Emirates Global Aluminium, the UAE’s biggest industrial conglomerate outside the country’s oil and gas sector, and GE signed a preliminary agreement to develop a roadmap to explore the use of hydrogen as a fuel to power the natural gas turbines operated by the UAE company.
EGA is also exploring the potential to integrate carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology into its power plants to further hasten its efforts to decarbonise, the company said on Sunday.
The move will help EGA reduce greenhouse gas emissions as electricity generation accounts for a significant proportion of its total emissions. The company is the biggest electricity generator in the UAE after the Dubai and Abu Dhabi utilities.
EGA has 33 GE natural gas turbines at its facility in Jebel Ali and Al Taweelah, with a total power generation capacity of 5,200 megawatts.
"Aluminium smelting is energy intensive, and generating the electricity required accounts for more than half the global aluminium industry’s greenhouse gas emissions," said Abdulnasser Bin Kalban, chief executive of EGA.
"This work with GE will enable us to determine how we can reduce the carbon intensity of our power generation over the years ahead, including by switching to hydrogen, and is an important step in our journey to ensure EGA’s aluminium can play its full part in helping the world tackle the generational challenge of climate change.”
Deployment of hydrogen is crucial to the UAE's efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The country also launched a UAE Hydrogen Leadership Roadmap at Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November, as it seeks to increase the use of hydrogen in a bid to reduce emissions.
The roadmap builds on the UAE's knowledge of the industry, and is expected to assist in developing new policies and increase the private sector's participation in the hydrogen space, Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister for Climate Change and Environment, said at the summit.
Hydrogen produces only water when it is used as fuel, making it a clean energy source. It can be generated from fossil fuels or renewables.
"Decarbonising industries is a major pillar of the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative, therefore EGA’s plan to switch to hydrogen fuel and expand the use of carbon capture, utilisation and storage solutions supports our net-zero drive,” Ms Al Mheiri said on Sunday.
The agreement is also the first that GE Gas Power has entered globally to reduce the carbon footprint of power generation operations in the aluminium sector.
EGA and GE intend to set up a joint steering committee to create and drive the decarbonisation roadmap forward.
EGA, which is jointly owned by Abu Dhabi’s strategic investment arm Mubadala Investment Company and the Investment Corporation of Dubai, is the world’s biggest "premium" aluminium producer and the company’s metal is the largest made-in-the-UAE export after oil and gas.
EGA, which produces about 2.7 million tonnes of aluminium every year, is already taking various steps to develop its own technology to decarbonise its operations and reduce emissions, Salman Abdulla, executive vice president of HSSEQ (health, safety, sustainability, environment and quality) at EGA, said at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit last week.
The company aims to lower its emissions further in the next 10 to 15 years through “breakthrough technologies” by tapping into green sources of energy, including hydrogen and solar, he said at the time.