London/Brussels, September 13 – Gas boiler companies are misleading the public about hydrogen heating, with marketing and advertising tactics obscuring damaging details about hydrogen boilers’ emissions and health impacts, according to a new investigation released today by Global Witness.

Numerous independent studies, including projections from the IEA, McKinsey and the IPCC have concluded that using hydrogen for heating will be at best a niche technology.

Most so-called “hydrogen-ready” boilers bought in the coming years will likely never use hydrogen, and installing them would instead mean consumers remain locked into expensive fossil gas heating with hydrogen ready branding serving as little more than greenwashing.

To help ensure this gas heating lock-in, gas boiler companies have launched a public push for so-called “hydrogen-ready” heating. A Global Witness analysis of the advertising campaigns run by several of Europe’s largest boiler manufacturers found misleading claims including:

False claims about the health impacts of hydrogen boilers. Several gas and boiler companies have claimed in public-facing website content and adverts that the only by-product of burning hydrogen is water, creating a misleading impression of the safety of hydrogen boilers.

British Gas tells consumers on its website that “the only by-product of burning hydrogen gas is water” – a message that is repeated in website articles, marketing material and adverts from Worcester Bosch, Baxi, and Valliant.

While burning hydrogen in pure oxygen only produces water, burning it in air produces nitrogen oxides, which exacerbates respiratory problems including asthma in children.

False claims about the climate emissions of hydrogen boilers. The German boiler manufacturer Viessman launched a marketing campaign in December 2021 claiming that hydrogen “poses no danger to nature or the environment” and is “emission free”.

Currently, 96% of Europe’s hydrogen is produced from fossil gas which generates significant carbon emissions. Global Witness has found that Shell’s flagship blue hydrogen project, based on fossil gas including carbon capture, emits more greenhouse gases than it captures, and has the same carbon footprint as 1.2 million petrol cars. [1]

Barnaby Pace, senior gas campaigner at Global Witness, said:

Heating homes with hydrogen is like making dog food out of caviar: nobody would be able to afford it, and there’s nowhere near enough of it to make it work.

Even as gas bills have gone through the roof gas and boiler companies are trying to persuade the public and governments to buy into “hydrogen-ready” boilers, when they will likely only ever run on expensive, polluting gas and if hydrogen did ever make it into gas grids it would only ramp prices up higher.

There are good, clean, options out there to heat homes such as heat pumps, but they are threatening the business model of gas suppliers. So, what we’re seeing is a desperate campaign from a dirty industry, desperate to keep burning gas, make customers pay for their hydrogen pipe dreams and keep profiting off energy bills.”

The consumer push comes ahead of the European Union agreeing whether or not to back hydrogen heating. The European Commission’s draft reform of the bloc’s gas market strongly supports a rollout, with MEPs and Member States set to agree their positions in the coming months ahead of final negotiations.

Last week, Global Witness revealed how the draft plans to switch to hydrogen heating could lead to already high energy bills more than doubling, and for all gas consumers to be forced to pay for €240 billion of new hydrogen pipelines.