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Hydrogen Wars: The UAE And Saudi Arabia Are Battling For Dominance

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is in discussions with energy firms about stakes in projects, investments, and long-term contracts in the hydrogen industry, Bloomberg reports, citing sources familiar with the talks.

This is shaping up as another rivalry between the UAE and Saudi Arabia on top of the ongoing OPEC+ discord about oil production quotas.

ADNOC, the state-held giant pumping nearly all the oil in the United Arab Emirates, has already stated its ambition to explore the hydrogen market, especially that of blue hydrogen, produced by converting natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, with the CO2 then captured and permanently stored.  

Other Middle Eastern oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, are vying for a piece of the hydrogen pie as a growing number of governments pledge net-zero emission economies within three decades, while energy investors are increasingly looking at the green credentials of new projects.

ADNOC is now in search of investors to help it fund hydrogen export facilities, according to Bloomberg’s sources.

In April this year, ADNOC Group CEO and UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, said the state oil firm is keen to explore the hydrogen market with India’s public and private sectors to support India’s growing demand for energy and need for cleaner fuels.

Related: Qatar Walks Tightrope As It Eyes Global LNG Leadership

“Granted Hydrogen is still in its infancy, it could be a game-changer and a real opportunity to accelerate the broader energy transition. An opportunity that ADNOC and the UAE are well placed to capitalize on,” Al Jaber said in April.

A month earlier, ADNOC and Korea’s GS Energy had signed an agreement to collaborate on the potential development of new value chains for blue hydrogen and carrier fuels, such as blue ammonia, in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE will be competing with other oil producers in the Arab Gulf in the hydrogen market, which experts see growing significantly over the coming decades. The UAE’s top rival would be none other than the world’s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which aims to become a leader in the hydrogen market, too.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on July 08 2021 said:
    You must be joking. Hydrogen is too insignificant an energy source to cause a hydrogen war between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In 2020 roughly 87 Mt of hydrogen was produced worldwide amounting to a tiny 0.54% of global primary energy consumption.

    Whether green, blue or grey hydrogen is a non-starter. It is more expensive to produce than natural gas. Furthermore, it needs far more energy to produce than it will eventually provide.

    The cost is still a major obstacle. Producing green hydrogen from water by electrolysis using solar or nuclear energy is extremely expensive, at least twice that of fossil-based hydrogen and the quantity produced is minute. Also producing blue hydrogen from natural and grey hydrogen from fossil fuels is far more expensive than producing natural gas.

    If this is the case, wouldn’t be far more economical to skip the production of hydrogen altogether and use natural gas directly to generate electricity while employing carbon capture technologies to prevent CO2 being released?

    Why not use the solar electricity or nuclear energy used in producing hydrogen by electrolysis to enhance current electricity generation and make it cheaper to customers rather than using a convoluted process of electrolyzing it and then use it to generate electricity thus adding to customers’ costs.

    Furthermore, the heat generated from high temperatures produced by nuclear reactors could be used to generate more electricity in a combined cycle for use in industrial plants instead of hydrogen.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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