Speculative hydrogen futures and ambitions for green recovery in the eastern Adriatic

The industrial landscape of the port of Ravenna, emblematic of Italy’s postwar industrial recovery, is now the scene for new fantasies of energy-driven economic recovery. Two hydrogen projects lobbied the government for a share of Italy’s allocation from the EU pandemic recovery fund: ENI, the Italian oil major, proposed an ambitious programme of blue hydrogen production, using methane from existing reserves, with emissions to be abated by carbon capture and storage, and Agnes, a consortium developing offshore wind and solar power infrastructure, aims to use it to produce ‘green’ hydrogen. In the midst of debates over the inclusion of gas in the EU’s green ‘taxonomy’, only Agnes’s project was approved. Meanwhile, an intellectual ferment is growing up around technological visions of hydrogen futures, with Ravenna as a protagonist. H2020 funding supports Hydrogen Europe, a network for promotion and dissemination of hydrogen knowledge. One newly funded research project aims to develop a decentralized, carbon-negative industrial process for the conversion of biomass into hydrogen and other fuels. Placing these activities in their ecological setting of the Po delta at the edge of Italy’s agricultural heartland, I offer a reflection on the visions of the future that they embody.