Saudi Aramco, the world's largest crude exporter, has entered into an agreement with US-based Air Products to develop the world's first hydrogen refuelling station in Saudi Arabia amid a push to look at cleaner investment opportunities in the kingdom.
The refuelling station is expected to be operational in the second quarter of 2019 and will be located within the Dhahran Techno Valley Science Park, the company said in a statement.
"Hydrogen fuel cells offer an effective means for the electrification of transport while maintaining easy, five minute refuelling and long driving ranges,” said Ahmad Al Khowaiter, chief technology officer at Saudi Aramco.
"The use of hydrogen derived from oil or gas to power fuel cell electric vehicles represents an exciting opportunity to expand the use of oil in clean transport,” he added.
Saudi Aramco has tested new technology that can burn less oil as well as alternative fuel sources, as it looks to spare its crude to manufacture refined products. The world's largest oil company has a research centre in the US automotive hub of Detroit to test vehicles that consume less crude. Saudi Arabia's sovereign Public Investment Fund has also looked to tap into the transition, investing more than $1 billion in US electric car manufacturer Lucid Motors last year.
Saudi Aramco and Air Products are set to establish a pilot fleet of fuel cell vehicles that run on high-purity compressed hydroden dispensed at the new fuelling station, the company said.
The companies would then assess the data collected during the pilot phase and explore options for future applications in transportation "in the local environment", the statement added.
Toyota Motor Corporation has been chosen to supply fuel cell vehicles for the project. The Japanese carmaker has been investing in the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles over the last two decades and introduced its first vehicle that runs on hydrogen fuel cell, Mirai, in 2014.
The agreement is not the first between Saudi Aramco and Air Products, which last year entered into an $8bn joint venture with Saudi firm Acwa Power to develop gasification assets that produce power and hydrogen in the kingdom's Jazan Economic City.