The European Union is to launch a so-called “European Hydrogen Bank” capitalised with at least €3bn ($3bn) — potentially a game-changing development for the bloc’s H2 sector — but has not given any firm details on how the bank will operate, or for whom, or what it is for.

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The European Hydrogen Bank (EHB) was announced today by European Commission (EC) president Ursula von der Leyen in her annual State of the Union speech , in which she hinted that the bank would “guarantee” purchases of hydrogen to create certainty of demand, using seed capital from the €38bn Innovation Fund.

“We need to move our hydrogen economy from niche to scale,” she told her audience in the European Parliament. “To achieve this, we must create a market maker for hydrogen, in order to bridge the investment gap and connect future supply and demand.”

“[The bank] will help guarantee the purchase of hydrogen, notably by using resources from the Innovation Fund,” she added.

But the EC declined to give any further clarification when approached by Recharge, so it is not clear if the EC intends the bank to become a wholesale buyer of hydrogen, a buyer of last resort, or whether von der Leyen simply means that the bank will underwrite third-party purchases to create certainty for the industry.

Neither is it clear whether the EHB will serve the green hydrogen market only, or whether blue hydrogen made from fossil gas or pink H2 made with nuclear electricity will also be eligible for cash.

But rumours are already circulating that the bank will use its capital to buy up all ten million tonnes of Europe’s 2030 green hydrogen annual production target, mandated as part of the REPowerEU plan.

Carbon contracts for difference?

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, chief executive of trade body Hydrogen Europe, claimed in an online post that not only would the bank buy up all ten million tonnes per year but that it would then resell it to market at a lower price under a Carbon Contracts for Difference scheme.

However, Recharge has not been able to verify these claims with the European Commission or Hydrogen Europe.

The trade body does appear to have some concerns about the EHB, however, euphemistically describing the €3bn budget as “a good starting point” that it believes could be leveraged up to €20bn.