Revealed: Fossil fuel lobbyists pushing hydrogen on Scottish politicians
Climate campaigners have revealed the huge lobbying operation by fossil fuel interests pushing expensive and inefficient hydrogen technology onto Scottish Government and MSPs.
Campaigners unearthed over 30 meetings with oil and gas companies where hydrogen was discussed, along with an additional 70 meetings with companies who stood to benefit from the roll out of hydrogen technology in Scotland.
The Scottish Government has pledged over £100 million to this industry and has refused to rule out using hydrogen from fossil fuels. Ministers even refer to fossil fuel derived hydrogen as ‘low carbon’ despite the methane leakage during gas production and the extra energy required to run the partial carbon capture process upon which it relies.
The revelations show a huge push by fossil fuel giants like BP and Shell – who met MSPs 17 and 9 times respectively – demonstrating how hard the industry is pressing politicians to claim hydrogen as a climate solution despite mounting evidence that the technology is too expensive and inefficient.
Evidence shows that using hydrogen for heating our homes is more expensive and less efficient than direct electrification through technologies like heat pumps. Hydrogen is not suitable for most transport needs due to cost and how far the technology is behind electrification.
Key hydrogen lobbying incidents
On the same day (10/11/21) during COP26 as the Scottish Government published their draft Hydrogen Action Plan it organised a lavish dinner for the Hydrogen industry with 52 company lobbyists at Edinburgh Castle that FOIs reveal cost the public purse £11,000. It was attended by BP, INEOS, Shell, Wood Group and Offshore Energies UK. It was hosted by Business Minister Ivan McKee and attended by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Then Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero Michael Matheson travelled to Rotterdam in May 2022 to speak at the World Hydrogen Summit which marketed itself as “the global platform where hydrogen deals get done.” The two- day conference had host partners BP and Shell and “diamond sponsorship” from Saudi oil company Aramco and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
Shell’s met with then Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse in January 2021, where the official record states Shell specifically “emphasized the importance of both blue and green hydrogen.”
Scottish Government are “doing the greenwashing job for fossil fuel companies”
Friends of the Earth Scotland climate campaigner Alex Lee (they/them) commented
“Hydrogen lobbyists have made a targeted push trying to persuade the Scottish Government to ignore the mounting evidence about the technology’s inefficiency and huge costs.
“By incorrectly classifying hydrogen from fossil fuels as ‘low carbon’, Scottish Ministers are doing the greenwashing job for fossil fuel companies. Big polluters like Shell and BP are selling hydrogen hard because it allows them to keep on drilling for fossil fuels and keep the public locked into an energy system using oil and gas for decades to come.”
“The Scottish Government has been taken in by the marketing hype around hydrogen, promising over £100 million of public money to the industry and repeating outlandish jobs creation claims. Ministers must end their support for hydrogen from fossil fuels and instead use renewable power directly in heating and transport rather than wasting time and energy by converting it to hydrogen first.
“If the Scottish Government want to tackle the climate crisis and deliver a just transition away from oil and gas, it must cut ties with the fossil fuel industry and ban them from lobbying.”
Research was conducted through systematic searching of the Lobbying Register from March 2018 until the end of 2022, based on well-known fossil fuel and energy companies, and industry lobbying bodies.
Due to a loophole in the Lobbying Register, meetings called by the ministers themselves are not registered, neither are meetings that took place over the phone or on videocall with the cameras turned off.
Additional meetings were found through examination of ministerial diaries from the most recent Scottish elections in 2021 until end of 2022. Key meetings between Hydrogen lobbyists and members of the Scottish Parliament are summarised below.
Meetings include those where oil and gas companies advocated for hydrogen, meetings requested by hydrogen-specialist companies, and industry events with the purpose of promoting hydrogen.
Information about highlighted lobbying meetings
Date // Location // Lobbyist // Person lobbied // Description // Information Source
10/11/21 // Hydrogen dinner, Edinburgh Castle // BP, Ineos, Shell, Hydrogen Council, Wood Group, SGN and 40+ more companies //
Hosted by Ivan McKee MSP (Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation), + attended by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon //
Ministerial Diaries November 2021
09/05/22 // World Hydrogen Summit 2022, Netherlands // Hydrogen Europe, EUROGAS, Gas Infrastructure Europe, Hydrogen UK, Hydrogen Council, RWE // Michael Matheson MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport) //
Supporting associations of the event include Hydrogen Europe, EUROGAS, Gas Infrastructure Europe, Hydrogen UK, Hydrogen Council – all of which have lots of fossil fuel members. World Hydrogen Summit advisory board also includes Shell and Hydrogen Europe. //
Ministerial Diaries May 2022
21/01/21 // Video conference // Steve Phimister, Shell U.K. Limited // Paul Wheelhouse MSP (Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands) // Video conference meeting with Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, as part of an industry roundtable on hydrogen. “We discussed the future of hydrogen policy in Scotland, in light of the publication of the Scottish Government’s Hydrogen Policy Statement and update to their Climate Change Plan. We explained the importance of hydrogen to the oil and gas industry as it transitions away from hydrocarbons. We noted that this presents a particular opportunity due to Scotland’s advanced position on carbon capture and storage. We highlighted that supply and demand for hydrogen should be considered in lockstep. We also emphasized the importance of both blue and green hydrogen, and welcomed the Scottish Government’s funding of £100m for the hydrogen sector.” //
Notes to Editors
A 2022 report ‘Hydrogen’s role in Scotland’s climate journey’, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Scotland found that 98% of global hydrogen production is from fossil fuels. It also exposed their inefficiencies, soaring costs and the threat hydrogen posed to renewable energy supplies.
Hydrogen can be made from fossil fuels with an attempt to capture the carbon emissions produced – this is known as ‘blue hydrogen’ and labelled ‘low-carbon’ by the Scottish Government.
Blue hydrogen fails as a climate solution: Research has found its lifecycle emissions can be greater than if the gas used to make it were burned directly.
Carbon capture’s energy penalty – the extra energy required to run the CCS element – can be quite substantial, as noted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): “the energy penalty increases the fuel requirement for electricity generation by 13–44%.”
Freedom of Information request about Hydrogen Council Dinner in November 2021
Scottish Government Hydrogen Action Plan draft published 10/11/21
Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 73 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.