CEBC: Harnessing low-carbon hydrogen potential in MENA

By Miswar Syed, Ahmed Samir Elbermbali and Mariam Tawakol – Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC)
Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC) says Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is prime location for solar and green hydrogen

MENA countries have significantly ramped up their participation in green and blue hydrogen projects. Ongoing research by the Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC) Hydrogen and Energy Storage Working Group (HES WG) indicates that between 2020 and 2021, participation in green and blue hydrogen initiatives has gone up from 11% to 89% (as shown in Fig.1 below).

The HES WG developed the map displayed in Fig.2, and it highlights all the ongoing/announced green and blue hydrogen initiatives in the MENA region. Reduction in renewable energy (RE) prices has allowed green hydrogen to be more practical in the energy mix. Green hydrogen is manufactured solely from RE sources and can thus have a significant impact on the decarbonisation of the energy industry.   

Green hydrogen will play a pivotal role in ensuring that the objectives outlined by the Paris Agreement are met and that net-zero emissions are achieved by 2050. For this reason, green hydrogen has been hailed as the ‘new oil’, especially given the vital role that it will play in decarbonisation and in the clean energy transition. Green hydrogen offers clean energy for production and transport; its only by-product is water and is abundant in supply. Pound for pound, hydrogen has about three times the energy of fossil fuels, which implies that less of it is required to perform the same activity, which is crucial for energy efficiency (Cho, 2021).  

Consequently, green hydrogen is becoming increasingly sought after. Based on the research conducted by the CEBC, MENA countries in total have the highest number of low carbon-based hydrogen initiatives for export purposes. Thus, the MENA region is projected to be the largest supplier of green hydrogen. Therefore, the MENA region is in a strategic position to lead the charge in driving up the production of green hydrogen, which will aid its transition towards clean energy, create jobs across the region, and open new opportunities for international trade and spur economic growth. 

Blue hydrogen can pave the way for renewable-based green hydrogen

Blue hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage technology. Blue hydrogen is essential, as the existing fossil fuels can be used to generate low carbon-based hydrogen. Once the infrastructure for blue hydrogen is set up, it is easier to then transition to renewable-based green hydrogen. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on 17 January 2021 to establish the Abu Dhabi Hydrogen Alliance, which is focused on both blue and green hydrogen (Mubadala, 2021). This MoU is meant to establish a strategic collaboration to encourage investment and development of technology, equipment, production of green hydrogen, and manufacturing of synthetic fuel.   

CEBC’s HES working group aims to provide a platform to accelerate the developments in low-carbon hydrogen technology, research, policy recommendations, networking, and investment opportunities. Since its inception, the HES working group has conducted research to identify all the ongoing and upcoming green and blue hydrogen projects. This research includes key data on the developers, partners, and potential off-takers for green and blue hydrogen production.

CEBC’s research has indicated that the MENA countries have been especially active in ramping up their involvement in green and blue hydrogen projects, especially in 2021. Fig. 3 demonstrates that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is at the forefront of the green and blue hydrogen race in the MENA region, holding the highest share of approximately 29% as of 2021.  This is in line with the UAE’s aim to boost its clean energy contribution from 25% to 50% by 2050. The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy (DCES) 2050 aims to provide 75% of Dubai with clean energy by 2050. 

UAE leading the way on green hydrogen at solar park

Currently, the UAE is the only MENA country to have an installed green hydrogen pilot project at the MBR solar park in partnership with Siemens Energy, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and Expo 2020 Dubai which will produce 20.5 kg/hr of green hydrogen at 1.25MWe of peak power (MEED, 2021). The CEBC will soon launch an investment map that highlights all the green and blue hydrogen projects across the MENA, which is aimed to attract investments into the region. The investment map will be available on the official website (CEBC MENA)


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