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 

Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia leads November’s funding spree with $338m

Updated 09 December 2023

Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia leads November’s funding spree with $338m

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s startup ecosystem continues to dominate the region after raising the most funds in the Middle East and North Africa during November.

According to Wamda’s Monthly report, the MENA region saw $764 million raised across 42 rounds in November – a 390 percent month-on-month increase and a 74 percent growth year-on-year.

Saudi Arabia topped the charts with $338 million secured across nine deals. The UAE came in second with $284 million across 22 deals and Egypt followed with $130.5 million over 5 deals.

Omniful provides merchants with a unified management system, warehouse management system, and transport management system to scale their businesses.

Furthermore, the remaining capital was raised by startups based in Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, and Tunisia.

Funding activity experienced a notable resurgence across all stages, with mega rounds constituting a significant portion of the capital influx.  

Noteworthy among these rounds were a $250 million debt round secured by Saudi Arabia-based Tamara, a substantial $200 million series D funding by the Kingdom’s Tabby, and a $130 million raised by Egypt’s MNT-halan through securitized bonds.

Collectively, these three rounds made up around 76 percent of the total funding raised during November.

In the recent funding landscape, the fintech sector emerged as the frontrunner in terms of funding volume, raising $485.9 million, primarily driven by the significant rounds raised by Tamara and Tabby.  


Noteworthy among these rounds were a $250 million debt round secured by Saudi Arabia-based Tamara, a substantial $200 million series D funding by the Kingdom’s Tabby, and $130 million raised by Egypt’s MNT-halan through securitized bonds.

This sector also ranked second in terms of the number of deals, recording nine in total. Furthermore, a notable boost to the super app sector’s funding status was recorded with the industry raising $131 million during the month, thanks to MNT-Halan‘s round.  

The education technology sector managed to secure $41.4 million in funding, largely due to a major transaction by Saudi Arabia-based Noon.

Additionally, several other sectors witnessed funding rounds reaching into the tens of millions.

Notable among these were Saudi-based Retailo’s $15 million, Saudi Ajras’ $28 million, UAE’s Flow48’s $25 million, and Emirati Immensa’s $20 million round.

Out of the 42 deals reported, 10 successfully attracted direct global investment, predominantly from US-based investors.  

Within the region, UAE-based investors took the lead, participating in 21 deals, with Modus Capital standing out through its investment of $2.8 million across eight startups via its venture builder program. Saudi Arabian investors followed closely, engaging in 10 deals.

In terms of founder gender dynamics, male-founded startups dominated the funding scene, securing $753 million across 29 deals, accounting for 98.5 percent of the total funding.  

In stark contrast, female founders received less than 2 percent of the overall capital, amounting to $9 million. Mixed-gender founding teams raised the remaining 0.2 percent.

Mtor’s founder and CEO, Mohamed Maged, established the startup in April 2022. (Supplied)

The report indicated that nine startups did not disclose their exact funding amounts. A conservative estimate of $100,000 was assigned to each of these ventures.

These were NOWmoney, Awfar, and Lynk, as well as Lath, Chari, Wayup Sport, and Winshot, Akhdar, and Farcana.

Supply chain and ecommerce enabler Omniful raises $5.85m to boost regional operations

Supply chain and ecommerce enabler startup Omniful, co-headquartered in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, has raised $5.85 million in a seed funding round.

Led by VentureSouq, the round saw participation from 500 Global, DASH Ventures, Jahez Group, as well as SEEDRA Ventures, Bunat Ventures, Hala Ventures, and RZM Investments, along with family offices including Al Rasheed, Siraj Holding, Al Bawardi, Al Nafea, and a number of angel investors.

Founded in 2022 by Mostafa Abolnasr and Alankrit Nishad, Omniful provides merchants and fulfillment providers with a unified management system, warehouse management system, and transport management system to scale their businesses.

Mostafa Abolnasr, Omniful cofounder and CEO

Abolnasr, also the company’s CEO, said: “The future of commerce is hyperlocal and omnichannel, with consumers expecting brands to be closer to them, to deliver faster and offer a personalized experience. At Omniful, we are equipping merchants in this $4 trillion industry with a single platform to manage all their sales channels and deliver on time and in full, improving their efficiencies by 40 percent and their customer retention by 15 percent.”

He added: “Our seed round marks a major milestone, and together with our investors, we are excited about going out of stealth and launching our sales and marketing efforts in the Middle East, Africa, and India, followed by Europe and US.”

The future of commerce is hyperlocal and omnichannel, with consumers expecting brands to be closer to them, to deliver faster and offer a personalized experience.

Mostafa Abolnasr, Omniful cofounder and CEO

The company aims to utilize its fresh influx of capital to boost its operations in existing markets, primarily the UAE and the Kingdom, as well as double down on its technology development.

Nishad, the company’s chief technology officer, said: “As a product-led organization, our technology is a clear differentiator, making us the platform of choice for omnichannel merchants and high-volume 3PL (third party logistics) fulfillment providers. Over the next year, we will double down on growing our technology capabilities in India, while also planning for the launch of our platform there.”

Egypt’s Mtor closes $2.8m in a pre-seed round

Egypt’s online car parts marketplace Mtor has closed a $2.8 million pre-seed funding round led by Algebra Ventures with participation from Dutch Founders Fund, Aditum Ventures, LoftyInc Capital Management, and angel investors.

Founded in 2022 by Mohamed Maged, Moaz El-Megharbel, Mohamed Altaf, and Khaled Kandil, Mtor aims to revamp the car parts industry in Egypt with a unified online platform.

“It can be a car owner’s nightmare to get their car serviced. Mtor was founded to fundamentally transform this reality and make the process easier and more efficient, empowering a layer of local car workshops that are well rounded with quality parts, a suitable price position, and a good customer experience,” Maged, CEO of Mtor, said.

The company aims to utilize the received funding to further grow its product range and expand its local workshop client-base.


Pakistan’s central bank releases ‘regulatory sandbox’ guidelines, seeks input for FinTech growth

Updated 08 December 2023

Pakistan’s central bank releases ‘regulatory sandbox’ guidelines, seeks input for FinTech growth

  • The emergence of high-tech companies for efficient service delivery has posed regulatory challenges for Pakistan
  • The regulatory sandbox approach has also been adopted by other countries to develop final set of rules for startups

ISLAMABAD: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) adopted a collaborative approach to developing a regulatory framework for startups and FinTech companies by issuing preliminary guidelines on Friday with an aim to test them against innovative products and business models before adopting the final set of rules.

The SBP’s “regulatory sandbox” approach is designed to provide a controlled environment for innovators to test their products and technologies, making it easier for the regulator to understand their implications for financial stability and consumer protection.

“State Bank of Pakistan has issued draft guidelines on regulatory sandbox for public consultation,” it said in a brief statement.

The SBP added this would allow the regulated entities, such as startups and FinTech firms, to participate in the process of testing new products and their preferred business models within the provided legal framework.

“As envisioned in SBP Vision 2028, the regulatory sandbox will encourage innovation in digital financial services and facilitate the existing and new market participants to build robust digital payments ecosystem in Pakistan,” the central bank explained in its statement.

“Similarly, it will help SBP to issue instructions and regulations for new and innovative FinTech solutions, ultimately resulting in increased financial and digital inclusion in the country,” it added.

The SBP said its initiative would strengthen its engagement with stakeholders in shaping the future of the country’s financial industry.

It invited banks, FinTech firms, industry experts, public and all interested parties to participate in the consultation process.

Pakistani startups, especially in fintech, e-commerce and logistics, have been attracting considerable investment from both domestic sources and international venture capital firms.

This burgeoning ecosystem, fueled by significant government support and a surge in digital adoption among a young, tech-savvy population, is said to be positioning the country as an emerging hub for technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

As the country increasingly depends on high-tech companies for efficient service delivery, it has been encountering various regulatory challenges.

The regulatory sandboxes approach has also been adopted by other countries, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia and Canada etc., among many others.

Each country’s sandbox is tailored to its specific regulatory environment and financial sector needs, though the core idea is to provide a space where new and potentially disruptive financial technologies can be tested safely and without immediately incurring the full burden of financial regulation.

Pakistan stock market crosses another historic milestone by surging past 66,000 points

Updated 08 December 2023

Pakistan stock market crosses another historic milestone by surging past 66,000 points

  • Analysts say the current bull run at the stock market is fueled by IMF program and policy measures for economic improvement
  • An economic expert asks the government to comply with the IMF standby arrangement to ensure macroeconomic stability

KARACHI: Pakistan equities on Friday hit yet another record high by breaching the 66,000-mark amid bullish sentiments built on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program and completion of its first review, rupee stability, and the government’s plan to raise Rs90 billion through Islamic bonds, equity analysts said.
The key stock index, KSE100, closed the weekend trading session at a historic high level of 66,223 after gaining 1,505 points, or rising 2.33 percent. During the trading week, the index collectively gained 3,730 points. The recent rally has increased the market capitalization from $31.3 billion to $32.8 billion in a week.
“The stocks closed at a new record surge and new all-time high amid rupee stability and the government’s plan to launch Rs90 billion worth of Ijarah Sukuks for retail investors to diversify funding sources,” Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of Arif Habib Corporation, told Arab News.
He attributed the bull run to falling external debt, the positive outcome of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid forum established to fast-track decision-making and promote investment from foreign nations, and expectations for a current account surplus in November 2023.
In a landmark development for the country’s financial markets, the federal government launched one-year Ijarah Sukuk earlier in the day from the platform of Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) in the first phase.
In total, the government plans to raise Rs90 billion through three auctions of the bond.
Speaking at the gong ceremony, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said Pakistan’s economy faced multiple challenges at the start of the financial year 2023-2024, but the government had tried to solve the structural and macroeconomic issues which helped improve the situation.
“I would like to thank the effort of all stakeholders to bring our economy back on track by lowering the exchange rate of dollar from all-time high of approximately 307 on September 5, 2023, in the interbank market to around 284 today,” he said.
Kakar maintained the capital market served as a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship and growth in the realm of finance.
“It provides fuel to business to expend, create jobs and contribute to overall development of society. As a part of federal government, we are committed to fostering an environment that nurtures and sustains this growth,” he added.
The prime minister said the capital market acted as a stabilizing force, absorbing shocks and steering the economy toward stability.
Economists say the current bull run is fueled by the successful completion of $3 billion IMF bailout program review, strong earnings growth and the steps taken by the government to discourage smuggling of various commodities and foreign currencies.
Pakistan expects another tranche of $700 million from IMF after the global lender’s board meeting on January 11, 2024.
“Pakistan stock exchange has tailwind of the IMF program, the completion of the first review, the enforcement measures by the establishment including curbing smuggling, de-dollarization and some improvements in the Afghan transit trade,” Dr. Khaqan Najeeb, former advisor to the finance ministry, told Arab News.
Going forward, he said the country would have to comply with the IMF standby arrangement to design another program for long term macroeconomic stability.
He noted this required more structural reforms in the economy after the new government takes over in the wake of the next general elections.

COP28: US-UAE climate-friendly farming effort grows to $17bn

Updated 08 December 2023

COP28: US-UAE climate-friendly farming effort grows to $17bn

DUBAI: Funding for a joint effort by the US and the UAE to advance climate-friendly farming around the world has grown to more than $17 billion, the countries announced on Friday at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, according to Reuters.

The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate was launched in 2021 at COP26 in Glasgow and its funding comes from governments, companies, and non-governmental organizations.

Globally, food and farming contribute about a third of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Nearly 80 projects have been announced under the AIM for Climate initiative since 2021, with goals to expand agricultural research, implement sustainable farming practices, and reduce methane emissions.

“I think it’s made people think about food and agriculture in a much different way,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference, adding: “And I think it’s reflected, frankly, in the fact that this COP ... has actually elevated food (and) agriculture to the point where it’s an integral part of COP meetings. That has not been the case for the previous 27.”

Funding for the effort has grown from $13 billion in May, when the US and the UAE co-hosted an AIM for Climate summit in Washington, and from $8 billion at COP27.

The new total includes $12 billion from governments and $5 billion from non-government parties such as companies and humanitarian organizations, said an AIM for Climate spokesperson.

The 27 new projects announced at COP28 range in size from $500 million to $150,000.

In one of the largest projects, companies including Bunge and Alphabet’s Google are working with the Nature Conservancy and the Brazilian state of Para to expand regenerative agriculture, which generally refers to practices like reduced tillage of cropland and lower pesticide use.

For the first time, agriculture is a major focus at this year’s climate summit, with a full day on Dec. 10 dedicated to food and farming topics.

“We understand that we need to speed up innovations ... to be able to transform agriculture food systems to more sustainable systems,” the UAE’s Minister for Climate and the Environment Mariam Almheiri told Reuters.

Advocacy groups want the nations and companies in attendance to pledge to tackle agricultural methane emissions in particular, most of which is from livestock production.

New KAPSARC-led analysis shows Saudi methane emissions 73% lower than IEA estimates

Updated 08 December 2023

New KAPSARC-led analysis shows Saudi methane emissions 73% lower than IEA estimates

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has the second-lowest methane intensity in oil and gas production when compared to other crude-producing countries, according to new research by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center.

Working in collaboration with global environmental intelligence company Kayrros, KAPSARC used satellite technology to analyze emissions from 2016 to 2022.

The findings show that the Kingdom’s oil and gas sector was responsible for approximately 780 kilotons of methane in 2022, second only to Norway.

The emission estimates developed by are around 73 percent lower than those reported by the International Energy Agency and the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research for the same year.

Fahad Alajlan, president of KAPSARC, said: “This stark difference underscores the groundbreaking nature of our findings, challenging existing norms and emphasizing the importance of our innovative approach in redefining our understanding of emissions in Saudi Arabia.”

The project estimates that methane emissions from the Kingdom’s oil and gas industry constitute only one-third of total releases, aligning with the most recent national greenhouse gas inventory submitted by the Saudi Clean Development Mechanism Designated National Authority in 2022.

Antoine Rostand, co-founder and president at Kayrros, said: “Producers should strive to emulate the Saudi model, introducing strong methane regulations to limit emissions of this potent greenhouse gas and using independent, verifiable, and reliable data to guide action.

“We’re pleased to be working with KAPSARC to advance the collective understanding of methane emissions and to be involved in this first-of-its kind practice.”

KAPSARC and Kayrros will present the project at the UN climate change conference in Dubai on Dec. 10, 2023, during a side-event session titled “Satellite Technology for Measuring and Tracking GHG Emissions.”