Reasons why hydrogen might be the answer to the sustainable transportation problems of the Middle East
The electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in a hydrogen fuel cell generates both electricity and water. When applied in reverse, electrolysis can extract "green" hydrogen and oxygen from water, which can then be used to fuel sustainable power generation via a variety of renewable energy sources (wind, wave, sun). Hydrogen power is gaining popularity as a sustainable energy option since it can generate both heat and water as a byproduct. Electrolysis, a high-energy process, and renewable energy sources are used to make green hydrogen, however this method is expensive and accounts for just around 5 percent of the world's H2 production.
For decades, proponents of hydrogen as a fuel source have been met with scepticism; despite this, the technology has never been implemented on a significant scale. Hydrogen fuels require renewable energy in order to be green, and this is cited as one of the main reasons why there hasn't been a more widespread acceptance of green hydrogen technologies. As a result, there has to be a significant increase in renewable energy production to fuel the electrolysis units that separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. In contrast, "natural gas reforming" is still the most popular method of producing hydrogen at now. This method, which uses natural gas as the fossil fuel input and steam to make hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide, has been around for quite some time. Hydrogen produced in the conventional manner from methane is known as "grey hydrogen" because of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that occur during the process.
Hyundai Places Huge Bet on Hydrogen Power, Activating Fuel Cell Vision 2030 for the UAE and Africa
Nonetheless, Hyundai appears dedicated to promoting it as the preferred fuel in the UAE and Africa in the near future. In some regions, Hyundai is already manufacturing and selling fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) that run on hydrogen. Santa Fe FCEV, the world's first mass-produced hydrogen-fueled vehicle, was recently unveiled by a Korean automaker.
Hyundai is currently considering fuel cell technology of the next generation, which will undoubtedly involve more innovation and will be more forward-looking. Hyundai aims to use this to promote greener modes of transportation in the United Arab Emirates and Africa.
This development is consistent with Hyundai's "Fuel Cell Vision 2030" strategy unveiled in December 2018. This plan outlines Hyundai's intentions to expand fuel cell use beyond automobiles to include ships of varying sizes, railcars, drones, and power generators.
For the foreseeable future, fossil fuels (methane gas reforming) will remain the primary source of hydrogen production worldwide. While the prices of production are likely to drop significantly as more mature renewable power generation technologies and capacities are rolled out, the manufacturing capacity for more efficient and cost-effective electrolysers is expected to expand. Hydrogen production and bulk storage will play a significant role in balancing the intermittent supply of energy from renewable energy sources with end-user demands, which is essential for the development of a secure, resilient, and decarbonized energy system (ie. for grid electricity, domestic and industrial heating and fuel for transportation). Though the pros and cons of hydrogen fuel cells continue to be debated, it is generally agreed that hydrogen can be used to power and propel a broad variety of industrial machinery and means of transportation, and that it is a more environmentally benign alternative to fossil fuels.
In order to jumpstart a hydrogen economy, the GCC nations are formulating plans. Particularly ambitious are plans by Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to provide the carbon-friendly fuel to markets in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Agreements to collaborate on numerous scaled-up projects have been signed, and construction has begun. Hydrogen is more than just a diversification strategy for the Gulf states. Because of its compatibility with the petroleum industry's existing infrastructure, the hydrogen economy represents a significant opportunity for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) economies to preserve their current economic and political hierarchies. Germany and Europe face trade-offs and unresolved questions despite the fact that hydrogen from the Gulf is an effective tool for mitigating climate change.
One-third of the world's oil reserves and one-fifth of the world's natural gas reserves are located in the six countries that make up the GCC: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman. The countries of the Persian Gulf have recently shown off their lofty goals for a hydrogen economy. There are ideal conditions for the production of green hydrogen due to high solar outputs and an abundance of land (from renewable electricity). Blue hydrogen can also be created through the use of natural gas reserves and the right kind of geology (produced from natural gas with carbon capture). The economies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are excellent pioneers in the hydrogen economy due to their access to abundant money, streamlined decision-making, and preexisting infrastructure. Hydrogen, however, provides the Gulf states with much more than just diversity; it enables them to retain economic and political influence even in a decarbonised world.
Saudi Aramco will produce hydrogen-powered cars
Saudi Aramco has announced intentions to create hydrogen-powered vehicles and develop related technologies at the company's advanced innovation centre in order to capitalise on regional trends that are bringing the hydrogen economy to the region. "Saudi Aramco is engaging with key motor manufacturers and technology developers to support developing internal combustion engine models, technologies with fewer emissions, and efficient hybrid solutions," said Ahmed al-Saadi, senior vice president for Aramco's technical services. Hydrogen "has the potential to enable emissions reduction in the transport industry," Al-Saadi told media, "especially in segments that are hardest to decarbonize — such as heavy-duty vehicles." "Aramco is planning to develop technology for hydrogen vehicles and bring production of these cars to Saudi Arabia through its Advanced Innovation Center (LAB7)," he said.
According to Aramco, the deal between the two companies would result in the construction of a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia for hydrogen-powered on-road and off-road vehicles. To begin, the companies will investigate the potential for "a manufacturing plant and a hydrogen distribution business to serve the Middle East region," as the company puts it. The two firms also reached an agreement for Aramco's LAB7 centre to play a significant role in Gaussin's work on hydrogen-powered vehicles and the creation of a hydrogen-powered, radio-controlled/autonomous racing truck. According to the firm, the goal of LAB7 is to incorporate Aramco's composite materials into Gaussin's existing line of products in order to lessen the load on the environment, the amount of energy needed to power the vehicles, and the price tag. According to Robin Mills, CEO of Dubai-based Qamar Energy, "there is the aim at least from Neom that a portion of this might go to supplant diesel in automobiles." The kingdom "has substantial hydrogen production plans, both blue and green." Since batteries seem to be preferable for light vehicles, Mills believes that this news should be focused on this sector rather than on passenger cars or SUVs.
Ambitious Blue Hydrogen Strategies
Saudi Arabia plans to increase the percentage of gas and renewable energy for power generation to 50% each by 2030 as it works to reduce its reliance on crude oil, fuel oil, and diesel. The country has a lot riding on the success of its $110 billion Jafurah unconventional gas initiative, and a substantial chunk of that money will go toward producing blue hydrogen. Its energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz, recently stated that the country aspires to manufacture and export around 4 million tonnes of hydrogen by 2030, positioning itself as a key worldwide participant in the hydrogen industry.
Investments in hydrogen infrastructure totaling $24 billion have been announced worldwide through 2030, with the Middle East receiving 15% of those funds. According to a research by the Hydrogen Council, over 50% have come from the Asia-Pacific region, while 25% have come from Europe. It was noted in a study published on September 23, 2022, that funding for hydrogen infrastructure, which includes filling stations, pipelines, terminals, and ships, is "especially behind." According to the paper, "just 10% of already proposed expenditures focus on hydrogen infrastructure," indicating an investment gap of nearly 85% to the required $200 billion in spending through 2030.
Saudi Arabia will be the source of the new fuel
For the past four years, a major US gas business, Air Products & Chemicals, has been working with Neom to construct a green hydrogen facility in Saudi Arabia. The four gigawatts of electricity used by the facility come from numerous wind and solar farms in the surrounding desert. More plants in Saudi Arabia are planned, making this initiative the largest green hydrogen project in the world. Green hydrogen is not only a Saudi dream; other countries are looking at it seriously, too. Despite the fuel's low profile in the United States, a global green hydrogen rush is currently occurring because to the widespread belief that hydrogen has the potential to end the dominance of fossil fuels and slow the world's warming trajectory.