Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has expanded its offer of contributing to a decarbonised Europe by proposing to build a major processing plant on Germany's Baltic Sea coast to convert imported methane into hydrogen.

Speaking at an industry conference this week, Alexander Ishkov, head of Gazprom's energy efficiency and environmental department, said the proposed plant could be built where the company's Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline (and stalled Nord Stream 2 line) makes landfall in Greifswald.

Ishkov said the plant may use renewable sources of energy to convert methane into hydrogen, with initial estimates putting the carbon footprint from this operation at between 1.2 and 1.6 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide for every kilogramme of hydrogen produced.

He said Gazprom is taking seriously the European push to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions, with the monopoly on course to set up a specialised subsidiary, Gazprom Vodorod, to carry out research into decarbonisation options.

Previously, Gazprom executives proposed the idea of mixing hydrogen with the methane that Russia exports to Europe via Nord Stream 1 and its yet-to-be-completed sister project, Nord Stream 2.

In total, the two pipelines would have a capacity to transport over 110 billion cubic metres annually.

An estimated 40 Bcm per annum of gas would be needed to generate enough hydrogen to meet forecast demand in Europe.

However, converting this volume of gas to hydrogen will generate up to 76 million tonnes per annum of carbon dioxide that has to be stored or offset.

Ishkov suggested that Nord Stream's infrastructure could potentially be used to transport CO2 to Russia where it can be stored.

Pavel Zavalny, the head of Russian parliament’s Energy Committee, told delegates at a Russian-European Climate Conference in Moscow this week that the Kremlin expects Germany to be a key partner for Moscow in the production and marketing of hydrogen in Europe.

Hydrogen supply dilemma

According to a recent report published by The Fuel Cells & Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, a European public-private research and technology organisation, hydrogen demand in Europe by 2030 could reach 16.9 million tonnes.

This hydrogen needs to be produced in the European Union or imported.

According to the Hydrogen Europe lobby group, the continent, by 2030, could need 7.4 million tonnes of green hydrogen generated domestically or imported from Ukraine or North Africa.

This implies that 9.5 million tonnes of hydrogen would need to be sourced from elsewhere, potentially Russia, to meet the 16.7 million tonnes target.

Meanwhile, Ishkov hit out on the terminology used to define how hydrogen could be produced — grey, blue and green hydrogen — as “discriminatory.”

Instead, he suggested a “scientific approach” should be taken by applying permissible limits of CO2 emissions to all hydrogen production methods.