Green hydrogen to get attention in COP27

Mustafa Ahmed, Tuesday 25 Oct 2022

Several Arab countries are finding their way into the global hydrogen power market as part of the energy transition to fight climate change, reports Mustafa Ahmed

Green H2


This month, Germany received the first shipment of green hydrogen from the United Arab Emirates. Though a small batch, it marked the start of Europe shifting its energy sourcing to the Middle East in its effort to stop relying on depending on Russia for energy supplies.

Germany is scrambling to substitute natural gas imports from Russia while also staying on track for its ambitious goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2025. Germany used to be the main importer of Russian natural gas, now cut due to the war on Ukraine and sanctions imposed on Moscow.

Up until the war, Europe imported more than 40 per cent of its energy from Russia, and Germany in particular was importing most of its gas consumption via pipelines. After the war in Ukraine started earlier this year, and the West imposed harsh economic sanctions on Moscow, Russian gas supplies continued to drop.

Overall, the EU has been seeking other sources of energy and started to expand reliance on clean energy to stick to low carbon emissions. Energy-rich hydrogen gas has been on top of the list of energy options.

Since hydrogen is difficult to transport, it is sometimes stored as liquid ammonia. The Emirati shipment to Hamburg was modest: just a single container with 13 metric tons of ammonia.

But as the Associated Press reported, it was symbolic enough for German Economy Minister Robert Habeck to hold a joint ceremony with the UAE’s Climate Envoy Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber and the CEO of German metals manufacturer Aurubis which is testing the fuel to make copper wire.

The Emirati-German partnership was decided upon during Habeck’s visit to Abu Dhabi in March this year. The German Energy Ministry described it as “a significant step in the envisaged development of a comprehensive hydrogen value chain between Germany and the UAE.” In the ceremony at Hamburg port, Habeck said: “Today’s collaboration makes a double contribution: it supports the fulfillment of our climate goals and at the same time our energy security.”

Hydrogen is abundant but it is always associated with other elements in nature. To turn it into a power source it needs to be separated, either from fossil fuel, biomass or water. The operation is still expensive, but technological developments promise a reduction in cost to make it a viable clean power source.

Many studies show that innovative technologies to produce green hydrogen using clean and renewable energy are witnessing rapid developments and steady progress, indicating that green hydrogen production will increase by 57 per cent annually to reach 5.7 million tons in 2030.

There are many ways to separate hydrogen from water (H2O) or methane (CH4): either by gasification of natural gas or electrolysis of water. In natural gas reforming, synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and a small amount of carbon dioxide is created by reacting natural gas with high-temperature steam. In water electrolysis, an electric current splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Natural gas reforming using steam accounts for the majority of hydrogen produced in the United States annually, not necessarily using electricity from green sources. When the electricity is produced by renewable sources, such as solar or wind, the resulting hydrogen will be considered renewable as well, and has numerous emissions benefits.

The UAE aims to capture 25 per cent of the low-carbon global hydrogen market, the value of which is expected to reach more than $400 billion a year over five years. Meanwhile, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are embarking on hydrogen production projects. They are also developing green hydrogen production using electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind power. Days ago, Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman bin Abdel-Aziz announced the second edition of the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) Summit and the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) Forum, under the theme From Ambition to Action. The forum will be held on 11-12 November within the functions of the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Crown Prince Mohamed thanked Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for Egypt’s hosting of the two events, coinciding with the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27). In a statement carried by Saudi media, the crown prince said that COP27 “is an event bringing nations from around the world together under one roof to advance global climate ambitions by inspiring joint activity at the local, regional and international level.”

The statement also underlined the commitment of both Saudi Arabia and Egypt to collaborative action to address the environmental and climate challenges facing the region and the world.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 27 October, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

Short link: