Shell, BP and Exxon’s push for fossil hydrogen would increase EU dependence on gas imports 

3rd May 2022, London/ Brussels - Europe’s efforts to reduce gas imports from Russia, in response to its invasion of Ukraine, will be undermined if it pushes ahead with industry backed plans to ramp up the production of fossil hydrogen, according to newanalysis by Global Witness.

The conclusions of the EU leaders’ summit in Versailles, in which states agreed to end all Russian gas imports well before 2030, urged more support for hydrogen but failed to specify which type. Fossil hydrogen – also known as blue hydrogen – requires huge amounts of gas to be produced.

And the likes of Shell, BP and Total  are carrying out extensive lobbying to win EU support for fossil hydrogen, as well as playing a role in lobby groups like Hydrogen4EU.

Global Witness analysis reveals that the huge expansion of fossil hydrogen being promoted by Hydrogen4EU would require Europe to increase gas imports by 11%, from today’s already massive 274 billion cubic metres to 303 billion cubic metres by 2030. This would make it almost impossible to reach the target of ending Russian gas imports by 2027.

Whilst the hydrogen debate continues in the EU, an influential MEP who is leading the European Parliament’s review into the Renewable Energy Directive is pushing to create huge new incentives for fossil hydrogen. Markus Pieper MEP has tabled an amendment calling for “low carbon fuels” – a term that includes fossil hydrogen – to be included in the directive and thereby boosted with EU support.  

Dominic Eagleton, Senior Gas Campaigner at Global Witness, said:

“European leaders are currently heading in the right direction on reducing gas imports, but if they bow to industry demands for a massive expansion of fossil hydrogen these plans would become near impossible. EU support for fossil hydrogen would sabotage its own efforts to quickly end gas imports from Russia.”

“The fact that this lobbying push, backed by some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, stands to keep money flowing into Putin’s war chest makes a mockery of their well-publicised withdrawals from Russia. They may be walking out of Russia from the front door, but not without leaving the back door wide open for hydrogen to keep Europe locked into Russian gas.”

“If the European Union is serious about cutting its gas dependency it must completely rule out fossil hydrogen from all its energy policies and shut out those industry lobbyists who see hydrogen as a lifeline for gas extraction. What is a lifeline for the gas industry is also money in Putin’s war chest, and anything but a lifeline for the people of Ukraine.”

In addition to attempts by MEPs to include fossil hydrogen in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, the European Commission’s proposals for gas market reform, published in December last year, also support the expansion of fossil hydrogen. Whilst these legislative processes began before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in the current context it should be obvious that a massive upping of fossil hydrogen will leave Europe more dependent on gas than ever before.

Global Witness is today urging the European Union to conclusively rule out any support for fossil hydrogen, warning that a failure to do so will undermine its leaders’ pledges to end dependence on Russian gas, as well as efforts to reach Europe’s much lauded climate goals.