Blue v green hydrogen debate is delaying the transition to a sustainable future - Wintershall DEA CEO

Policy makers need to take a more realistic approach towards the economics and potential of blue hydrogen, produced from fossil fuels, as a key component of decarbonising energy, according to Mario Mehren, CEO of Wintershall DEA, Europe's largest independent oil and gas company.

Participating in the latest ADIPEC Energy Dialogue, Mehren said the dogmatic debate around green hydrogen, generated by renewable energy sources and 'blue' hydrogen, for which carbon emissions are captured and stored, or reused, threatens to delay the worldʼs transition to a sustainable energy future.

Despite a growing international consensus that hydrogen will play a key role in the transition to lower carbon energy, Mehren says the conflict between supporters of green hydrogen and those who advocate blue hydrogen is slowing investment in the hydrogen technologies required to rapidly reduce carbon emissions from industry and heavy transport, and also to provide long-term energy storage at scale.

Urging greater realism on what can be achieved with green hydrogen, as opposed to blue hydrogen, and in what time scale, Mehren said: "Hydrogen is going to play a major role in achieving carbon free energy and as long as hydrogen is carbon free, we shouldn't care whether it is so called green hydrogen, or blue hydrogen, or turquoise hydrogen."

"Hydrogen produced solely from renewables requires massive investment, not only in money but also in land and wind and solar infrastructure. Blue hydrogen is the most cost effective option that we have. It is also the one option where we have sufficient capacity. So I think it would be a shame if we don't make use of the infrastructure and the energy source we have."

Highlighting the EU's decision to put green hydrogen at the centre of its green stimulus plans, Mehren said: "I would like to see more open mindedness around hydrogen technology, as well as clearer and louder acknowledgement that blue hydrogen is needed to simply get to the targets that have been set."

With hydrogen mainly produced industrially from natural gas, Mehren said the oil and gas industry has a responsibility to ensure the blue hydrogen option stays on the table by investing in technologies to decarbonize natural gas, including Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage and by supporting the creation of a hydrogen market, both of which form key parts of Wintershall DEA's energy transition strategy.

The ADIPEC Energy Dialogues is a series of online events featuring key stakeholders and decision-makers in the oil and gas industry. This week's dialogue was hosted by Jason Bordoff, Founding Director, Center on Global Energy Policy and Professor of Professional Practice International Affairs, Columbia University. It focussed on perspectives surrounding future trajectories on energy supply and demand, business resilience through technology and innovation, geopolitics of energy and the proactive environmental social governance, people and talent agenda.