‘Fireside Chats’ series from the 2024 Cedigaz Seminar

Interview with Maria Sicilia, Chairwoman of the EHB

Maria Sicilia, Chairwoman of the EHB
Maria Sicilia, Chairwoman of the EHB

The European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) initiative brings together 33 energy infrastructure operators in the EU to create an adequate pipeline infrastructure and help develop a competitive low-carbon hydrogen market. How would you describe the progress made since its vision was published in 2020?

There is real progress from the side of the gas industry. TSOs have been pushing for more than 40 concrete projects to qualify as PCIs (Projects of Common Interest). This is not the result of modelling analysis or scenarios, but of on-the-ground vendors’ quotes and pre-feasibility studies. Some of these projects have already taken FID in the Netherlands and in France and the other projects are making the necessary progress.

Fireside Chats’ series from the 2024 Cedigaz Seminar

Didier Holleaux, EVP at Engie and President at Eurogas, author of « La vraie histoire du gaz ».

Didier Holleaux addressing the audiance at the Cedigaz sseminar 2024
Didier Holleaux addressing the audience at the Cedigaz seminar 2024

At the 2023 seminar, there were a lot of concerns regarding the capacity of European gas companies to sign new long-term contracts to secure additional supplies in the wake of the energy crisis. Such concerns seem to have eased this year. Has this changed?

After the crisis, some companies have taken different strategies. Some of them secured a very large share of new long-term deals and still want to rely on long-term contracts. Others in Europe, particularly the ones that burnt their fingers in this crisis, are far more reluctant to sign new long-term contracts because they have been under pressure from their shareholders to avoid being dependent on new long-term deals which made their life difficult in the wake of the war. Therefore, they will tend to rely far more on spot markets, even if they know that in times of severe crisis, they may face difficulties.Quote

We do see more diverging strategies amongst companies, and that’s perhaps one of the lessons drawn from the past year. This very much depends on the kind of risk that companies’ shareholders are prepared to accept.

Another key factor depends on the location of your customers and where you are based as a supplier. Clearly, if you are close to a node of the network, you can import from very different places and diversify your supply under your long-term contract. In other places, you may have difficulties in finding a diversity of sellers willing to propose long-term contracts.



Pragmatism, optionality and communication were the words of the day at Cedigaz’ traditional annual seminar held in Paris on June 20th. Members of the European gas industry and overseas producers say these are badly needed to make long-term plans, ensure energy security and a ‘just’ energy transition. More than two years after the unprecedented energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the list of challenges is not short: worsening global macro-economics, industrial demand destruction, chaotic global geopolitics, the imperative to fight climate change, and the necessity for Europe to boost its economic competitiveness and stem the tide of populism that has been fueled by higher food, energy and costs of living.

Political Uncertainty

The event, which brought together more than 70 delegates active across the gas value chain, was dominated by bittersweet feelings. The fact that Europe managed to avert major energy blackouts and worst-case scenarios after the war in Ukraine broke out demonstrated its capacity to respond to reduced Russian gas pipeline supplies.

But this was not without record prices spikes and wider socio-economic damages, from job losses at industrial sites in Europe, to costs incurred by poorer nations in emerging markets who could not afford to pay record LNG prices and turned to coal and oil for their own energy security.