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Ian Brass, Director of Public Affairs, Europe, on Increasing Energy Diversity


On March 8, 2022, the European Commission announced a ground-breaking plan to address Europe's energy crisis: REPowerEU. The detailed implementation measures to follow will dramatically accelerate the demand for hydrogen. In this article, Ian Brass, Director of Public Affairs for Europe at Air Products, explains what the proposal means for Air Products and how the company can contribute meeting the objectives of REPowerEU.

What prompted the REPowerEU proposal by the European Commission and what does it entail? 
The proposal describes a series of measures to be taken to ensure that the EU can benefit from “affordable, secure and sustainable energy” in the face of the current crisis. Taken with the existing measures proposed under Fit for 55, REPowerEU aims to deliver savings equivalent to 155 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas currently sourced from Russia. Included in the plan are the diversification of gas supplies through increased LNG and pipeline imports, increased energy savings and acceleration of production and import of renewable hydrogen. Even before the current crisis, Air Products was actively pursuing projects which support the objectives of REPowerEU. 

What does the REPowerEU proposal mean for existing policies and climate goals? 
REPowerEU brings forward the timeline of the proposed policies under the Fit for 55 package. The revision of the Renewable Energy Directive and permitting of infrastructure through the TEN-E framework will be accelerated and climate subtargets are increased in ambition. For example, the REPowerEU proposal adds up to 10 million tonnes per year of imported hydrogen from diverse sources and 5 million tonnes per year of European-produced hydrogen in 2030, in addition to the 5 million tonnes per year overall target in the Fit for 55 package. 

What role does hydrogen play in diversifying energy sources?  
Green hydrogen can play a crucial role in diversifying energy sources in a sustainable and responsible way. In principle, varying amounts of the renewable energy needed for green hydrogen production can be found in every country in the world, a distribution of resources that is fundamentally different from oil and gas. This reality is reflected in the number of national “memoranda of understanding” that have been signed between potential providers and potential consumers of renewable hydrogen over the past years. To meet the REPowerEU targets, it is important that the EU and member states accelerate their collaboration to support investments globally. 

How can Air Products contribute to these targets? 
Air Products is the world's largest hydrogen producer and drives innovation and sustainability through our own advanced technologies, ensuring a safe, reliable and efficient production process. We are actively pursuing renewable hydrogen projects in the EU and in complementary export-driven projects in regions of the world where the conditions are good for the reliable production of the renewable electricity needed for production of hydrogen. An example of the latter is the NEOM Green Hydrogen Project; onstream by 2026 and with an intended production of 650t/d, this is the leading large-scale green hydrogen project. Europe, along with other parts of the world, had already been identified as an attractive destination for a proportion of the project’s production, for use in the decarbonization of heavy duty vehicles and industry. REPowerEU has increased the importance to the EU of first-mover projects like the Neom Green Hydrogen Project.

What is needed to develop an international hydrogen economy in support of the REPowerEU targets?
The current energy crisis will accelerate the development of the hydrogen economy. Air Products has been producing hydrogen for over 60 years and is committed to build on this history with more large-scale projects that reflect the needs of the times. If investments of this scale are to be made, there is a need for certainty as to the investment climate. In particular, we call on EU institutions and national governments to act quickly and decisively to create a regulatory environment that supports investment in both domestic production and import of green hydrogen. One of the key causes of potential delay is the uncertainty around certification of green hydrogen imported from outside the EU, which will ensure the product is defined as ‘green’ by international standards. Only a level playing field between domestically produced and imported hydrogen will allow the EU to meet the challenges set by REPowerEU. ♦