As the demand for clean fuel surges globally and decarbonization efforts rapidly increase, the emergence of hydrogen as a clean energy option has been welcomed by many countries. Hydrogen is expected to play a key role in the coming years as economies and industries transition to a low-carbon world to mitigate the effects of climate change. Globally, the size of the hydrogen industry is expected to hit $183 billion by 2023, up from $129bn in 2017, according to Fitch Solutions which estimates that investment in hydrogen will exceed $300bn by 2030.
As we know 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. Green hydrogen is produced from renewable sources while natural gas produces blue and grey hydrogen. While grey hydrogen has a similar production process to blue, the carbon dioxide is not captured. Pink hydrogen is produced through electrolysis using nuclear energy as a power source.
Current hydrogen production in the UAE is underway as a feedstock for ammonia and industrial processes. However, this is mainly grey hydrogen, for which production relies on natural gas. ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) has announced plans to increase its carbon capture capacity five-fold from 800,000 tonnes to five million tonnes by 2030. This will make Abu Dhabi one of the world’s lowest-cost and largest producers of blue hydrogen.
The UAE announced its high-level Hydrogen Roadmap back at COP26 Glasgow and its aim to become a ‘leader’ in the international hydrogen energy market with an intention to capture 25 percent of the global hydrogen market with a focus on low-carbon green and blue hydrogen. Discussions are also on the way with many countries to export it, predominantly to emerging international markets.
Only last month did the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy (DoE) announce the development of its hydrogen policy and regulatory framework. The framework includes low carbon hydrogen certification regulatory policy, technical standards, and licensing procedures to support and accelerate the UAEs national hydrogen strategy and help the nation attain global leadership in low-carbon and clean hydrogen.
Among key strategic approaches identified in the framework are global collaborations in research and innovation, and open to international partnership to further build the road map to accelerate into all major sectors such as utilities, mobility, and industries which can only be achieved by working with international partners as mentioned.
The UAE and Israel are already finding ways in collaborating, recently reached an agreement with State-owned Israel Electric Corp (IEC) (ISECO.UL) and UAE-based sustainable investment firm Energroup signing a preliminary deal to develop blue and green hydrogen generation in Israel. Under the agreement, the groups will collaborate on the sourcing, development, implementation, and operation of green and blue hydrogen projects.
Meanwhile, another Israel-based company, Doral- Energy, will build Israel’s first green hydrogen project which will generate green hydrogen for use in industrial infrastructures like transportation systems and industrial plants. Doral will be using electrolyzer technology developed by H2Pro, an Israeli start-up founded by researchers from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology). H2Pro has pioneered a new proprietary method of electrolysis – the splitting of water into Hydrogen and Oxygen using electricity. The technology is called E-TAC and solves the key challenges of traditional modes of electrolysis by separating the stages during which Hydrogen and Oxygen are produced. The main advantage of E-TAC is its breakthrough electrical efficiency, an unparalleled 95%, which significantly reduces operating costs.
Additionally, the membrane-less two-step process enables production at high pressures, drastically lowers the cost of manufacturing, and is configured more safely. Finally, the technology can be easily scaled up due to its simple and modular design.
H2Pro is backed by leading investors and industry partners, including Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Yara the largest Ammonia producer in the world, steel giant ArcelorMittal, as well as the Israeli Energy Ministry. H2Pro has also won Shell’s New Energy Challenge. By producing green hydrogen in this affordable and efficient way, clean energy can be made accessible for both existing industrial consumers and emerging Hydrogen applications such as transport, mobility, and energy storage.
As part of its decarbonization efforts electric power generation investments covering various technologies are expected to reach Dh50bn by 2025, and at least Dh80bn by 2050 with clean and renewable energy making up about two-thirds of the total in Abu Dhabi alone.
Demonstrating such investment efforts in Israel is Israel’s first hospital hydrogen backup power solution. GenCell along with ABB is installing a unique hydrogen-based Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) which ensures reliable power for life-saving equipment 24/7. The breakthrough fuel cell backup technology is a first for an Israeli hospital (Hillel Yaffe Medical Center), with the innovative solution system which reduces emissions, costly downtime, and repair work.
GenCell which manufactures, sells, and services fuel-cell-based power solutions by creating hydrogen on demand from anhydrous ammonia enable its fuel cell solutions to provide primary power for off-grid and poor-grid telecoms as well as rural electrification. The company delivers backup power for utilities, homeland security, healthcare, automated industries, schools, and water purification. In 2019, GenCell was recognized with the Europe Enabling Technology Leadership Award by Frost & Sullivan.
As the transition is surely on the way the real game-changer will be replacing fossil fuels in combustion applications to generate heat and steam. Yet, at current, Oil refining remains the largest market for hydrogen, accounting for 30 percent to 35 percent of global hydrogen demand.
Refiners are looking at additional low-carbon technology such as electric heating, carbon capture, and storage on main carbon emitting units, as well as biomass gasification for further decarbonization of the sector. An Israeli technology IImubit currently helping oil refinery and chemical plant leaders with precisely that, discovering and monetizing on new optimization and opportunities with a new Deep Learning Process Control Platform. Imubit offers an AI solution that incorporates deep hydrocarbon processing expertise which builds an accurate model of the most profitable processes, and optimizes them in a closed-loop, driven by planning, with full operator controllability. In addition, renewable power and usage of low-carbon feedstocks and products will also help to cut emissions.
Written by: Ellie Ellingsen, Economic & Trade Mission to the UAE