The Middle East's ascent to green hydrogen leadership amid global innovations and waste-to-energy ventures

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Published: Wed 22 Nov 2023, 10:58 AM

The global energy landscape is undergoing a monumental shift as nations rally to embrace more sustainable and eco-friendly power solutions. At the epicentre of this transformation is the burgeoning hydrogen energy market, with the Middle East positioning itself as a pivotal player in the green hydrogen sphere.

By Mohsin AL Moharrak

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The world's increasing appetite for low-carbon hydrogen, including both blue and green varieties, is undeniable. Forecasts from Wood Mackenzie project a doubling in demand from 100 mega tonnes (Mt) in 2022 to a staggering 223 Mt by 2050. This surge, coupled with declining green hydrogen production costs, unveils a staggering $600 billion investment opportunity.

Central to this narrative is the Middle East's unique confluence of renewable energy resources, strategic geographical location, and infrastructural investments. Countries like Saudi Arabia are already making headway, boasting some of the world's lowest green hydrogen production costs, consistently hovering around the $2 mark per kg.

Yet, as the MENA region amplifies its hydrogen production capabilities, it simultaneously grapples with the challenges of distribution and transportation. Initiatives like the Global Ports Hydrogen Coalition, supported by the UAE are vital in fostering collaborative efforts to standardise and streamline the transportation of this precious resource.

Amid this global push, companies worldwide are doing their part. Nornickel, the world's leading palladium supplier, for instance, is exploring the use of palladium-based catalysts for hydrogen energy. Their innovative approach is a testament to the collective effort of businesses and nations alike, emphasising the shared responsibility in ushering in a greener future.

Recently, in a ground-breaking initiative, Dubai launched the world’s largest waste-to-energy project, the Dubai Waste Management Center (DWMC). It is a move towards a greener future and a key to the hydrogen economy in the MENA region. As the DWMC gears up to commence its operations, producing 80MWh of renewable energy by processing 2,000 tonnes of solid waste, a dozen promising companies across the region are exploring cutting-edge technologies to convert various types of waste into clean hydrogen fuel.

These innovators, eager to capitalize on the momentum, seek to drive the hydrogen economy forward, offering a greener, more efficient energy solution. Egypt’s Green Planet for Sustainable Environmental Solutions recently signed an MoU with US-based H2-Industries for a waste-to-hydrogen plant at East Port Said/Suez Canal Economic Zone. Fueled by organic and non-recyclable plastic waste, the plant will yield clean hydrogen fuel, marking a significant milestone in sustainable energy solutions.

Another path-breaking waste-to-hydrogen project has debuted in the Sultanate of Oman at an estimated investment of $1.4 billion. The Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (Madayn) and H2-Industries Inc. have partnered to establish the facility on a 200,000 sq meter plot along the Omani coast. As a part of the deal, H2-Industries will employ its proprietary technology to convert landfill waste through a thermo-chemical process, producing green hydrogen and pure carbon dioxide. The green hydrogen will then be transported and stored using the company’s patented Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier (LOHC) technologies, providing efficient extraction and conversion to electrical energy for end-users.

The next chapter in this energy transition story hinges on the Middle East's ability to capitalise on its inherent advantages. As the region shifts from smaller proof-of-concept projects to full-scale sustainable green hydrogen production facilities, it is poised to play a defining role in the global energy narrative.

As the world stands on the precipice of a green energy revolution, collaboration, innovation, and strategic investments will determine the trajectory of our sustainable future.

Mohsin AL Moharrak is a business journalist.

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