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Germany's hydrogen dream needs gas for transition

 Germany needs natural gas in its energy mix while it develops a market for so-called "green" hydrogen based on renewable power, the boss of Wintershall said.

Germany is hoping to develop large-scale green hydrogen by using wind and solar electricity to make synthetic fuels for industry, energy and transport sectors and has launched a 9 billion euro ($10.64 billion) hydrogen strategy up to 2030.

"As long as green hydrogen is not available in sufficient volumes and at attractive prices, we also need hydrogen from natural gas in order to establish the market quickly," Mario Mehren, chief executive of gas and oil producer Wintershall , said.

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"It’s my conviction that green hydrogen will benefit from a mature market in the long term," Mehren said at the annual conference of power and gas lobby BDEW, implying that gas-derived hydrogen would help it to arrive at that stage.

Green hydrogen is derived from renewable sources which could include offshore wind powering floating electrolysis plants. Hydrogen extracted using natural gas is known as "grey" hydrogen.

The question of how best to reach Germany's hydrogen goal has been plagued by rows over the timing and the use of different hydrogen "colours."

Some environmental lobbies want green hydrogen or nothing, while energy companies are offering plans for interim steps, including schemes for carbon capture and storage (CCS).

CCS enables emissions from industry to be captured and stored in depleted sub-sea hydrocarbon fields, where Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands are far advanced.

Germany's major political parties, which are in the midst of an election campaign, are all in favour a hydrogen market.

Christian Bruch, CEO of Siemens Energy said any new government needed to makes hydrogen rules simple and offer money for investments in plants and their operations.

Siemens was aiming to enable all its gas-to-power turbines to run on hydrogen in the long term by making them "hydrogen-ready" now.

But gas-to-power burning - which has half the carbon emissions of coal - had years of operations left, especially in overseas markets, he said.

But lobby groups Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) and Urgewalt criticised the German government for its alleged support of fossil fuels, arguing that "the climate harming effect of gas is scientifically proven."


($1 = 0.8457 euros) (Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Jane Merriman)

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