EGA joins UAE hydrogen initiative to support country's decarbonisation push

Aluminium producer will explore collaboration opportunities across industries and research future uses of hydrogen

EGA is seeking ways to decarbonise its operations. Photo: Mubadala
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Emirates Global Aluminium, the UAE’s largest industrial company outside the oil and gas sector, signed an agreement with the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure to join the UAE hydrogen leadership initiative.

The initiative, launched by the ministry last year during Cop26 in Glasgow, seeks to achieve the country’s ambitions to be a global leader in low-carbon hydrogen, as the demand for the clean fuel surges globally amid decarbonisation efforts.

As a member, EGA will explore collaboration opportunities across industries and conduct further research and development into the future uses of hydrogen in decarbonisation, the company said in a statement on Monday.

It will also explore the technical and economic potential of hydrogen in the processes of aluminium production, as well as in its local supply chain.

"Aluminium’s use plays a key role in decarbonising other industries economy-wide, which makes decarbonising aluminium production even more of an essential challenge for our own industry," said Abdulnasser bin Kalban, chief executive of EGA.

"Replacing natural gas with hydrogen is one part of the potential solution, and we look forward to accelerating our work in this area in partnership with the other members of the hydrogen leadership initiative, in co-operation with the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, and in support of the UAE’s Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative.”

The UAE aims to capture about 25 per cent of the global hydrogen market and is in discussions with many countries to export it, Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said earlier this year.

The Emirates has joined the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy, an international governmental partnership that is focused on facilitating and accelerating the transition to clean and efficient energy and mobility systems using hydrogen and fuel cell technologies across different sectors.

In June, the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy also said it is developing a hydrogen policy with new regulations and standards, and aims to become a “leader in the international hydrogen market”.

Last year, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Mubadala and industrial holding company ADQ signed a preliminary agreement to form a hydrogen alliance focusing on low-carbon green and blue hydrogen as part of the UAE’s energy diversification efforts.

Hydrogen comes in various forms, including blue, green and grey. Blue and grey hydrogen are produced from natural gas, while green is derived from splitting water by electrolysis.

Globally, the hydrogen industry is expected to be worth $183 billion by 2023, up from $129bn in 2017, according to Fitch Solutions. French investment bank Natixis estimates that investment in hydrogen will exceed $300bn by 2030.

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By joining the hydrogen leadership initiative, EGA will also join the Abu Dhabi hydrogen alliance and the national hydrogen technical committee, which was created to assess the role of hydrogen in the energy transition and explore potential export opportunities.

More than seven projects are under way as part of the hydrogen leadership initiative, targeting a 25 per cent market share in key export markets, including Japan, South Korea, Germany and India, along with additional high-potential markets in Europe and East Asia, the statement said.

Last year, EGA signed a preliminary agreement with GE to develop a road map to decarbonise the company's natural gas turbines, including by switching to hydrogen.

Hydrogen has the potential to replace natural gas as a vector for thermal energy, such as in EGA’s casthouse furnaces and steam boilers, as well as for turbines, the company said.

Aluminium smelting is energy intensive, and generating the electricity required accounts for more than half the global aluminium industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

EGA, which is jointly owned by Abu Dhabi’s strategic investment arm, Mubadala Investment Company, and the Investment Corporation of Dubai, operates aluminium smelters in Jebel Ali and Al Taweelah, a refinery in Al Taweelah and a bauxite mine and associated export facilities in Guinea.

"The agreement for EGA to join the hydrogen leadership initiative ... will create a new model for constructive co-operation to strengthen the position of hydrogen as a key enabler in the decarbonisation of carbon-intensive industries," Mr Al Mazrouei said.

He stressed that the ministry is prepared to provide the necessary support to all its partners at the local, regional and global levels to enable and develop the growth of the clean energy sector.

"The UAE sees hydrogen as a promising fuel for the future to achieve carbon neutrality and the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative. Such partnerships will help accelerate the transition to clean and renewable energy," he said.

Updated: September 26, 2022, 10:04 AM