UAE to commission first green hydrogen plant, energy minister says

The plant will help power buses and cars used in Expo 2020 Dubai

The UAE is working to update its renewable strategy to include hydrogen, according to the country's energy and infrastructure minister Suhail Al Mazrouei. Picture courtesy: Adnoc
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The UAE is commissioning its first green hydrogen plant that will provide clean fuel to power transportation during Expo 2020 Dubai, the country's energy and infrastructure minister said on Monday.

The hydrogen plant will supply the fuel to "certain buses [and] cars that will be used during Expo", Suhail Al Mazrouei told reporters during a press conference announcing the launch of World Utilities Congress in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai, in collaboration with Germany's Siemens Energy company, is developing a solar-powered electrolyser to produce hydrogen for fuel cells at Expo 2020 Dubai, which was delayed until this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UAE, Opec's third-largest oil producer is aiming to tap into the potential of hydrogen by becoming an exporter. The county formed an alliance involving three of its state-backed entities – Mubadala, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, and holding company ADQ – to produce green and blue hydrogen.

The green variant of the fuel is produced entirely from renewable sources. Blue hydrogen, which will be produced by Adnoc, comes from steam methane reforming.

"Masdar has started an initiative to use the solar PV [photovoltaic], to produce hydrogen and try to use it in some buses and passenger vehicles in Abu Dhabi as a first stage," Mr Al Mazrouei said.

The renewable energy company is also advancing the design of a green hydrogen demonstrator project, Masdar clean energy director Fawaz Al Muharrami told The National in an interview last week.

The company has already begun an assessment of its green hydrogen demonstrator project, which will find uses for fuel cells in buses at the carbon-neutral Masdar City as well as in aviation fuel to be used by Etihad and Lufthansa.

The UAE, which plans to add 50 per cent renewables capacity to the grid by 2050, is working to update its strategy to include hydrogen.

"The overall strategy ... we're working on it and we will be issuing it. That will be [in] co-ordination [with] the government of Abu Dhabi," Mr Al Mazrouei said.

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

The UAE is drawing up a comprehensive roadmap on how best to position itself as an exporter of hydrogen.

The country also plans to tap nuclear energy as a baseload to power hydrogen production in the future. Nuclear energy provides a stable baseload capacity, unlike variable sources such as wind and solar.

In March, the UAE Cabinet approved a nationwide system for hydrogen vehicles as the country ramps up production of blue and green variants of the fuel.