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Tuesday, 28 March 2023

MENA’s low-carbon hydrogen agreements are racking up ahead of anticipated national hydrogen strategy reveals

The region’s hydrogen agreement boom ahead of national strategies: While the majority of MENA region countries have yet to release their national hydrogen strategies, a total of 68 low-carbon hydrogen agreements were signed in the region last year, according to a summary report (pdf) by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Egypt leads the pack: Egypt signed the most preliminary agreements in the region last year, with a total of 23 agreements, as it hopes to position itself as a global hydrogen hub, the report states. Oman trailed behind at 11 agreements, followed by the UAE with 10, Saudi Arabia with nine, Morocco with seven, Algeria with four, Iraq with two, and Qatar and Jordan with one agreement each.

MENA countries have set ambitious targets: The UAE plans to have a 25% share of the global hydrogen market by 2030, while Morocco is looking to reach a 6% share, followed by Egypt’s sights on a 5% share. Saudi Arabia wants to produce 2.9 mn tons of green hydrogen and ammonia annually by 2030, while Oman aims to produce between 1 and 1.5 mn tons annually by 2030. A report published last month by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) concluded that Egypt, Morocco, KSA, and Oman are leading MENA’s green hydrogen development.

It’s not all green hydrogen production: The report reveals that of the 68 agreements inked last year, 68% were for green hydrogen and ammonia production, 19% for blue hydrogen production, 6% for shipping and aviation hydrogen fuel stations, 4% for hydrogen storage facilities, and 3% for pipeline infrastructure to transport the fuel.

But investment in infrastructure is still lagging: Some 33% percent of over 1.1k senior professionals across 80 countries said that the biggest barrier for the hydrogen economy is a lack of infrastructure needed for the fuel to be produced, moved, stored, distributed, and integrated into the wider energy system, a survey by Norway’s DNV found. 28% said that government-funded infrastructure is the most important enabler of a successful hydrogen economy between now and 2030. Investors rated the MENA and West Asia region’s hydrogen production infrastructure 2.7 out of 5 in another report by sustainability consultant Arup. For the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, hydrogen infrastructure — mainly pipelines and storage — requires annual investments of USD 52 bn between 2026-2030, and USD 82 bn between 2041-2050, the organization’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2023 revealed.

2023 is shaping up to be a promising year for the region’s nascent sector: KSA’s Neom Green Hydrogen Company has signed several financing agreements worth a collective USD 8.5 bn to fund the development of its utility-scale green hydrogen facility. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund signed an agreement with Japanese trading and investment conglomerate Marubeni to jointly conduct a feasibility study for a green hydrogen production facility in KSA. Japan’s Jera signed an MoU with Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) to jointly explore the feasibility of low-carbon thermal energy, ammonia, and green hydrogen production projects in MENA in February. UAE’s Al Fattan Energy signed an agreement with South Korea’s LTechUVC to build a USD 400 mn, 200 MW green hydrogen and ammonia facility.

So what’s the status of these anticipated national hydrogen strategies? To date, Oman is the only country to have released its strategy, while Morocco and the UAE have released a hydrogen roadmap, according to the report. In 2022, Saudi Arabia was developing a national hydrogen strategy, outlining its production, export and domestic uses. Egypt is expected to announce its hydrogen strategy within weeks. Without “clear policy frameworks that are transparent on long-term goals,” it will be difficult to drive hydrogen investments, a hydrogen business manager at Shell Norway said in the DNV report. DNV’s survey found that out of 10 enabling factors for hydrogen sector growth, regulation came in first place.

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