Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has created a hydrogen task force in what is seen as an attempt to meet energy transition demands in its main energy export markets in Europe and Asia.
The initiative underscores the prevailing view in Russia that its own future hydrogen production will depend primarily on natural gas.
This would primarily result in the production of blue hydrogen – which uses carbon capture and storage (CCS) – rather than green hydrogen, where renewable energy is used to power the electrolysis process that divides the water to hydrogen and oxygen.
There is also a lobby in Russia which supports the continued development of petroleum and coal by supplying power to planned hydrogen production facilities, with the government stressing that the country is “rich in hydrocarbon resources”.
The new working group includes the chairmen and vice-chairmen of major Russian gas producers Gazprom and Novatek, and oil producers Rosneft and Gazprom Neft, as well as representatives of several other large Russian state-owned enterprises and relevant ministries.
For several years, Gazprom has been studying the possibility of mixing hydrogen in gas supplies and recently reiterated the possibility that one of the two lines of its forthcoming Nord Stream 2 submarine pipeline to Germany will be reassigned to transport hydrogen in about ten years.
Russia’s largest independent gas producer, Novatek, has led efforts towards change, signing several agreements earlier this year to consider CCS, ammonia production and wind power production in its gas projects. natural liquefied on the Yamal Peninsula.
Meanwhile, Rosneft and Gazprom Neft have repeatedly emphasized that they are not new to hydrogen, as it has been produced and used in their refineries for a long time – usually relentlessly “gray” hydrogen.
However, the two said they are also working on wind and solar power options to reduce their carbon footprint.
The creation of the task force was considered last year after Mishustin approved the country’s roadmap to foster the development of hydrogen production and exports.
The roadmap makes no distinction between green, blue and gray hydrogen, note industry analysts in Moscow.
This reflects the Russian view that the country should be prepared to consider all possible ways to take a larger share of future hydrogen markets in Europe and Asia as its oil and gas exports to the continent. begin to decline.
According to the roadmap, authorities expect new hydrogen production facilities with CCS in Russia to come into service as early as 2023.
They will be followed by test units to produce hydrogen from water, using nuclear and renewable energy sources, officials have promised.
Putin’s adviser will lead
According to Mishustin’s resolution, the task force will be headed by Alexander Novak, the deputy prime minister responsible for energy issues.
The importance of the new body for the Kremlin was underscored by the inclusion of the rector of the St. Petersburg Mining University, Vladimir Litvinenko, according to observers.
Litvinenko has long been seen as close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, overseeing Putin’s thesis work in 1996 in which he advocated for greater state involvement in the country’s oil and gas sector.
This article first appeared in Recharge’s sister oil and gas journal, Upstream.