The European gas industry claimed renewables such as wind and solar can’t power the growth of a “clean hydrogen” sector fast enough to hit decarbonisation goals, as a row rages on over the respective roles of green and blue H2 in the EU’s energy transition plans.

More than 30 European companies and trade bodies wrote to the European Commission warning against measures to exclude H2 produced using gas allied with carbon abatement technologies from the hydrogen strategy currently being drawn up by Brussels.

The signatories claimed renewable H2 is currently too small a part of the market to spark the growth of a large-scale European hydrogen economy within 10 years, with gas behind “the lion's share” of production of the fuel, seen as key to decarbonising energy-intensive areas such as heat and large industrial processes.

“Hydrogen from natural gas with carbon management technologies… will be needed to create the necessary scale and make hydrogen applications cost-competitive.

“Today, it is two to five times cheaper than renewable hydrogen and its deployment will help reduce the latter’s cost,” said the letter as it urged the commission to adopt an “inclusive approach” to hydrogen that invests in all “clean” forms of the gas.

James Watson, chair of lobbying group Gas Naturally, said: “Renewables will emerge as a leading source for the production of hydrogen in the long run. Until we get there, the EU must seize existing opportunities and that means using all sources of clean hydrogen.”

The letter’s signatories include major fossil players such as Equinor and ExxonMobil, with others such as Shell and Total belonging to a clutch of gas industry bodies that are backing the call.

European steel body Eurofer, whose members would likely be major users of hydrogen to decarbonise their processes, are also on the list.

The letter comes as Brussels officials work to thrash out their hydrogen strategy, with the latest leaked version suggesting carbon abated fossil-based H2 will have a role in the short to medium-term.

The debate over to what extent and how quickly the EU embraces green hydrogen from renewables rather than the blue variety based on abated fossils has raged all year, with many advocates of the former denying that blue hydrogen counts as 'clean' at all.

In May some of the power sector’s biggest players swung behind an initiative called ‘Choose Renewable Hydrogen’ to urge policymakers to put green H2 from wind and solar centre-stage. One of the most senior executives at power utility Enel recently labelled any other form of hydrogen than green as “a trick”.