Saudi Aramco signed five agreements with French companies on Saturday, including a deal with Gaussin that aims to set up a manufacturing plant in the kingdom for on-road and off-road hydrogen-powered vehicles, the company said.
The agreements were signed in Jeddah at an event organised by the Ministry of Investment to explore opportunities for French companies in Saudi Arabia, during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron who arrived in the kingdom as part of his tour of several Gulf Arab states, including the UAE.
As part of the agreement between Aramco and Gaussin, the two companies will explore the feasibility of a manufacturing plant and a hydrogen-distribution business to serve the Middle East region, Aramco said.
The two companies also agreed that Aramco’s Advanced Innovation Centre (Lab7) will be take part in Gaussin’s development of hydrogen-powered vehicles and the development of a remote controlled or autonomous hydrogen racing pickup truck.
Lab7 aims to integrate Aramco’s composite materials into Gaussin’s existing range of products to reduce the weight, energy consumption and cost of these vehicles.
“This partnership is a continuation of Aramco’s long-standing relationship with a number of leading French companies," said Amin Nasser, Aramco president and chief executive.
"It represents an opportunity to promote hydrogen as a low-carbon solution, not just for motorsport, but eventually for mass transportation as well."
"Such collaboration helps us to advance economic growth in the kingdom as part of the Namaat industrial investment programme and takes us a step closer to our shared vision of a more sustainable future,” Mr Nasser said.
In October, Aramco, the world’s largest oil-exporting company, unveiled plans to achieve an ambitious target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as part of the kingdom's overall goal to neutralise its emissions by 2060.
In the same month, Mr Nasser urged countries not to "demonise" hydrocarbons as the world rapidly transitions to cleaner forms of energy.
"What we need to do is work in parallel: we need to work on our existing sources of energy and, at the same time, [bring] in new sources of energy like renewables and hydrogen, and this is exactly what we are doing," he said at the time.
In addition to its deal with Gaussin, Aramco will also sponsor the world’s first hydrogen-fuelled racing vehicle, developed by the French company. The vehicle will compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.
Other preliminary agreements signed include a non-binding deal to evaluate low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia production, logistics and back-cracking technology with Air Liquide, the world's second-largest maker of industrial gases.
An additional non-binding deal with Air Liquide will explore carbon capture and sequestration opportunities.
Aramco also signed a non-binding agreement with Alteia, an artificial intelligence-driven platform that helps companies with digital transformation. The agreement will look at developing advanced AI-driven geospatial imagery interpretation and processing capabilities in the kingdom.
A fifth non-binding agreement with Axens, a global technology provider to the oil and chemical industries, will explore the local manufacturing and maintenance services of furnaces and fired heaters.
The agreements were concluded in the presence of Khalid Al Falih, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Investment, and Franck Riester, France's Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness.