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    The Gulf monarchies bet on green hydrogen, the “fuel of the future”

    After having benefited from fossil fuels for decades, the Arab monarchies of the Gulf are now eyeing green hydrogen in their ambition to diversify their economies and, at the same time, materialize their stated desire to fight against climate change.

    5 mins

    Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and also the Sultanate of Oman are investing massively in this fuel which seems to solve many challenges: low in pollution, its potential uses are numerous, which could make it both lucrative and respectful of the environment. planet.

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    Faced with falling oil revenues in recent years, “the Gulf States want to take the lead in the global hydrogen market”, Karim Elgendy, a researcher at the British think tank Chatham House, told AFP.

    “They view green hydrogen as essential to sustaining themselves as major energy powerhouses and to maintaining their influence as demand for fossil fuels declines,” he observes.

    Currently representing less than 1% of total hydrogen production, so-called green hydrogen – because it is made from renewable electricity – is however not yet commercially viable and its development could take several years.

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    Unlike hydrogen produced from polluting fossil fuels, green hydrogen is obtained from water using renewable energies such as wind, sun and hydroelectricity.

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    While fossil fuels emit harmful greenhouse gases when burned, green hydrogen only emits water vapour. It is recommended in the long term in highly polluting industries – transport, navigation and steelmaking.

    The world’s largest crude oil exporter, Saudi Arabia is building the world’s largest green hydrogen plant in Neom, the futuristic megacity under construction by the Red Sea.

    A design plan of the futuristic Saudi megacity Neom under construction by the Red Sea, July 26, 2022 © Neom via AFP (Archives)

    Worth $8.4 billion, the plant will integrate solar and wind power to produce up to 600 tonnes of green hydrogen per day by the end of 2026, authorities said.

    “Leaders”

    Home to the only nuclear power plant in the Arab world, the United Arab Emirates, which will host the UN climate conference COP28 at the end of November, approved a hydrogen strategy in July aimed at making the country one of the ten first producers by 2031.

    “Hydrogen will be an essential fuel for the energy transition,” Hanan Balalaa, a manager at the Emirati oil giant ADNOC, told AFP. “The Emirates are well placed to take advantage of this.”

    But it is Oman, far behind its neighbors when it comes to fossil fuels, which is on the way to becoming the sixth largest exporter in the world and the first in the Middle East by the end of the decade, estimated the International Energy (IEA) in a report published in June.

    Hydrogen production

    The production of “green” hydrogen © Tatiana MAGARINOS / AFP

    The sultanate aims to produce at least one million tonnes of green hydrogen per year by 2030, and up to 8.5 million tonnes per year by 2050, “which would exceed the total demand for hydrogen in Europe today,” according to the IEA.

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    According to the audit firm Deloitte, the countries of the Middle East, the Gulf in the lead, will dominate this market in the short term. And even if, by 2050, North Africa and Australia should have the greatest potential, the Gulf countries will remain the “export leaders”.

    “Developing hydrocarbons”

    Green hydrogen, however, has not held back Saudi Arabia and the Emirates in their ambitions to develop their hydrocarbon industries.

    According to experts, it will still be years before the Gulf countries can produce green hydrogen profitably.

    “Gulf countries will strive to maximize hydrocarbon sales for as long as possible,” said Aisha Al-Sarihi, from the Middle East Institute at the University of Singapore.

    The Al Uyayna solar power plant, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018 in Saudi Arabia

    The Al Uyayna solar power plant, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018 in Saudi Arabia © Fayez Nureldine, AFP (Archives)

    “It will take years of trial and error for green hydrogen to become a commercial product,” said AFP this expert, who sees the potential “fuel of the future” once the technology matures and at lower costs.

    Former Emirati Minister for Climate Change, Abdullah Al-Nuaimi, told AFP that “the existing infrastructures for the transport of hydrogen are not suitable and will require massive investments”.

    For him, overcoming the challenges posed by hydrogen will take “too long”.

    With AFP

    Source: France 24

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