Russia Explores Hydrogen Use to Meet European Environmental Standards

Russia is looking for ways to develop a market for hydrogen in Europe, a move that would help maintain demand for one of its primary exports as governments everywhere work to cut pollution, Business Times reports.

With Europe working to make dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Russia is looking for ways to make its gas green enough to remain part of the energy mix. Hydrogen is an option because it can be made from natural gas without generating additional emissions, the report says.

State-run gas giant Gazprom, the dominant exporter of natural gas into Europe, is exploring ways to produce emissions-free hydrogen from its fuel and create a $240 billion a year market by 2050, according to a presentation executives from the company made in Brussels last month. That would be more than twice the size of the $110 billion value of Europe’s existing natural gas supply last year.

According to the reports, the effort would bring Russia in step with the government of Japan, oil major Royal Dutch Shell and a handful of companies that are promoting fuel cells and hydrogen as an alternative to electricity generation and transportation fed by fossil fuels.

“It would not do the entire job but a large part of it,” Michael Faltenbacher, a principal consultant at Germany’s Thinkstep AGĀ which carried out a study for Gazprom, said at the presentation at Gazprom’s offices in Brussels. “We are looking at a major CO2 reduction potential which will come at a financial cost. There is definitely investments related to that but also opportunities for industry and economy.”

Natural gas already is the main raw material used to make hydrogen commercially, and some of the lighter gas is already blended in a small proportion into Europe’s gas pipeline network. What Gazprom is envisioning is gradually boosting the share of hydrogen in those pipelines and then turning its natural gas into hydrogen through green processes that don’t exacerbate global warming.