UAE not leaving 'any stones unturned' in hydrogen development, energy official says

Oil producers' group Opec will take part in Cop28 climate conference, its secretary general says

Sharif Al Olama, Undersecretary for Energy and Petroleum Affairs, said Fujairah is a 'front-runner' to become a hydrogen hub. Victor Besa / The National
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The UAE is not leaving “any stones unturned” to reach its goal of becoming a major hydrogen producer and exporter, a Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure official has said.

The Emirates, which has shipped test cargoes of blue ammonia to countries such as Germany and Japan, is working with the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE) and the EU Commission to agree on a standard certification process for the export of the low-carbon fuel.

“Eventually, when we are to export hydrogen, the certification requirements need to match with the importing country,” said Sharif Al Olama, the ministry's Undersecretary for Energy and Petroleum Affairs.

He was speaking during a session at the Energy Markets Forum event in Fujairah on Wednesday.

Hydrogen, which can be produced from renewable energy and natural gas, is expected to become a critical fuel as economies and industries transition to a low-carbon world.

It 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 molecules through electrolysis.

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The UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy, aims to achieve hydrogen production of 1.4 million tonnes annually by 2031. This is to increase to 15 million tonnes every year by 2050.

The country is planning to develop at least two hydrogen production hubs, or oases, by 2031.

Asked whether the hubs would produce blue or green hydrogen, Mr Al Olama said: “We welcome all colours.”

“At this stage, I have to be very practical. Blue hydrogen is economically feasible. This is where we are going to start off and this will eventually transition into green,” he said.

“We are doing some certain studies to produce pink hydrogen … it's basically capitalising on the heat from our nuclear reactors.

“So, we are not leaving any stones unturned and we are looking at the entire perspective.”

The energy official also said Fujairah, the world's third-largest bunkering hub after Singapore and Rotterdam, was a “front-runner” to become a future hydrogen hub.

“It has all the infrastructure required to actually enable hydrogen [and] it has storage facilities,” Mr Al Olama said.

Despite hydrogen’s growing popularity, its price compared with natural gas and other alternative fuels as well as its transportation remain major hurdles in the industry.

“We are trying to find solutions going into R&D (research and development) aspects [and] trying different solutions to bring that cost down,” Mr Al Olama said.

On Tuesday, Opec secretary general Haitham Al Ghais, who also spoke at the event, said the world’s largest oil producers and energy industry executives would take part in the Cop28 climate conference in the UAE.

“We're going to take up a pavilion this year at the Cop28 in Dubai, where we will show everybody how our Opec countries are actually dealing with emissions, whether it's plans or projects that are in place already,” said Mr Al Ghais.

The Opec chief said that the world would require “all forms of energy” including oil, natural gas, and renewables to meet growing demand.

He also said several EU countries and the UK had taken a “U-turn” on their climate commitments, which means “there will be more use for oil for longer”.

The global oil industry requires investments of $14 trillion, or about $610 billion per year, until 2045 to meet growing energy demand, Opec said in its World Oil Outlook on Monday.

Out of the required amount, $11.1 trillion is needed in the upstream sector, while downstream and midstream requirements are estimated at $1.7 and $1.2 trillion, respectively.

Updated: October 11, 2023, 9:40 AM