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Keeping Europe competitive with hydrogen, industry leaders and policymakers convene at Budapest Hydrogen Summit

The Budapest Hydrogen Summit was organised for the third time by White Paper Consulting with the participation of hydrogen leaders from more than 20 countries. With a focus on advancing discussions around hydrogen technology and its pivotal role in the global energy transition, the summit brought together once again the hydrogen community of Central and Southeastern Europe to discuss the most pressing issues facing this upcoming sector.

Attila Steiner, State Secretary for Energy and Climate of the Ministry of Energy of Hungary opened the conference by highlighting that Hungary is quite dependent on fossil fuels. There are three main directions of Hungary’s policy objectives; firstly to reduce demand for natural gas, secondly to substitute natural gas with other gases in which hydrogen has a clear role, and thirdly electrification, which means energy would be produced locally.

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, CEO of Hydrogen Europe suggested three objectives for the upcoming Hungarian presidency of the Council of the EU, a definition of green hydrogen, a definition of low-carbon hydrogen and a focus on diverse technology. He announced that the updated Hydrogen package will be released next week by the EU.

Gabriel Szabó, Group DS Executive Vice President at MOL Group underlined that hydrogen will play a critical role in the energy transition, confirming MOL’s interest in further developing this growing market. MOL Group has reached another important milestone, soon green hydrogen production will commence at the MOL Danube Refinery. Tomorrow, they are inaugurating the largest green hydrogen plant in Central and Eastern Europe with a capacity of 10 megawatts.

“Europe is diverse in many ways, so should be its solutions to the climate challenge,” said Bert De Backker, Policy Manager EAME at ExxonMobil’s Low Carbon Solutions business. “It would be welcome if the next European Commission reviews the EU Hydrogen Strategy to openly recognise the role all forms of low carbon hydrogen (including natural gas and nuclear-based) can play in delivering a more cost-competitive solution to the EU industry, because cost matters,” he emphasised.

budapest hydrogen summit

Regarding the challenges and opportunities along the hydrogen value chain speakers highlighted that we need a more regional and pan-European approach. “Answering to FGSZ’s first non-binding hydrogen demand market survey last year, market participants in Hungary have already signalised meaningful demand for green hydrogen. To cover this need both domestic production and significant import volumes might be needed. To establish adequate connections between supply and demand centres the most cost-effective and sustainable way could be repurposing respecting parts of existing natural gas assets. Given their industry expertise and good cooperation, natural gas TSOs are ready to engage more in the development and operation of future hydrogen networks, but in order to connect A to B they need to see exactly where the supply will come from,” underlined Zoltán Gellényi, Member of the Board, FGSZ.

OMV Petrom’s Vice President for Business Development, Downstream Gas and Power, Ionut Ciubotaru also confirmed that they see natural gas as a main enabler of the hydrogen economy. “Transition using natural gas is much smoother, without gas it’s very difficult to achieve our goals in hydrogen. OMV Petrom just signed two financing contracts from the RRF for producing green hydrogen at the Petrobrazi refinery in Romania. The speaker agreed that partnership is key to developing the hydrogen economy and that proven technologies are necessary to take the first step.

Ákos Kriston, CEO of Hungarian Gas Storage (MFGT) shared the lessons learnt from the Aquamarine project underlining that the main goal of MFGT for the mid-2030s is to become a large-scale seasonal electricity storage in the form of hydrogen in the reservoirs, and the project is one of the stepping stones to achieve this objective.

Responding to the fast-expanding green energy demand of the region, Tobias Puklavec, CTO and Chairman of the Governing Board of Green Energy Park shared the story and mission of Green Energy Park, a company that will create a vertically integrated hydrogen value chain connecting upstream with the downstream through a mid-stream facility located on the island of Krk in Croatia unlocking the potential of renewable ammonia.

As the hydrogen economy spans several industries, leaders of hydrogen mobility from Messer, Solaris, Resato Hydrogen Technology and HUMDA (Hungarian Mobility Development Agency) examined the role of hydrogen in fostering sustainable transportation solutions.

“HUMDA is committed to developing carbon-neutral technological diversity in transportation, which, alongside electrification, cannot overlook thinking along the entire hydrogen value chain,” said Virág Mészáros, CEO of HUMDA adding that they support the implementation of the National Hydrogen Strategy through various activities, such as related education and training, integration of stakeholders involved in the hydrogen economy, raising public awareness, career guidance, and the implementation of pioneering projects, such as the ongoing Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus project this year with its associated charging solutions.

Concluding the conference, the final panel of this year’s Budapest Hydrogen Summit focused on the cooperation on hydrogen in Central and Eastern Europe, with speakers from Ukraine, Slovakia and Greece. Speakers presented the 3 Seas Hydrogen Council initiative and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by the Energy Association “Ukrainian Hydrogen Council” and the Hungarian Hydrogen Technology Association to map and launch commercial opportunities related to hydrogen technologies.

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