Iraq has ‘contingency plans’ for its power grid in case Iran gas imports halted

Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said he hopes there will not be a repeat of power outages this year. (Reuters/File photo)
Updated 17 May 2019
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Iraq has ‘contingency plans’ for its power grid in case Iran gas imports halted

  • A lack of electricity was one complaint by protesters in demonstrations that descended into violence in Iraq’s oil hub of Basra last year

BAGHDAD: Iraq has contingency plans for any stoppage of Iranian gas imports for its power grid but hopes no such disruption will take place, Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said on Thursday.
He also said a meeting of OPEC’s ministerial monitoring committee in Saudi Arabia this weekend would assess member states’ commitment to a deal reducing oil production and that oil prices and markets were now stable.
“It’s still too early to predict what will be decided,” Ghadhban told a news conference when asked whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its oil-producer allies could extend the output cut or boost supplies.
The gathering on Sunday in Jeddah may issue a recommendation ahead of OPEC’s policymaking meeting with its allies next month in Vienna.
Turkey has asked to buy more Iraqi crude, Ghadhban added, speaking in Baghdad a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi traveled to Turkey to meet President Tayyip Erdogan.
The United States is ramping up sanctions pressure on Iraq’s neighbor and ally Iran, especially over oil exports.
“Turkey has asked to increase its crude oil imports from Iraq and we have pledged to consider the Turkish request positively,” Ghadhban said.
Iraq relies heavily on gas from Iran for its electricity supply, which is stretched during hot summer months.
A lack of electricity was one complaint by protesters in demonstrations that descended into violence in Iraq’s oil hub of Basra last year.
Asked how Iraq would react if Iranian gas imports were halted, Ghadhban said: “We hope there will be no halt, but we have taken precautionary measures for such a situation.”
The United States is urging Baghdad to sign energy deals with US companies, including a share for General Electric of a $14 billion power scheme that Washington says would help wean Iraq off Iranian energy.
Ghadhban said international oil companies were operating as normal. He added that oilfields in the south and north of the country were safe and secure amid increased tensions between Washington and Tehran.
The United States evacuated non-essential staff from its diplomatic missions in Iraq over unspecified threats from Iran on Wednesday.
Sources close to foreign oil companies denied reports they were also evacuating employees on Wednesday.
The Kerbala refinery in southern Iraq will start operating in 2022 with a production capacity of 150,000 barrels per day (bpd), Ghadhban said.
Iraq plans to build a refinery with a capacity of 150,000 bpd near the northern city of Mosul to refine heavy crude from the nearby Nejma and Qayyara oilfields, the minister said.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a signing ceremony for a $400 million investment contract with Iraq’s Al-Barham Group Co.
Under the deal, facilities will be built near the Kirkuk refinery to produce 12,000 bpd of high-octane gasoline and 160 tons of liquefied petroleum gas per day.


‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

Updated 17 June 2019
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‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

  • Fatih Birol’s comments were a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges
  • Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving problems such as global warming

DUBAI: Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, cracked a joke in the Financial Times a couple of weeks ago.
“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and it always will be,” he wrote about the fuel that many experts agree could hold the key to the world’s energy problems.
It was a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen — generation, storage, and transportation — make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges.
Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving such problems as global warming and environmental degradation.
“The world has an important opportunity to tap into hydrogen’s vast potential to become a critical part of a more sustainable and secure energy future … The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future,” the report said.
That argument will get a critical boost today, when Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, opens its first hydrogen fueling station in Dhahran Techno Valley, in the heart of the Kingdom’s oil producing region.
Aramco has partnered with Air Products, a US company that has been a pioneer in the use of industrial gases, to produce a filling station for hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

 

It is very much a test. “The collected data during this pilot phase of the project will provide valuable information for the assessment of future applications of this emerging transport technology in the local environment,” Aramco said when the project was first announced.
But it is something Aramco has been investigating for a long time. Ahmed Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s chef technology officer, said: “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.”
Hydrogen — essentially what is left when you take the oxygen out of water — has been recognized as a potential fuel source for many decades. Motor manufacturers developed a hydrogen motor engine 50 years ago, but the ease and accessibility of hydrocarbon fuels — oil, gas and coal — made it uneconomic to develop this technology beyond the prototype stage.
Now, as the debate over the role of hydrocarbons in the global environmental balance has become ever more intense, some experts, including Birol and other influential parts of the thought-leadership establishment, believe hydrogen is the next Big Thing in global energy trends.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) said recently that “green” hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, and that is the problem the theoreticians are struggling with: Hydrogen is released naturally in the process of burning hydrocarbons, but it is self-defeating, in an environmental sense. if you have to burn oil, gas or coal to produce it.
On the other hand, renewable sources, like sun, wind and water, do not produce enough hydrogen to be practically or commercially viable, and not at the right times, when people actually need it.
But, as the WEF noted recently “low-cost green hydrogen is coming”, as technology advances mean the cost of renewable energy falls dramatically each year. The Middle East already has a very big and very cost-efficient program for solar energy generation.
The other challenges lay in how to store and transport hydrogen. It can be loaded onto a tanker like LNG, or pushed through pipelines, but it would require a huge investment to change current logistics systems — essentially designed for oil and LNG — to handle hydrogen.
Many countries, including Saudi Arabia, already have the infrastructure associated with oil and gas refining and petrochemicals production to be able to equip “hydrogen hubs,” as long as there is government will and commercial incentive to do so.
For the Kingdom, it looks like a no-brainer for the future. As Birol said: “So, hydrogen offers tantalising promises of cleaner industry and emissions-free power. Turning it into energy produces only water, not greenhouse gases. It’s also the most abundant element in the universe. What’s not to like?”

FACTOID

Technological advances mean low-cost ‘green’ hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, according to the World Economic Forum.