In any transition to net zero carbon, hydrogen will have its uses, and Gulf economies are signing up for that. Image Credit: Creative Commons

Traditional natural energy sources - such as petroleum and coal - propelled the Industrial Revolution, lifting millions out of poverty and helping drive extraordinary progress to shape the world. Facilitating the rapid expansion of industrial operations, agriculture, and transportation, these energy sources became the lifeblood of the modern economy.

As technology advances and views have changed, there are opportunities for energy diversification to meet new demand, preferences and opportunities. We are seeing a society-wide call for a transformation to introducing more renewables into the energy system that are ample, reliable, accessible, and affordable. This was evident during the COP26 conference, where many oil-producing countries across the region, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, set ambitious national goals to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within this century.

We must accept that an immediate transition to a renewable energy system is not possible. Therefore, it is important we start realistically and effectively, with clean and versatile energy solutions to set the wheels of global transformation in motion. One such promising solution among the many alternative energy systems KES is exploring is hydrogen fuel.

We’ve seen an increase in the use of high hydrogen fuels for a variety of applications. Hydrogen combustion products do not contain carbon and therefore do not release carbon dioxide during combustion. If hydrogen can be produced using renewable energy, it is also possible to minimize or even eliminate CO2 generation, depending on the process.

Future fuel

This further gives hydrogen and added emissions benefit as the absence of carbon in the fuel ensures no soot, carbon monoxide, or unburned hydrocarbons get released in the production process.

The production of hydrogen is not without its own challenges, as hydrogen fuels are still in the development phase with more R&D required to make them viable and sustainable large-scale solutions. Many of the issues related to hydrogen combustion can be mitigated through careful planning and design.

Oil and gas producers in the Middle East are particularly well-positioned to produce certain types of hydrogen as natural gas is relatively low cost and they already have the infrastructure in place to produce it. In fact, hydrogen has already started playing a crucial role in the energy transformation plan of nations across the region.

Saudi Arabia has been diverting significant resources to grow its production of hydrogen with the aim of becoming one of the world’s biggest producers. The country has also initiated development plans to build the first hydrogen plant in the Kingdom, powered entirely by sun and wind in the mega-city of Neom by 2025.

UAE is ahead in hydrogen push

The UAE has also entered the global race to harness the potential of hydrogen, kicking off the construction of the first hydrogen plant in the Middle East in 2021. Additionally, with the launch of its ‘hydrogen leadership roadmap’ at the UN Climate Change Conference, the UAE has also set a 25 per cent global market share target of low-carbon hydrogen by 2030.

Over the last decade, countries across the Middle East have established ambitions toward carbon neutrality and an array of green-hydrogen projects. This journey will not be simple. With hydrogen promising to achieve some of these ambitious goals, greater investments, resilient infrastructure, and commitment will be essential.