Abu Dhabi: As discussions are on to open the UAE’s second hydrogen station in Abu Dhabi, experts find a bright future for hydrogen as an alternative green fuel in the UAE.
“We are working closely with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), Masdar and Air Liquide [prominent hydrogen fuelling stations supplier] to explore the best solutions for the UAE, and serious discussions are being held regarding establishing our second station in Abu Dhabi,” said Saud Abbasi, Managing Director of Toyota at Al-Futtaim Motors, which unveiled last year the hydrogen refuelling station in Dubai, the first one in the region.
The company and its partners are looking into the feasibility of establishing a hydrogen stations network at key locations in the UAE, he told Gulf News.
Although hydrogen-run fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are not sold in the UAE now, the Toyota Mirai, a zero-emission FCEV, is currently being tested on the UAE roads as part of a pilot, he said. An FCEV is a type of electric vehicle that uses an on-board fuel cell, instead of a battery, to power its electric motor.
The pilot project aims to explore the potential of hydrogen energy use in the UAE for the creation of a sustainable, low-carbon society, he said. The company will be leasing a fleet of FCEVs to key government and private institutions on a short-term basis as part of the pilot to promote better understanding of FCEVs and hydrogen-based societies, Abbasi said.
Meanwhile, experts taking part in Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week said the UAE and neighbouring GCC states have the potential to build a viable hydrogen economy thanks to their compact geography, surging supplies of solar energy and readily adapted infrastructure.
“Most of the existing infrastructure that currently serves the oil and gas sector could eventually be converted, at a low cost relative to building new infrastructure, to perform similar functions for hydrogen,” said Frank Wouters, who will speak about the development of a hydrogen society at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.
“We have this great opportunity to basically convert the hydrocarbon industry into a hydrogen economy,” he said. “That’s a real avenue to the future for the oil and gas sector, which is at the heart of the economy in this place. That’s why it makes sense,” Wouters said.
The FCVCs can be used for mass transit and logistics applications also. A hydrogen fuel cell train is expected to begin passenger tests in 2018, while hydrogen fuel cell trucks are being piloted by the Port of Los Angeles. In Japan, Toyota will be introducing over 100 fuel cell electric buses ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“This is an area where I can see [hydrogen fuel cell vehicles] being quickly implemented because everything is under control and everything is run to a schedule,” said Dr Peter Tollkuehn of Siemens Corporate Technology.
Although such situations exist all over the globe, in the UAE and other Gulf states they can be more easily paired with local hydrogen production.
This capacity to generate hydrogen using clean renewable energy will be one of the cornerstones of building an environmentally effective hydrogen economy, he said.
Environmental credentials of hydrogen-run cars
The hydrogen stations, including the proposed new one in Abu Dhabi, will cater to Toyota Mirai, a zero-emission electric car that runs on hydrogen and being tested on the UAE roads.
This car does not require external charging, as it creates the electricity on-board through a Fuel Cell Stack, said Saud Abbasi, Managing Director of Toyota at Al-Futtaim Motors.
Fuelled entirely by hydrogen stored in an impact resistant tank, the car combines oxygen from the atmosphere with hydrogen from its tank to produce safe, clean electric power on-board, emitting only water vapour as by-product. It can run up to 500 kilometres, just like conventional petrol engine cars of the same size and is filled in Hydrogen in less than 5 minutes, just like regular petrol engine cars, Abbasi said.
The car is not available for sale now in the UAE. Internationally, the production of the car is still limited, but in the US, for example, it is sold at around $57,000 (Dh209,190) but comes with $8,000 federal tax credit and $5,000 potential rebate, he said.
Given the UAE’s special weather conditions, hydrogen becomes an excellent weather-independent energy storage solution, and can be produced using renewable energy sources like solar, wind, water, sewage, biogas and other natural energy sources, Abbasi said.