A new standard for green hydrogen, announced on Tuesday, will shore up its climate credentials, prevent greenwashing and help it stand apart from other colours of H2, industry leaders have said.

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The rules — launched by Swiss non-profit the Green Hydrogen Organisation (GH2) at its summit in Barcelona on Tuesday — will set a clear definition of green H2 as “hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water with 100% or near 100% renewable energy with close to zero greenhouse gas emissions (less than or equal to 1kg of CO2e per kg H2 taken as an average over a 12-month period)”.

The standard, which came after a lengthy industry-wide consultation, does allow some flexibility on the requirement for 100% renewable power, allowing for non-renewables to be used for back-up systems, for example, and for power used for associated processes such as water treatment and desalination. However, emissions from these systems must not push the production of the fuel over the average annual 1kg CO2e mark if it is to qualify as “green hydrogen” under GH2’s rules.

The definition also imposes environmental, social and governance (ESG) obligations on producers.

For example, producers will be expected to demonstrate that they have engaged with local communities and stakeholders on their projects, as well as considering the social and environmental impacts of new developments. They will also need to show they have considered and complied with international standards of human rights in the development and operation of their projects.

Guarantee of origin

Producers hoping to operate under the standard will be assessed by so-called Independent Assurance Providers, accredited by GH2. These providers will in turn report to GH2’s Accreditation Body, which will make the final decision on whether the standard has been met.

Projects that meet the requirement will be permitted to use the label “GH2 Green Hydrogen” and can obtain and trade GH2 Green Hydrogen Guarantee of Origin certificates, tracked by GH2’s official registry.

The need for a standard has been apparent for some time. The GH2 definition builds on the methodology proposed by the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE), an intergovernmental organisation which has been working for some months towards harmonising the carbon intensity definitions of various different types of hydrogen.

Marco Alvera, former CEO of Italian gas pipeline firm Snam, told the conference that the standard was necessary because blue, grey and green hydrogen are chemically indistinguishable once they are produced.

“[Climate] action needs to actually reduce and eliminate emissions, and that’s why this Green Hydrogen Standard is so important,” Julie Shuttleworth, CEO of green hydrogen developer Fortescue Future Industries, told the Barcelona audience.

“It calls out greenwashing, it calls out all the [other] colours of hydrogen and focuses on emissions. And the consumer, the customer, needs to know how many carbon emissions are emitted for each kilogram of hydrogen that they’re buying.”

Arturo Gonzalo Aizpiri, CEO of Spanish gas transmission company Enagás, added: “A good standard is needed to accelerate the process [of producing large amounts of green H2] as much as possible, reducing risks, reducing technical barriers, reducing costs, giving confidence to all the actors in the market, and allowing for imports and exports of green hydrogen with one guarantee of origin.”

Jonas Moberg, CEO of the GH2, added that the organisation is now working on a standard for green ammonia.