclear power.

“No country will be able to make truly competitive low-carbon hydrogen if it only has renewables,” he stated. “France therefore has a massive comparative advantage and that is why we have fought in recent years and stabilised European regulations, which allow us to recognize in the models our low-carbon hydrogen based on the French model [ie, its focus on nuclear power].

Macron added that France has “succeeded in hydrogen in developing our electrolyser gigafactories”.

“Because the key is not simply to do electrolysis, but it is to produce the electrolysers and go up the entire value chain, to depend as little as possible on others, and to create a value chain in France when we talk about hydrogen.”

He pointed to 2-3GW of electrolyser manufacturing being “secure” in France, presumably a reference to the millions of euros of state aid being handed out to manufacturers McPhy, Genvia, Elogen and John Cockerill to build “gigafactories” in the country, which was announced in September last year.

However, only McPhy has taken a final investment decision to build one of these planned facilities.