The hydrogen era for energy security

This photograph taken at French oil giant TotalEnergies platform on November 21, 2022, shows a former oil refinery as materials are decommissioned and dismantled on the site to be refitted on a "TotalEneregies bio fuel", hydrogen and solar installations in Grandpuits. (AFP/File)
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Updated 09 January 2023

The hydrogen era for energy security

  • Hydrogen is capable of providing cleaner, greener energy 
  • It can be turned into electricity, methane to power homes and industries

When energy security and climate action are the top priority for the world, modern-era hydrogen can be a game-changer to overcome the environmental crisis and provide a direction for energy security – hopefully in a cost-efficient manner. 

Hydrogen has an excellent capability to provide us with greener and cleaner energy sources: it's clean, safe, and eco-friendly, which makes it a highly desirable fuel.  It can be produced from a range of fuels, including nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas. The gas can also be produced through renewable energy sources in the form of green hydrogen, an alternative that reduces emissions. 

If hydrogen is to play a substantial part in clean, flexible energy systems, it will be due to its ability to store vast amounts of energy for long periods of time and transport it over great distances. Thus, the cost and availability of delivery infrastructure are crucial to make the most of this resource. As of now, hydrogen is most commonly stored as a gas or liquid in tanks for mobile and stationary applications on a small scale. 

The cost of storage and transportation can be very affordable if hydrogen is used near the site of its production. However, if the hydrogen must travel a long distance, the transmission and distribution costs could be three times as high as the cost of hydrogen production. Pipeline delivery of hydrogen is likely to be the least expensive option for distances under 1500 km, but shipping hydrogen as ammonia or as liquid organic hydrogen over that distance is probably more cost-effective.

It's also very interesting to note that the existing gas transmission pipeline network can be repurposed for hydrogen. This will not only save the time to include hydrogen in the mix quickly but, at the same time, the repurposing costs of existing gas transmission pipelines can be 10 percent to 35 percent of the costs of new dedicated hydrogen pipelines, as per the European Hydrogen Backbone report. 

Global hydrogen market 

The global hydrogen demand reached approximately 94 million tonnes (Mt) in 2021. China is leading the hydrogen global market with its current annual production of 33 million tonnes (Mt), 80 percent of which comes from fossil fuels. However, the country has ambitious plans to augment the production from cleaner fuels, with an aim to produce 200,000 tonnes of green hydrogen a year and have about 50,000 hydrogen-fuelled vehicles by 2025 as per the plan by the National Development and Reform Commission, and the National Energy Administration. 

When it comes to global hydrogen production, China is followed by the European Union, Japan, India, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Germany, United Arab Emirates, and Oman. The climate emergency and net zero emissions goals have certainly accelerated the hydrogen conversation and attracted countries toward hydrogen markets.  

Across the globe, over 40 national hydrogen strategies have been proclaimed as countries lay out action plans on hydrogen's potential to reduce emissions, guarantee energy security, and encourage sustainable economic growth. The need for hydrogen to achieve net-zero emissions is being acknowledged by stakeholders across industries, government, and now even by individual consumers.  

According to the “Future of Hydrogen” report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the demand for hydrogen in 2050 is anticipated to increase to 500–680 million MT. In terms of the market size, the hydrogen generation market is estimated at US$129 billion, estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.4%, leading to a market size of US$230 billion by 2030. At present, the majority of the hydrogen is being produced from fossil fuels, however, there is a huge opportunity to produce green hydrogen through affordable renewable resources, something which can be a key driver for energy security for many countries endowed with huge renewable energy potential.  

Despite the fact that hydrogen is a colorless gas, different colors are attributed to hydrogen based on the source and method of production, according to the Global Energy Infrastructure.

Promise of green hydrogen 

Out of all the types of hydrogen, green hydrogen is the cleanest form of hydrogen as it is produced by clean/renewable energy, using a process of splitting the atoms through electrolysis. Green hydrogen is certainly a renewed hope for meeting climate action goals.   

For instance, green hydrogen might currently be produced for between €3 and €5 per kilogram in some regions of the Middle East, Africa, Russia, the US, and Australia while the production expenses in Europe range from €3 to €8 per kilogram. In areas with access to affordable renewable energy plants, it is easiest to achieve the lower end of these ranges. The economic viability of producing green hydrogen has increased as a result of declining costs for renewable energy sources, decreasing electrolyzer costs, and more efficiency brought on by technological advancements. 

By 2050, green hydrogen may be produced for $0.70 to $1.60 per kg in most parts of the world, a cost comparable to natural gas if these costs continue to decline,  according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Transportation, distribution, and storage 

To scale production and use the hydrogen, transportation, distribution, storage methods, and costs are of immense importance.  

Over shorter distances, it is the most suitable option to transport hydrogen through pipelines. As hydrogen is a low-energy-density gas, it is costly to transport it over longer distances. There are certainly a number of possible ways to address this challenge by using technologies of compression, liquefaction, or turning hydrogen into ammonia and transportation in liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs).  

But storage is also a key consideration. Hydrogen production and on-site or near-site usage can reduce the costs, however, a number of use cases may require storage solutions. Hydrogen can be stored in tanks, salt caverns, and other geological storage solutions. And while the geological to purpose-built storages are all technically certainly possible, the same must be analyzed from the financial viability perspective, too.

Use cases of hydrogen 

In addition to being converted into fuels for automobiles, trucks, ships, and airplanes, hydrogen can also be turned into electricity and methane to power homes and supply industries. It can be converted into ammonia which can be feedstock for various industries, including the manufacturing of fertilizers. Does that mean that hydrogen can have an impact on food security? Perhaps yes.

Whatever the use case may be, it is important that hydrogen production, source, and use case ecosystem are planned very carefully to optimize resource allocation, ensure cost viability, and have a positive environmental impact. 

Hydrogen and net zero 

For some high-emission industries — such as long-haul transportation, chemicals, iron, and steel — hydrogen can be a major decarbonization source by reducing emissions in a meaningful way, and hence the initial demand may be coming from these hard-to-abate sectors. 

In the IEA’s Announced Pledges Scenario, the hydrogen demand is 130 Mt by 2030, which assumes that 25% of the demand will be coming from new applications and the use of low-emission hydrogen in traditional applications. This would certainly require stakeholders to plan for and implement robust policy actions.  

Appropriate planning and effective stakeholder engagement are absolutely key for policymakers, technology providers, innovation leaders, and industry specialists. With impactful collaborative solutions, the new hydrogen era can be a significant contributor to energy security, and an important driver in the pathway to net zero. At the same time, this may also address the vulnerabilities of emerging and developing countries, something that has been so evident during the recent global energy shocks. The future of hydrogen is undoubtedly a promising one. 

— The author is founder & CEO at Planetive Middle East & Pakistan 

COP28: Second day of leaders’ summit at UN climate talks

Updated 9 sec ago

COP28: Second day of leaders’ summit at UN climate talks

World leaders continue on their second day of speechmaking at the high-level session of the United Nations climate conference in Dubai to deliver their views on what their nation is doing and what they think others should do.

Friday saw leaders focus on the scale and imminent threat of climate change and the drastic action needed to curtail global warming before it becomes an even worse catastrophe.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took aim at fossil fuels. 

Saving the planet from climate change and keeping warming within the Paris Agreement's goal of 1.5°C means eliminating oil and gas use, Guterres said.

“Not reduce, not abate. Phase out,” the UN chief said.

The sickness of climate change is something only the world's leaders can cure, he said.

“We are miles from the goals of the Paris agreement and minutes to midnight for the 1.5°C limit, but it is not too late,” the secretary-general said. “We can — you can — prevent planetary crash and burn.”

The Israel-Hamas conflict also loomed large in the proceedings with several leaders voicing sympathy for the Palestinians in Gaza as the week-long ceasefire ended, and vigorous efforts to extend the truce collapsed.

Israel bombarded eastern areas of Khan Younis in southern Gaza right after the truce ended.

“This year’s conference of the parties must recognize even more than ever that we cannot talk about climate change in isolation from the humanitarian tragedies unfolding around us,” King Abdullah II of Jordan said in his speech.

“As we speak, the Palestinian people are facing an immediate threat to their lives and wellbeing. In Gaza over 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes. Tens of thousands have been injured or killed in a region already on the front line of the climate change.”

The high-level session was also a day of financial commitments, with host country UAE announcing the establishment of ALTÉRRA, the largest private climate vehicle, and a $30 billion commitment to the vehicle with the aim of mobilizing $250 billion of private-sector investment by 2030.

Cooperation with Saudi Arabia central to Japan’s green ambitions

Updated 02 December 2023

Cooperation with Saudi Arabia central to Japan’s green ambitions

  • ‘We are very dependent on other countries,’ Foreign Ministry press secretary says
  • Kobayashi-Terada Maki speaking as COP28 opens in Dubai

DUBAI: Japan must maintain close partnerships with countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE if it is to achieve its goal to be a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, its Foreign Ministry press secretary said.

Kobayashi-Terada Maki made the comments in an interview with Arab News Japan as COP28 opened in Dubai.

“We are very dependent on other countries in terms of energy, and even though we are going to increase energy efficiency, we certainly need means of energy production,” she said.

Japanese companies and entities would be signing cooperation deals throughout the climate summit in the UAE, she said.

Japan is one of the only G7 countries that is close to achieving its environmental goals. Kobayashi-Terada said the country was on track to reach its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent by 2030, compared with 2013 levels, and was working toward its goal of achieving net zero by 2050.

“We are on the right trajectory for really achieving our objectives right now. So that’s what we are very much proud of and we are very confident.”

The Japanese government has put in place a green transformation program, under which it aims raise 150 trillion yen ($1.02 trillion) in private-public investment to help achieve its goals.

“We are also using carbon pricing to subsidize companies that are heavy emitters to support energy efficiency,” Kobayashi-Terada said.

“By 2028, we will charge according to the amount of CO2 emissions for companies who are importing fossil fuels. By 2033, we are also pricing emissions so that the heavy emitters will pay for insurance. We will gradually increase this price so that companies can have incentives to reduce emissions.”

Later this month, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will host the Asia Zero Emission Community, which aims to encourage greater cooperation between Asian countries on reducing emissions.

“We will work together with Asian countries to utilize cutting-edge technology and also provide assistance to develop their capacity,” Kobayashi-Terada said.

Speaking at COP28, Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio said his government would increase its lending to the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

“We are going to be the first contributors and we will contribute $10 million,” the press secretary said.

* This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan, click here to read it.

New Lord Mayor of London hails maturity of Gulf economies

Updated 02 December 2023

New Lord Mayor of London hails maturity of Gulf economies

  • Michael Mainelli, heading to COP28 in UAE, says appointment of new UK foreign secretary will ‘help deepen connections with Saudi Arabia’
  • Mainelli tells Arab News he is ‘extremely impressed at the commitment to net zero’ in both Gulf states

LONDON: Maturation of Gulf states’ economies presents further opportunities to deepen the relationship between the region and the UK, the new Lord Mayor of the City of London told Arab News before departing for COP28 in the UAE.

Just a few weeks into the role and Michael Mainelli was on hand, like his predecessor, to witness yet another British Cabinet reshuffle.

But with the return to frontline politics of former Prime Minister David Cameron, Mainelli is optimistic that this will further strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia, one of several Gulf states to have announced participation in a £30 billion ($37.9 billion) investment pledge into the UK.

“When it comes to that investment it’s enormously welcome, but what I think is great is it shows how Saudi and other Gulf states have really matured their economies,” Mainelli said.

“They’ve gotten a better understanding of what they want to achieve with their sovereign wealth funds beyond just investments and returns, and that includes knowledge transfer. That’s really exciting as it offers two-way transference between us and them,” he added.

“With Cameron’s appointment (as foreign secretary), you get undoubted foreign policy expertise, including in the Gulf, which I think will prove a good move and help deepen connections with Saudi Arabia.”

Pushing the idea of London as a “hub of connectivity” appears central in Mainelli’s year-long tenure, which he said he is serving under the theme “Connect to Prosper.”

Asked where the Gulf figures in this, he replied: “The Lord Mayor typically spends 100 days traveling each year. Of this, three weeks will be in North America, three in Asia, after which a smattering of other countries.

“And then, interestingly, the Lord Mayor will typically spend two weeks of travel around the Gulf each year. This shows you just how important it is as a destination, being right up there with Asia and North America.”

COP28 in Dubai has been designed with a strict focus on carbon, which plays into Mainelli’s “personal ambition.”

While he would be “going in with an open mind,” he said he would also use the event to revive interest in the notion of voluntary carbon markets, which first emerged during COP3 in Kyoto in 1997.

“I believe there’s a lot more work to be done when it comes to carbon markets … but we do need to get these to work,” he added.

“The initial idea was to have emission trading permits and businesses paid to remove carbon from the atmosphere — typically this would involve planting trees or seagrass — with the idea being we reduce our environmental impact by taking it out of the atmosphere.

“But it became subject to a lot of issues, ranging from the difficulty of measuring to ensuring the carbon was sequestered properly, and frankly also issues of fraud and corruption.”

Despite the initial difficulties, Mainelli remains convinced that it is a feasible and practical solution to reducing carbon levels in the atmosphere.

“It’s just the market hasn’t been fully formed and the basis upon which prices are set not properly calculated,” he said.

Of particular concern is what he described as the “final bit,” adding: “Let’s say I pay you to for a ton of carbon offset a year over a 25-year period, which you agree to facilitate through the planting of a forest.

“Now let’s say having planted that forest, a hurricane hits and uproots the trees, or there’s an avalanche, perhaps there’s a parasite, and the trees are destroyed, maybe the soil doesn’t allow them to grow, or maybe at the end of the 25 years you simply chop the forest down.

“Were any of these to happen, then nothing really has been achieved. All that has happened is you’ve deferred 25 years of emissions.”

For Mainelli, the solution to the issue and restitution of carbon markets as a tool in the route to net zero resides in the “appropriate use of insurance,” which he said would put a financial impetus behind the idea and “drive clearer, harder standards.”

Of particular pertinence, he noted, would be the fact that insurers would not insure carbon capture sites without having conducted “sufficient due diligence.”

Insurers “would crawl all over whoever was planning to set up one of these carbon capture sites, and they’d want to know what trees were being used, where seeds were sourced,” he said.

“They’d survey the ground, they’d ask why it was located at the base of a mountain. They’d do all this, and not only would they insure the site, they’d be building knowledge.”

This, said Mainelli, would be pivotal as that increased understanding would serve to improve the means and methods of carbon capture deployed in these carbon markets, leading to standardization.

It is “fairly evident” that the Gulf is determined to find workable solutions to address the climate crisis, he added.

“I spent a week earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, and also spent a week last year in Saudi, really trying to understand the situation on the ground there, and I was extremely impressed at the commitment to net zero in both nations and in other areas,” he said.

Pointing to the 25 substantial hydrogen projects in place in the UAE and the 40 Saudi Arabia has in the pipeline, Mainelli said there is an opening for closer ties with the City of London.

While development of hydrogen production would always be of interest, he said there is also reason to considering the creation of a sufficient transport mechanism for getting this hydrogen out into the world. This, he added, offers “great potential for collaboration.”

Japan’s Saudi crude oil imports slightly up for October

Updated 01 December 2023

Japan’s Saudi crude oil imports slightly up for October

  • The amount was slightly up on September figures of around 29 million barrels
  • Tokyo’s ban on importing oil from Iran and Russia continued in October

TOKYO: Japan’s imports of Saudi crude oil for October reached 30.37 million barrels (42.4 percent of its total), according to Japanese government data.
The amount was slightly up on September figures of around 29 million barrels (37.1 percent).
During October, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said approximately 92 percent (65.95 million barrels) of the country’s total oil imports came from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain.
Tokyo’s ban on importing oil from Iran and Russia continued in October with the remainder of its requirement coming from the US (3.5 percent), Central and South America (2.2 percent), Southeast Asia (1.3 percent), Oceania (1 percent), and Indonesia (0.2 percent).
The figures represent the quantities of oil that arrived at refineries, tanks, and warehouses in Japanese ports during September. Japan uses oil to generate around one-third of its energy needs.

Japan on track to meet emissions targets, Kishida tells COP28

Updated 01 December 2023

Japan on track to meet emissions targets, Kishida tells COP28

  • But world must do more to achieve climate change goals
  • ‘Each country will aim to achieve net zero according to its circumstances,’ PM says

DUBAI: Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio said more action was needed if the world was to achieve its climate change goal of keeping temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.
Speaking at the COP28 climate summit in the UAE, Kishida said Japan was on track to reach its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent by 2030, compared with 2013 levels, and would continue to work toward its goal of net zero by 2050.
The country had already reduced its greenhouse gases by about 20 percent, he said.
As confirmed at the G7 Hiroshima Summit for economic growth and energy, and based on the GX (green transformation) Promotion Act, Japan has adopted a growth-oriented carbon policy.
Kishida said that Japan would next year become the first country in the world to adopt internationally certified transition bonds. At the same time, it would accelerate efforts to realize its green transformation and contribute to global decarbonization.
Under the framework of the Asian Zero Emission Community, Japan was committed to making renewable energy its main power source, he said.
Japan is currently the world’s third-largest producer of solar power and continues to diversify its clean energy supply chain.
“Each country will aim to achieve net zero according to its circumstances,” Kishida said.
“Coal-fired power plants that have not taken measures to reduce emissions should be addressed along the way. Japan has developed reduction measures for domestic coal without emission.”
He said Japan would end the construction of thermal power plants and was committed to providing $70 billion of public and private sector funding.
The country would also increase lending to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to the tune of $9 billion and additional contributions would be made to the African Development Bank, he said.
Separately, Kishida and Israeli President Isaac Herzog took part in a summit on the sidelines of COP28.
Kishida said he welcomed the agreement with Hamas to release hostages and allow more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, and asked for Israel’s cooperation to help make that happen.
He also stressed the importance of acting in accordance with international law and UN Security Council resolutions, and said Japan supported the two-state solution to allow Israel and Palestine to peacefully coexist.
Hertzog expressed his appreciation for Japan’s condemnation of terrorism and explained Israel’s position regarding the Gaza Strip, including its military actions there.