Saudi Arabia wants to be a top exporter of hydrogen from both dirty and clean sources as part of its economic diversification strategy
Saudi Arabia promotes hydrogen exports in its bid to diversify its economy from oil.
Energy minister Abdulaziz bin Salman told the online World Economic Forum this week the kingdom was pursuing blue, green and pink hydrogen development, the colours representing the way it is made – some cleaner than others.
He said the EU was interested in green hydrogen, made with renewable electricity, and joked that pink – to be generated with planned nuclear power plants – was of particular interest to women in the industry.
“We are recruiting, by the way, young Saudi ladies that are happy to see the pink coming along,” said bin Salman. “We have started being very conscious of taking care of our female new recruits and new cadets. We’re becoming an extremely well emancipated society.”
However, the bulk of the bulk will likely be blue, made from methane and emitting carbon dioxide.
“We will have a field day with blue hydrogen because again, we’re the cheapest cost producer of gas,” bin Salman said. “We’re doing a huge investment in shale gas in Saudi Arabia and we will be dedicated to have that gas to be used for producing blue hydrogen.”
Hydrogen can be used to power steel-making, or propel planes or ships. While it’s currently expensive and not widely used, many analysts see it as a clean fuel of the future, particularly for applications that cannot be easily electrified. How it is made will determine how clean it is.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA), the global hydrogen trade is expected to surpass that of oil by 2050.
Europe and East Asia will likely require more hydrogen than they can make, and Gulf nations are well-placed to export via ships or pipelines.
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Bin Salman said that he had discussed exporting green hydrogen to the EU with the European Commission’s vice-president Frans Timmermans. Saudi Arabia is building a $5bn green hydrogen facility in Neom, its new megacity. It is expected to be operational by 2025.
E3G hydrogen analyst Lisa Fischer said the EU is developing guidelines on what constitutes “low-carbon” hydrogen and blue hydrogen, particularly if it comes from fracked shale gas, is likely to be excluded.
East Asia is the second largest hydrogen market. This market is more likely than South Korea and Japan to accept blue hydrogen. Saudi Arabia is involved in hydrogen negotiations with South Korea and Japan.
Saudi Arabia’s electricity has always come almost entirely from oil and gas but it is now planning to ramp up renewables and to build two large nuclear power reactors for power and smaller ones to power taking salt out of sea-water.
The kingdom’s abundant gas reserves and sun make it well-positioned to produce cheap blue and green hydrogen. Its competitive advantage in nuclear energy is less obvious.
While women have won more freedoms in Saudi Arabia in recent years, notably permission to drive cars, in 2021 the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index ranked Saudi Arabia 147 out of 156 countries.
There are no female government ministers in Saudi Arabia, women take up just 7% of managerial roles and earn a quarter of a man’s income on average, the report found.
Green hydrogen can be used to support fertiliser production and other industries such as the production of renewable energy and electrolysers.
Fischer suggested that these jobs would help Saudi Arabia transition away oil and gas while also keeping its people happy. “If you don’t have that many rents any more from your fossil fuels then you need some other way of keeping people happy, to manage the politics.”
Source: Climate Change News