We will need natural gas for years to come, but today we can mix it with green hydrogen, says the CEO

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From the United States to the European Union, major economies around the world are making plans to move away from fossil fuels in favor of low-carbon and zero-carbon technologies.

It is a colossal task requiring huge sums of money, enormous political will and technological innovation. As the planned transition takes shape, there is a lot of talk about the relationship between hydrogen and natural gas.

During a panel discussion moderated by UKTN’s Joumanna Bercetche at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the CEO of energy company AES gave his thoughts on how the two could potentially connect in the future.

“I’m very confident in saying that we need natural gas for the next 20 years,” said Andrés Gluski, speaking on Wednesday. “What we can do today is … start mixing it with green hydrogen,” he added.

“So we’re doing tests where you can mix it up to, say, 20% in existing turbines, and new turbines are coming out that can burn much higher percentages,” Gluski said.

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“But it’s just hard to see that in the next 10 years you’ll have enough green hydrogen to replace it.”

Produced using electrolysis and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, green hydrogen has a number of high-profile backers.

These include German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who called it “one of the most important technologies for a climate-neutral world” and “the key to decarbonising our economies”.

While some are extremely excited about the potential of green hydrogen, it still represents a small fraction of global hydrogen production. Today, the vast majority are based on fossil fuels, a fact at odds with net-zero goals.

Change on the way, but scale is key

The planet’s green hydrogen sector may still be in a relatively early stage of development, but a number of big deals have been made regarding the technology in recent years.

In December 2022, for example, AES and Air products said they planned to invest about $4 billion in developing a “mega-scale green hydrogen production facility” in Texas.

According to the announcement, the project will contain about 1.4 gigawatts of wind and solar power and will be able to produce more than 200 tons of hydrogen every day.

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Despite the significant amount of money and renewable energy resources involved in the project, AES chief Gluski went out of his way to emphasize how much work still needed to be done to scale up the industry as a whole.

The facility being planned with Air Products, he explains, can supply just “one percent of the U.S. long-haul truck fleet.” So work on the shop.

High expectations, where cooperation is crucial

Elizabeth Gaines, a non-executive director at mining giant, appeared alongside Gluski at the World Economic Forum Fortescue Metals group.

“We see that green hydrogen probably plays the most important role in the energy transition,” she said.

To broaden the discussion, Gaines also spoke of the need for collaboration in the years to come.

When it came to “the resources needed to support the green transition, and the like[ly] to produce green hydrogen,” she argued, there was a need “to work closely with government and regulatory bodies.”

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“I mean it’s one thing to say we need more lithium, we need more copper, but you can’t do that without getting the approvals, and you need the regulatory approvals, the environmental approvals,” she said .

“You know, these things take time, and we wouldn’t want this to become the bottleneck in the energy transition, comparable to the skills and resources we need.”

Why collaboration is essential for the prospects of the hydrogen sector

Kivanc Zaimler, chairman of the energy group at Sabanci Holding, also stressed the importance of being open to new ideas and innovations.

“We have to – we have to – embrace, we have to welcome all technologies, we have to support them,” he said. These were both hydrogen-powered and electric vehicles.

Zaimler expanded his point, talking about the need for collaboration, especially when it comes to hydrogen.

“We need to get all the right people around the table – academics, governments, private sectors, players across the value chain.”

This included “the manufacture of the electrolyser, the membranes, the green energy producers, the users.”

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