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Alex Kimani

Alex Kimani

Alex Kimani is a veteran finance writer, investor, engineer and researcher for Safehaven.com. 

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Is The Middle East Becoming Unhabitable?

  • Climate report: Middle East and East-Mediterranean are warming up at nearly twice the global average.
  • The Middle East is set to overtake Europe as the biggest contributor of greenhouse gasses in a matter of years.
  • While the Middle East will remain a large emitter of greenhouse gases, it is also one developing impressive hydrogen solutions.

A climate report released ahead of the UN's COP27 climate summit in Egypt in November has revealed that the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean are heating at nearly twice the global average, threatening potentially devastating impacts on its 400 million residents and economies. The study, based on data for 1981-2019, found an average increase of 0.45ºC per decade across the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean region, way higher than the global average rise of 0.27 degrees per decade. The study covers the region stretching from Greece and Egypt in the west through to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and the Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates as well as Iran in the east. The report warns that barring swift policy changes, the region will face extreme heat waves, prolonged droughts and sea level rises. Without immediate changes, the region is on course to heat up by 5ºC by the end of the century, possibly exceeding “critical thresholds for human adaptability” in some countries, the report states.

Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute, which both provided support for the research, has written that people in these regions“will face major health challenges and risks of livelihood, especially underprivileged communities, the elderly, children and pregnant women.”

Alarmingly, the Middle East is set to overtake Europe as the biggest contributor of greenhouse gasses in a matter of years, the authors of the report have warned.

Lead author George Zittis has written that “business-as-usual pathways for the future” would expand arid climate zones, and the rising seas “would imply severe challenges for coastal infrastructure and agriculture”, particularly affecting Egypt’s densely populated Nile Delta.

Blue Hydrogen

Thankfully, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest oil exporter, is developing impressive green solutions.

Two years ago, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Saudi Aramco sent shockwaves through the natural gas markets after it announced that it was kicking off the biggest shale gas development outside of the United States. Saudi Aramco said it plans to spend $110 billion over the next couple of years to develop the Jafurah gas field, which is estimated to hold 200 trillion cubic feet of gas. The state-owned company hopes to start natural gas production from Jafurah in 2024 and reach 2.2 Bcf/d of sales gas by 2036 with an associated 425 million cubic feet per day of ethane. Related: Fitch Ratings: EU Will Not Get More Pipeline Gas from Russia Until Year End

Later, Aramco sprung another surprise after announcing that instead of chilling that gas and exporting it as LNG, it will instead use it to make much cleaner fuel: Blue hydrogen. 

Saudi Aramco CEO told investors that Aramco had abandoned immediate plans to develop its LNG sector in favor of hydrogen. Nasser said that the kingdom’s immediate plan is to produce enough natural gas for domestic use to stop burning oil in its power plants and convert the remainder into hydrogen. Blue hydrogen is made from natural gas either by Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) or Auto Thermal Reforming (ATR) with the CO2 generated captured and then stored. As the greenhouse gasses are captured, this mitigates the environmental impacts on the planet.

Back in 2020, Aramco made the world’s first blue ammonia shipment--from Saudi Arabia to Japan. Japan--a country whose mountainous terrain and extreme seismic activity render it unsuitable for the development of sustainable renewable energy--is looking for dependable suppliers of hydrogen fuel with Saudi Arabia and Australia on its shortlist.

Germany is gunning for massive amounts of green hydrogen, which it’s hoping to obtain from the Saudis first and foremost. To that end, Germany has committed to invest €9B in hydrogen technology in a  bid to decarbonize the economy and cut CO2 emissions. The government has proposed to build an electrolysis capacity of 5,000MW by 2030 and another  5,000MW by 2040 over the following decade to produce fuel hydrogen. This is even more critical now that the European economic giant is looking to cut itself off Russian energy supplies for good.

Saudi Arabia is now developing the biggest green hydrogen plant in the world.

With its sun-scorched expanses and steady Red Sea breezes, Saudi Arabia is prime real estate for renewable energy generation. The oil giant has, however, failed to put all that energy into good use--until now.

The Saudi government is building a $5 billion green hydrogen plant that will power the planned megacity of Neom when it opens in 2025. Dubbed Helios Green Fuels, the hydrogen plant will use solar and wind energy to generate 4GW of clean energy that will be used to produce hydrogen. And its current claim to fame is that it thinks it could produce hydrogen that is cheaper than oil. 

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimates that Helios’ costs could reach $1.50 per kilogram by 2030, way cheaper than the average cost of green hydrogen at $5 per kilogram and even cheaper than gray hydrogen made from cracking natural gas. Saudi Arabia enjoys a serious competitive advantage in the green hydrogen business thanks to its perpetual sunshine, wind, and vast tracts of unused land.

By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • hunter Johnson on September 12 2022 said:
    Is this the summet where all the Hippocrates take private planes to and from and tell everyone else they have to cut back on fossil fuels when there own carbon footprint is 5000% more than the average person? Yah I'll get right on that.

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