Saudi Arabia targets a larger share of hydrogen in its energy mix

The kingdom's energy ministry is putting together a national strategy to develop hydrogen as a power source

Venezuela's Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud and Russia's Energy Minister Alexander Novak are seen at the beginning of an OPEC and NON-OPEC meeting in Vienna, Austria December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
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Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, is putting together a strategy to develop hydrogen production capabilities as it looks for newer, alternative fuels to be part of its energy mix, according to the country's energy minister.

"We have commissioned a team to put together our national strategy on how we evolve with hydrogen," Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told a G20 press briefing.

"I guarantee you a few months from now, you will see an expose of what we will be doing with hydrogen and what will be our national ambitions and how we can still continue to maintain the lead in this ambition," he added.

I guarantee you a few months from now, you will see an expose of what we will be doing with hydrogen

Hydrogen is being trialled as a promising alternative to fossil fuels, particularly in transportation. Clean hydrogen can slash green house gas emissions from the hydrocarbons sector by 34 per cent, according to BloombergNEF. The growth of hydrogen can fuel a €120 billion (Dh 523.1bn) industry in Europe by 2050, according to Aurora Energy Research. McKinsey meanwhile estimates that the development of a hydrogen economy could generate $140bn in annual revenue by 2030 and help support 700,000 jobs in the US.

Saudi Arabia is among a number of countries looking to develop hydrogen as a power source as rush for cleaner energy gains pace.

Earlier this year, a consortium comprising of industrial gases company Air Products, Saudi Arabia-based power firm Acwa Power and Neom, the new city planned in the kingdom’s north-west, agreed on a $5bn project to produce hydrogen using solar and wind power.

Developing hydrogen could also help Saudi Arabia, which accounts for 17.2 per cent of global reserves of crude that is second only to Venezuela, diversify its energy mix and further supplement its push in renewables.

Prince Abdulaziz's comments echo that of Saudi Aramco's president and chief executive, Amin Nasser, who said the company was looking at "exciting” opportunities to collaborate in the development and use of "future fuels such as hydrogen and other chemicals-type clean fuels”.

Aramco’s interest in new, cleaner fuels follows Abu Dhabi oil giant Adnoc’s announcement earlier this month that it is exploring the potential of new fuels as it moves to reduce its carbon intensity over the next decade.

“We all have a role to play and we as an industry can do more on climate change,” Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Adnoc group chief executive and Minister for Industry and Advanced Technology, said at the annual Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference on November 9.

Big oil companies have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint this year amid a change in narrative in the fossil fuel industry prompted by coronavirus-induced restrictions.

Movement restrictions, which led to a halt in global air and ground transport and curbed oil demand, also prompted oil and gas companies to re-evaluate their strategies.