Hydrogen’s time is now in post-pandemic world

Hydrogen’s time is now in post-pandemic world
1 / 2
The new Febus hydrogen bus during its presentation in Pau, France. EU nations are using the pandemic to push forward with “green” hydrogen energy plans. (AFP)
Hydrogen’s time is now in post-pandemic world
2 / 2
EU heads are beginning to pay closer attention to cleaner energy sources, like hydrogen, which advocates say is “ready” for the big time. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 09 May 2020

Hydrogen’s time is now in post-pandemic world

Hydrogen’s time is now in post-pandemic world
  • Alternative fuel hailed as the “holy grail” in bid to move away from oil and gas

Hydrogen has long been touted as a clean alternative to fossil fuels. Now, as major economies prepare green investments to kickstart growth, advocates spy a golden chance to drag the niche energy into the mainstream of a post-pandemic world.

Green hydrogen was pushed to the fore last week when Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said the technology was “ready for the big time” and urged governments to channel investments into the fuel.

Some countries, including the Netherlands, Australia and Portugal, have already begun investing in the technology. Now investors, politicians and businesses are pushing the EU and others to use its post-crisis recovery plan to support hydrogen in areas like trucking and heavy industry.

The promise of hydrogen as a fuel to help power vehicles and energy plants has been a talking point since the 1970s, but it is currently too expensive for widespread use. Proponents say infrastructure investment and more demand from transport, gas grids and industry will bring the cost down.

Most hydrogen used today is extracted from natural gas in a process that produces carbon emissions, which defeats the object for many policymakers. But there is potential to extract “green” hydrogen from water with electrolysis, an energy-intensive but carbon-free process if powered by renewable electricity.

EU officials, one of whom described green hydrogen as the “holy grail,” said it could replace fossil fuels in sectors that lack alternatives to align operations with the EU’s Green Deal plan to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050.

“Hydrogen could solve a lot of problems. We need everything else as well but the political interest is because to achieve deep energy efficiency and decarbonization, hydrogen seems relatively easy,” said Jesse Scott, senior advisor at think-tank Agora Energiewende.

“It is less alarming (for policymakers) than some other elements for meeting net zero,” she added, such as carbon removal technology for example.

Momentum appears to be building; EU industry chief Thierry Breton met hydrogen companies online this week to discuss the bloc’s recovery from the pandemic.

“We could use these circumstances, where loads of public money are going to be needed into the energy system, to jump forward towards a hydrogen economy,” said Diederik Samsom, who heads the European Commission’s climate cabinet.

This could result in hydrogen use scaling up faster than was expected before the pandemic, he added.

The European Commission has earmarked clean hydrogen — a loose term which can include gas-based hydrogen, if fitted with technology to capture the resulting emissions — as a “priority area” for industry in its Green Deal.

Over the past year, several governments, including Germany, the UK, Australia and Japan, have announced they were working on hydrogen strategies, and the pace has picked up over the past month during the coronavirus pandemic.

This week, Australia set aside A$300 million ($191 million) to jumpstart hydrogen projects. Portugal plans to build a new solar-powered hydrogen plant which will produce hydrogen by electrolysis by 2023.

The Netherlands unveiled a hydrogen strategy in late March, outlining plans for 500 megawatts (MW) of green electrolyser capacity by 2025. A German hydrogen strategy is expected later this month.

The Dutch government is pushing for the EU to follow suit and present an “action plan” for clean hydrogen, a spokesperson told Reuters.

When it comes to transport, hydrogen fuel cells trail electric batteries in the push for greener cars, given their higher price and the lack of refuelling stations. But proponents see potential for heavier vehicles.

Daimler and Volvo Trucks unveiled plans last month to bring hydrogen fuelled heavy-duty vehicles to market within the decade.

Hydrogen gas is already used in industry to produce ammonia, which goes into fertilisers, and methanol, used to make plastic.

A major drawback of the green hydrogen that governments are most interested in is that it requires a large amount of renewable electricity to produce. The good news is renewables prices have fallen sharply in recent years.

According to Bernstein analysts, hydrogen made from fossil fuels currently costs between $1-$1.8 per kilogram (kg). Green hydrogen can cost around $6 per kg today, making it significantly more expensive than the fossil fuel alternatives.

However, increased demand could reduce the cost of electrolysis. Coupled with falling renewable energy costs, green hydrogen could fall to $1.7 per kg by 2050 and possibly sub-$1 per kg, making it competitive with natural gas. Higher carbon prices would also encourage the shift.

“Clean hydrogen produced from electricity is around three times more expensive than that from natural gas, but solar and wind costs have decreased in recent years and if they continue to fall, clean hydrogen produced with lower electricity costs would become more affordable,” said Philippe Vie, global energy and utilities lead at consultancy Capgemini.

“On hydrogen we are right now where we were with renewables in 2000-2005. Ten to 15 years is probably a good time lapse to become competitive,” he added.

Any serious attempt at large-scale use — either in industry or transportation — would require major infrastructure investments. For example, power from an offshore wind farm would need to be connected to an electrolyser that produces the green hydrogen, which would then need to be transported to end users.

Europe has around 135 MW of electrolyser capacity, but planned green hydrogen projects could bring that to 5.2 gigawatts, according to consultancy Wood Mackenzie. But many projects hinge on further investment partners or subsidies, which advocates fear will be scarcer in the coronavirus-induced economic slump.

“Investments that would have been foreseen to be done now are not made because production is delayed,” Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, secretary general of lobby group Hydrogen Europe, told Reuters.

To help lower costs, several projects are being worked on across the gas infrastructure, industry, mining and energy sectors.

Royal Dutch Shell and Dutch gas firm Gasunie unveiled plans in February to build a mammoth wind-powered hydrogen plant in the northern Netherlands, capable of producing 800,000 tonnes of hydrogen by 2040.

In Germany, oil refinery Raffinerie Heide is embarking on a project using excess wind energy and abundant water supply in the region to produce hydrogen to make kerosene.

"The price of hydrogen we pay for now is four times natural gas from an external source fed through the pipeline and produced 30 km away," said CEO Juergen Wollschlaeger.

A big fear for companies in the hydrogen industry is that they will be unable to take advantage of the unique opportunity presented by vast economic stimulus packages, and that governments will favour supporting traditional high-carbon fuel sectors that have been hit hard by a collapse in energy demand.

"For us, that will be the question to be answered in the next weeks. Will the carbon fuel industry succeed in convincing the officials to support them?" Bernd Hübner, chief financial officer at German green hydrogen start-up Hy2gen said. 


Dubai real-estate transactions surge 43% in March as sector rebounds

Dubai real-estate transactions surge 43% in March as sector rebounds
Updated 23 April 2021

Dubai real-estate transactions surge 43% in March as sector rebounds

Dubai real-estate transactions surge 43% in March as sector rebounds
  • The value of property transactions jumped 40 percent YOY in March
  • Real-estate agents earned 392 million dirhams in commission in Q1

RIYADH: Dubai real-estate transactions jumped 43 percent year over year in March 2021 to 6,590 as investors flooded back into the sector.

The value of sales rose 40 percent to 22.9 billion dirhams ($6.2 billion), according to the real estate bulletin issued by Dubai Land Department (DLD), WAM reported. The number of transactions was the second highest monthly total since February 2017.

The bulletin highlighted continued attractiveness of the real estate sector to new investors, with 5,683 entering the market in Q1 2021, representing 64 percent of the total number of investors in the period.

The value of commissions achieved by active real estate brokers reached 392 million dirhams in Q1 2021, while 143,374 rental contracts were recorded in Q1 2021, 57 percent of which were new contracts and 43 percent were renewed.

The bulletin highlighted the top five areas for investor attractiveness. In villa sales, Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid topped the list in Q1 2021, followed by Wadi Al Safa 5, Wadi Al Safa 7, Nad Al Sheba 1, and Al Thanyah Fourth. In apartment sales, Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah, Business Bay, Burj Khalifa, and Al Merkadh topped the list in Q1 2021.

Sales of luxury villas, sea-view apartments and second-hand family houses jumped in March, re-energizing a property market that saw a sharp fall in activity at the height of the pandemic and had been in a five-year slump prior to that, Reuters reported at the time.

S&P Global credit analyst Sapna Jagtiani does not expect Dubai’s real estate market to recover to pre-pandemic levels until next year, the agency said.


Red Sea Project uses smart light systems as it seeks dark sky accreditation

Red Sea Project uses smart light systems as it seeks dark sky accreditation
Updated 23 April 2021

Red Sea Project uses smart light systems as it seeks dark sky accreditation

Red Sea Project uses smart light systems as it seeks dark sky accreditation
  • Smart systems help reduce waste and minimize light pollution
  • Red Sea Project wants to be certified by the International Dark Sky Association

RIYADH: All Red Sea Project assets, including resorts, hotels and facilities, run through smart control systems that allow enough light as needed while being careful to save energy consumption and reduce waste, said Myriam Yaniz, director of lighting management at the company.

Red Sea Project is using the technology as it looks to be certified as an International Dark Sky Place by the International Dark Sky Association.

The company reviews different scenarios to know the adequate amount of lighting required during different times of the day and during the different seasons, Yaniz told Al Eqtisadiyah paper, during the World's Earth Day celebration on Thursday.

"At the design stage and during the first meeting of any destination project, our night vision is conveyed to our team of consultants and provided with our list of criteria to ensure that the work is carried out accordingly," she said.

Red Sea Project is a land and property development on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast announced by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in July 2017.


Saudi bank deposit growth accelerated to 11-month high in February

Saudi bank deposit growth accelerated to 11-month high in February
Updated 23 April 2021

Saudi bank deposit growth accelerated to 11-month high in February

Saudi bank deposit growth accelerated to 11-month high in February
  • Bank deposit growth was the fastest since March 2020

RIYADH: Bank deposits in Saudi Arabia grew during February at the fastest pace since March 2020 as the economy continued to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

Deposits reached SR1.96 trillion ($522.5 billion) at the end of February, an increase of 1.83 percent, the most since the previous March’s 1.92 percent gain, Al Eqtisadiah reported, citing SAMA data.

On an annual basis, bank deposits in Saudi Arabia increased by 10.2 percent, or SR180.47 billion. Individual and corporate deposits, which made up 74.6 percent of total deposits, increased by 9.8 percent year over year.

Demand deposits increased 14.2 percent to SR1.29 trillion in the 12 months to the end of February, making up 88 percent of total deposits with savings and foreign deposits accounting for the rest.


Egypt and Russia agree to resume all flights, including to resorts

Egypt and Russia agree to resume all flights, including to resorts
Updated 23 April 2021

Egypt and Russia agree to resume all flights, including to resorts

Egypt and Russia agree to resume all flights, including to resorts
CAIRO: Egypt and Russia have agreed to resume all flights between the two countries in a call between their presidents, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Vladimir Putin, Egypt’s presidency said in a statement.
Flights to resort destinations Sharm Al-Sheikh and Hurghada were suspended after a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai in October 2015, killing 224 people.
The Egyptian statement did not specify a timeline for the resumption of flights, but Russia’s Interfax news agency reported this week that flights could resume in the second half of May.
An Airbus A321, operated by Metrojet, had been taking Russian holiday makers home from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg in 2015, when it broke up over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all on board. A group affiliated with Daesh militants claimed responsibility.
The decision to resume flights followed “the joint cooperation between the two sides on this issue, and based on the standards of security and convenience provided for visits at Egyptian tourist destination airports,” the statement said.

Egypt raises domestic fuel prices for first time since subsidy reform

Egypt raises domestic fuel prices for first time since subsidy reform
Updated 23 April 2021

Egypt raises domestic fuel prices for first time since subsidy reform

Egypt raises domestic fuel prices for first time since subsidy reform
  • Egypt lowered fuel prices in October 2019 following protests
  • Egypt phased out fuel subsidies on the advice of the IMF

RIYADH: Egypt’s price-setting committee raised domestic fuel prices on Friday for the first time since it was formed in October 2019 following the completion of subsidy reforms, the petroleum ministry said in a statement.

Prices were last raised in July 2019 when Egypt, a net oil importer, finished phasing out subsides on fuel products as part of a reform program backed by the International Monetary Fund. Prices had remained stable over the past year after being lowered in April 2020 and October 2019.

The prices of 80-octane, 92-octane, and 95-octane fuel were raised by 0.25 Egyptian pounds each, to 6.25 Egyptian pounds ($0.40), 7.5, and 8.5 pounds per liter, respectively, the statement said.

The pricing committee’s mechanism links energy prices to international markets, and takes into account the exchange rate as well as the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the statement said.

Egypt lowered fuel prices in October 2019 following several rounds of price hikes as part of an austerity program that triggered discontent, including protests against President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.