Oil majors, car makers to push hydrogen technology to help cut emissions

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - The heads of some of the world's biggest oil firms and automakers agreed on Tuesday to push for broader global use and bigger investments in using hydrogen to help reduce emissions and arrest global warming.

The oil firms' and car makers' chiefs said the plan was part of global efforts to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, an ambitious goal agreed by 195 countries in Paris in 2015.

"In this context, we are convinced that the unique contribution that hydrogen solutions offer needs to be strongly reaffirmed now," the participants, including the chiefs of oil firms Total and Royal Dutch Shell , Patrick Pouyanne and Ben van Beurden, said in a statement.

The declaration was also signed by the CEOs of car makers BMW, Daimler, Honda, Hyundai, Kawasaki and Toyota as well as miner Anglo American and energy and engineering firms Engie, Linde and Air Liquide.

Hydrogen does not release any CO2 at the point of use and its technologies and products have progressed significantly, the firms said in a statement.

They aim to accelerate investment in developing and commercializing the hydrogen sector, currently amounting to just 1.4 billion euros a year - compared with the hundreds of billions of dollars invested annually by the oil sector.

"We need governments to back hydrogen with actions of their own - for example through large scale infrastructure investment schemes," the statement quoted the head of Air Liquide Benoit Potier as saying.

"We are not trying to bring hydrogen only to cars or trains. We are trying to bring a systemic approach. Hydrogen can generate power, produce heat and it is close to the chemical industry. And it is the most abundant element in the universe," Potier told a news conference.

The head of oil major Shell Ben van Beurden said that despite starting a hydrogen business 20 years ago, his firm today had only had five hydrogen refueling stations in Germany and three in California.

"You need a coordinated approach to make it work. Hopefully, we can have hundreds (of stations)," he said.

The head of Total Pouyanne said hydrogen was also the best way to store energy and Total was studying those opportunities.

(Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)