The EU’s public-private hydrogen investment programme has selected the first nine projects to fund in its “hydrogen valleys” scheme, which will see industrial clusters developed across the continent, made up of large producers and users of clean H2.

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The nine projects have requested a total of €105.4m ($114m) in public cash, which will now be considered by the programme leader, the Clean Hydrogen Partnership (CHP) — which consists of representatives from the European Commission, trade body Hydrogen Europe and its Hydrogen Europe Research arm.

Negotiations on final grants will now begin, and conclude by the summer.

The projects all focus on the production of “clean hydrogen”, the CHP said, raising the possibility that some blue H2 projects using fossil gas and carbon capture and storage might be among the funding recipients. Hydrogen produced at the plants will be used in the transport, industry and energy sectors.

The CHP intends for the private sector to step in and provide five times as much funding for each of the nine proposed projects.

If each project is granted the full amount, this means that the private sector could be contributing over €500m towards the Hydrogen Valleys scheme, taking total capital expenditure to €600m.

The Clean Hydrogen Partnership, which is funded from the European Commission’s €95.5bn Horizon Europe research pot, was granted an extra €200m by the Commission last year to double the number of Hydrogen Valleys by 2025.

The nine proposals were submitted as part of the first funding call for the Hydrogen Valleys programme in 2022. Projects much be large, producing more than 5,000 tonnes of hydrogen per year that can be used locally or exported to other regions.

Although submissions in the funding call originated from all over Europe, the first two valleys are planned for the North Adriatic area — encompassing Croatia, Slovenia and the northeastern tip of Italy — and the Baltic region, which will comprise a corridor crossing Estonia and southern Finland.

“These nine valleys will be planting the seeds of the envisioned hydrogen economy, incubating hydrogen valley hubs simultaneously at several EU member states, interconnecting and transitioning them into a growth value chain at scale,” said Melyssa Verykius, chair of the governing board of the CHP.

Mariya Gabriel, EU commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, added: “The results of the [funding] call show a strong mobilisation across Europe — North, South, East, West — and a clear demonstration of alignment of strategies and the use of synergies between public and private funding,” said Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

The CHP has also begun preparing grants for seven smaller-scale (500 tonnes of hydrogen per year) projects in areas of Europe where there are unlikely to be “Hydrogen Valleys”, including Ireland, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. Each project will be granted €8m.