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Scaling up green hydrogen: a panel discussion

Astrid Poupart-Lafarge, global segment president, Energies and Chemicals at Schneider Electric. (Image source: Schneider Electric)

At ADIPEC this year, members from the industry looked at ways to decarbonise their business. At the same time, they looked at solutions to move away from fossil fuels. However, using new and innovative energies such as hydrogen, is not an easy task, writes Sania Aziz

Because the potential of the resource is not yet fully understood, the industry must find ways to use it in an optimised way. One of the most important things to keep in mind is technology. A lot of the technology already exists, but collaborations between governments and businesses are important. 

At the panel session, Mohammad Abdelqader El Ramahi, chief green hydrogen officer at Masdar, explained that the UAE and its surrounding countries have built their legacy on gas infrastructure. He added that the goal is not to replicate and rebuild the new infrastructure for hydrogen. 

“Where resources such as land are available, spread from Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Of course, we have Egypt and Morocco in the west. These countries are the perfect location to export and to feed Asia as well,” said Francois Dao, vice president, Middle East & Africa at EDF Renewables, who looked at how hydrogen can be exported from the region. 

Stephan Gober, senior vice-president, hydrogen – AMEA at Engie, agreed with Mohammad and said that this is “making this region very unique in that sense.”

“Yet, there's a lot of challenges when you really dig into the details and alignments on standardisation of the end product. So definitely, on paper, we've researched and seen that the potential of the resource in the region is amazing. 

The reality is that it still takes time to find proper commitment due to lack of push from either government or shareholders of large industries, to find the solution to decarbonise because at the end of the day, it is based on the price at the moment. Looking at the oil and gas price today, which is not at all comparable to last year. That is adding some challenges to find this commitment.”

NEOM contains the world's largest green hydrogen plant, covering more than 300,000 sqm. Yako J. Wijnands, VP - Operations at NEOM Green Hydrogen Company, added to the discussion surrounding cost and scale. Explaining that the first step to scaling is finding the ideal location, along with the right infrastructure. 

“Our green hydrogen facility will be shipping ammonia. So it needs to be on a location where you can build the jetty and we need to have an ideal location where we can be based. So first, you start with your infrastructure.

“And then really you need to talk about technology and integration. We're building a dedicated facility for renewables and transmission, fully integrated with the green hydrogen and green ammonia production. And for that you need your technology partners.” 

Astrid Poupart-Lafarge, global segment president, Energies and Chemicals at Schneider Electric, positioned her company as the ideal technology partner. 

“Speaking about green hydrogen, this industry is an old industry and a new industry at the same time, one that needs to reinvent itself. We’re leveraging decades-old capabilities around process industries.

However, we need to look at new technologies, especially on the safety side, because hydrogen is very explosive.”

“The second thing is that we need to mature a new industry in an extremely fast space. The power industry was built over the last 100 years. Process industries, refineries and petrochemical know-how was built over the past decades, 50 years at least. 

“And now we speak about hydrogen, which we need to develop in a few years. We are not talking about decades. We may talk about years, and to accelerate that pace of development of the know-how, we believe digital will be a key enabler.”

For this, Astrid explained that the industry will need to train people faster. 

Mohammad ended the conversation by saying that “we hope and wish that the international community also accelerate their commitment through governance.”

Adding that they can help incentivise businesses for growth [of hydrogen], Mohammad said that subsidies /  support mechanisms can also help accelerate the scaling up of hydrogen.

“As you know, global players in the region such as IRENA can also aid in the energy transition. We would need to embark on connecting with each other and enabling green hydrogen to reach its phase, hopefully before the end of this decade.”