Work on NEOM’s green hydrogen plant likely to start in H1 2022

Paddy Padmanathan, ACWA Power CEO
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Updated 17 October 2021

Work on NEOM’s green hydrogen plant likely to start in H1 2022

  • What we have already said is that we will be dispatching liquid ammonia into the market in the first quarter of 2026, so that’s already there: ACWA Power CEO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy company, ACWA Power, expects construction work on its green hydrogen plant in NEOM to start in the first half of 2022, according to the company’s CEO.

“This is the first project of that scale and quite a lot of work had to be done for the first time. So, we are very much in it, and we are already in even doing some work in advance purchases of long lead items for construction. So, there is quite a lot of activity that is going on,” Paddy Padmanathan told Arab News in an interview.

The CEO of ACWA expected to also see the financial closing of the project, a joint venture with NEOM Co. and American industrial gas company Air Products, taking place in the first half of the next year. The joint venture had hired financial firm Lazard to advise on the project, he told Arab News last month.   

“We are going to full construction as soon as we have achieved the financial closure. What we have already said is that we will be dispatching liquid ammonia into the market in the first quarter of 2026, so that’s already there,” he added.

ACWA Power, which debuted on Saudi Arabia’s stock market on Oct. 4, expects to finalize in the first quarter of next year billions of dollars in financing for a green hydrogen joint venture at the planned futuristic city NEOM, ACWA’s CEO told Reuters last week, adding that roughly 20 percent of the $6.5 billion project will be funded with equity and the rest will be limited-recourse project finance.

Padmanathan believes that NEOM’s project will be a game changer for the Kingdom and the company as it will help ACWA expand into that industry once it’s completed. The plant will need around 4.3 GW of clean energy to power it and ACWA plans to use solar in the day and wind in the night to eliminate the need for batteries and expensive storage solutions, he told Arab News.

In July 2020, Air Products, in conjunction with ACWA Power and NEOM, announced the signing of an agreement for a $5 billion world-scale green hydrogen-based ammonia production facility powered by renewable energy. The planning and design phases are currently underway to start construction in NEOM’s new industrial city.

This joint venture is the first step for the NEOM region to become a key player in the global hydrogen market. The business is expected to build an environmentally friendly hydrogen production facility to provide sustainable solutions for the global transport sector and to meet the challenges of climate change.

The project, which will be equally owned by the three partners, will export hydrogen in the form of liquid ammonia to the world market for use as a biofuel that feeds transportation systems.

It will produce 650 tons of carbon-free hydrogen per day and 1.2 million tons of green ammonia per year, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent of 3 million tons per year.

ACWA Power, which operates in 13 countries, is bidding for renewable energy projects in Uzbekistan, Egypt, South Africa and Indonesia, as well as a large pipeline of projects in Saudi Arabia, the CEO said.

The company, which the Public Investment Fund is a key shareholder in, uses project finance to fund all of its projects but it will continue investing around SR2.8 billion a year of its own money into these projects to keep growing, Padamanthan told Arab News last month.

ACWA Power is planning projects this year with a total investment cost of around $16 billion, ACWA’s CFO told Arab News in July.


Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets

Updated 07 December 2021

Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets

  • The Saudi capital has seen the birth of 288,000 square meters of new developments since 2016

RIYADH: More than two-thirds of Riyadh’s new restaurants are Saudi, dwarfing American and Lebanese influenced eateries, according to a report from real estate firm Knights Frank.

The Saudi capital has seen the birth of 288,000 square meters of new developments since 2016, when the National Transformation Plan was announced, the research says.  “The Kingdom’s capital is beginning to morph into a foodie’s treasure trove and we’re not done yet,” Faisal Durrani, head of Middle East research at Knight Frank said. 

This growth is led by homegrown restaurants and cafes, he added, with 68 percent of Riyadh’s new outlets being Saudi — 21 percent of which specialize in international cuisine. 

“American food outlets account for 16 percent of food and beverage outlets, while Lebanese restaurants are the third most prevalent at 13 percent,” Durrani said. 

The US and the UAE are the second and third largest sources of restaurant chains in Riyadh, respectively, he added.

“International brands must adapt their proposition across the full spectrum to suit demand, both in terms of operational aspects, as well as the actual menu offering itself,” said Pedro Riberio, head of retail advisory KSA at Knight Frank. The Kingdom’s capital will further benefit from upcoming tourism developments, including the Bujairi Terrace and Diriyah Gate, which the Knight Frank report said will add “15,000 sq. meters of lifestyle retail space to the capital when its 17 restaurants open their doors in 2022.”

This rapid growth and competition are putting pressure on older developments, the report indicated, with some operators struggling to keep vacancy rates and footfall up.


Saudi desalination corporation reveals environmental sustainability road map

Updated 06 December 2021

Saudi desalination corporation reveals environmental sustainability road map

  • Kingdom’s plans for improving environment, combating climate change, reaching carbon neutrality shared at global industry forum

JEDDAH: A Saudi government institution responsible for the desalination of seawater has revealed its road map to achieving environmental sustainability at a major international industry conference.

Officials from the Saline Water Conversion Corp. shared their Saudi Green Initiative action plans — aimed at improving the environment, combating climate change, and reaching carbon neutrality ­— at a recent forum in London attended by more than 90 global leaders and investors.

By taking part in the event, the SWCC not only hoped to strengthen its world leadership role in the desalination industry, but also look at ways to further reduce production costs while increasing the involvement of relevant Saudi companies and organizations in current and future projects.

Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan was among forum delegates who heard how the corporation was focused on enhancing the use of clean energy sources in place of thermal heating systems.

Addressing the meeting, Saleh Al-Mana, the SWCC’s assistant deputy governor for technical affairs and projects, said that by reusing water and recycling filters in production systems, and developing engineering principles in technical designs for beneficiaries including the agriculture, industrial, and urban sectors, the transition to low carbon activated the circular economy.

The corporation has been working on initiatives to achieve environmental sustainability in all areas of desalination supply, from production to transportation.

At the Saudi Green Initiative forum held in Riyadh in October, the Kingdom revealed its blueprint for dealing with climate change by increasing the reliance on clean energy, protecting the environment, and offsetting millions of tons of carbon emissions annually by 2030.

The country was investigating more ways to produce, treat, and distribute water locally using energy systems that ensured sustainable growth.

The initiative aims to protect the marine environment by investing in zero liquid discharge systems, a wastewater management system that extracts salts and minerals and converts them into products of high economic value for use in the industrial sector.

Earlier this year, the SWCC set a world record for the lowest energy consuming desalination plant.

The transition to a low-carbon future will be a complex process. Alternatives will take significant time and sustained investment to meet the rising global energy demand.


Egypt to launch natural gas-powered bus fleet in 2022

Updated 05 December 2021

Egypt to launch natural gas-powered bus fleet in 2022

CAIRO: Egypt will launch its first fleet of buses powered by natural gas next year, Minister of Public Enterprise Hisham Tawfik has said.

About 70 percent of the components used in the manufacturing of the buses will be sourced locally, in cooperation with several Egyptian companies, he said.

Tawfiq said that the fleet will include buses that can accommodate 14 to 50 passengers, and that the goal of the project is to localize technology and transport production.

“Our strategy is to work in the production of environmentally friendly vehicles, whether they run on natural gas or electricity,” he added.

A delegation from the Belarusian Minsk Automobile Plant signed a contract to supply production materials for the project.

Production is expected to begin in mid-2022, with a target of 250 buses completed per year.

Tawfiq welcomed cooperation with the Belarusian side, especially in light of the distinguished relations between the two countries, which have developed significantly in recent years.

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IMF likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to omicron threat

Updated 05 December 2021

IMF likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to omicron threat



WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund is likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, the global lender’s chief said at the Reuters Next conference on Friday in another sign of the turmoil unleashed by the ever-changing pandemic.
Omicron has spread rapidly to at least 40 countries since it was first reported in South Africa last week, officials say, and many governments have tightened travel rules to try to keep it out.
“A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence, and in that sense, we are likely to see some downgrades of our October projections for global growth,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told the conference.
Much remains unknown about omicron. Researchers said it could have picked up genetic material from another virus, perhaps one that causes the common cold, which would allow it to more easily evade human immune system defenses.
Georgieva said the fund is also looking at all of its research processes in order to ensure the its data integrity in the wake of a data-rigging scandal at the World Bank.
“Is there something more that can be done, and we are looking at all the processes — are they sufficiently up to date with what others are doing?” Georgieva said.


YouGotaGift — region’s first marketplace for digital gift cards

Updated 06 December 2021

YouGotaGift — region’s first marketplace for digital gift cards

YouGotaGift is the region’s first marketplace for digital gift cards. It is an end-to-end digital platform that connects prepaid cards from top retail brands to consumers and businesses. 

Its prepaid cards are completely digital, meaning customers can buy them online and have them delivered instantly by email or SMS. 

It works with over 700 retail brands, reaches over 5 million users and serves over 2,000 corporates.  

YouGotaGift was originally founded in 2013 in the UAE by CEO, Husain Makiya, Marketeer Abed Bibi, and Honeybee Tech Ventures (incubator), and further backed by a major regional VC, namely MEVP (Middle East Venture Partners).

It began operating in Saudi Arabia in 2014, with its first significant banking client in the Kingdom. It is now operating across the Gulf Cooperation Council and beyond with multiple offices across the region. “Our consumer business offers our global users the convenience to send personalized e-gift cards to celebrate friends, family, and colleagues,” Makiya told Arab News.

“As a fully registered Saudi company, we have massively expanded our business in the Kingdom and greatly scaled up our team on the ground over the last 18 months, spearheaded by Fawziah Al-Hoshan, as general manager,” he added.

Al-Hoshan is a Saudi woman with a decade-long career in business and HR with Saudi corporates and multinationals, including Olayan Group and Pepsico. Makiya said the Kingdom is witnessing tremendous economic growth and the emerging talent pool is highly energized to engage in new roles and career opportunities offered by such companies as YouGotaGift. 

He said YouGotAGift is the first to bring this category of gift cards to the Kingdom. “Our collection of gift cards were first incorporated by National Commercial Bank for their loyalty program LAK,” he said. “It was a pivotal move toward adding a digital redemption process for customers who were used to traditional physical products or gift cards as a reward for their loyalty toward a program.”

Since then, it has integrated with over 800 businesses in the Kingdom to digitize their rewards and incentives programs for both employees and customers.

“With Saudi Vision 2030 well on its way, tremendous efforts from the government to push digitization in every aspect of life has also contributed to a ‘never-before’ level of interest for e-gift cards amongst consumers,” he said.

Makiya explained that corporates and individual customers have both identified various ways to use these cards over the last 18 months; from traditional incentives and rewards to sending Eidiya or just helping the ones in need during the pandemic.

“It’s a clear sign that they’re here to stay,” he said. Makiya said the global gift card business is expected to cross $2 trillion by 2027, adding: "In our part of the world, we expect the eGift Card market alone to reach $1.2 billion dollars by 2024, of which at least $700 million will be attributed by the Kingdom."

“For businesses and government entities, e-gift cards are the No.1 most in-demand method to reward their employees and customers, and the adoption rate of these cards in the Kingdom outweighs that of the entire region driven by the digital transformation of Vision 2030,” he added.