The International Energy Agency recently calculated that a mixture of 20 per cent of hydrogen in the European gas grid could reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 60 million tonnes per year. That roughly corresponds to the amount annually emitted by Denmark.
Timmermans, a Dutch socialist, said: “I see a pivotal role for hydrogen, for clean hydrogen.
“I see it because clean hydrogen is an area where Europe is still leading … others are catching up, which isn’t bad,” said the 58-year-old.
As vice president for European Green Deal, Timmermans asked the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen conference in Brussels: “We’re not leading on batteries: we missed that opportunity years ago. … But why not extend the lead on something that could be one of the most important solutions in our energy transition?”
The Dutch politician helped steer through EU legislation banning plastic straws during the previous parliamentary term.
Timmermans said hydrogen could use existing gas infrastructure. “It is important because hydrogen could be applied using a lot of infrastructure we already have.”
The multilingual Timmermans said Europe was poorly set up to take full advantage of its renewable sources, like wind and solar.
This year’s socialist choice for the European commissioner’s role said gas pipes across Europe could be easily adapted for hydrogen and a combination of fossil and hydrogen could be used.
“Direct thermal cracking of methane and other hydrocarbons is a way to produce hydrogen from natural gas without direct carbon dioxide emissions,” said Professor Thomas Wetzel of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology’s (KIT) thermal engineering department.
The German study experimented with the continuous decomposition of methane to produce hydrogen and solid carbon.
As a solid, carbon can be stored safely or used for many industrial purposes.
Stored hydrogen can produce electricity and heat, in transport and industrial processes, such as steel production.
In collaboration with Wintershall Dea, the KIT project wants to enable the industrial use of methane pyrolysis within the next three years.
“There are huge quantities of natural gas worldwide and it can be used in a climate-neutral way. We now want to study how this can be achieved efficiently and use the results for processing large quantities of gas later on,” Wetzel said. “We are looking forward to this collaboration and are confident that we can make a major contribution to sustainable energy supply in the future.”
Frans Timmermans. Picture credit: Wikimedia