How Saudi Arabia, UAE can turn their decarbonization strengths to their advantage

Steam rises from towers of the coal-fired power plant of Moorburg in Hamburg, northern Germany. (AFP/File Photo)
Steam rises from towers of the coal-fired power plant of Moorburg in Hamburg, northern Germany. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 02 October 2021

How Saudi Arabia, UAE can turn their decarbonization strengths to their advantage

Steam rises from towers of the coal-fired power plant of Moorburg in Hamburg, northern Germany. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Carbon-capture technologies to play key role in cutting CO2 emissions and in the Gulf’s energy transition
  • Saudi Arabia and UAE have emerged as regional leaders in push to decarbonize the energy sector

DUBAI: As Arab Gulf states step up action toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the lead-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have emerged as regional leaders in the shift to renewables and decarbonizing the energy sector.

A recent report by the Atlantic Council, a US think tank, highlights steps taken by both countries, while also offering a view of the unique challenges each faces in the global energy transition.

The report comes as climate scientists urge nations to drastically cut their carbon emissions and to make the transition away from fossil fuels toward clean renewable energy in an effort to prevent global temperatures rising any further.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have accelerated action toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including the adoption of renewables and methods to remove carbon from the atmosphere, as well as addressing their economic reliance on the export of hydrocarbon products.

According to the Atlantic Council report published last month, the amount of global energy demand met by traditional renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and hydro, has risen by more than 70 percent in absolute terms since 2000.

But with rapid population growth and accelerating economic activity, the report warns there will likely be a lag in the rate of penetration of new technologies designed to offset further emissions.

The report, titled “The Energy Transition in the Arab Gulf: From Vision to Reality,” and written by Jean-Francois Seznec and Samer Mosis, said that there is huge potential for solar energy in the Gulf region.

Indeed, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE rank among the top 15 countries worldwide in terms of practical photovoltaic power potential. Studies have shown that annual average solar radiation in the GCC countries is equal to 1.1 barrels of oil equivalent per square meter.

The report’s authors praise the Kingdom’s adoption of the circular carbon economy platform, or CCE, which lends an overarching strategy to Saudi Arabia’s approach to the energy transition.




Circular agricultural fields are seen in this aerial view of Saudi Arabia’s desert near the oil-rich area of Khouris, 160 kms east of the capital Riyadh, on June 23, 2008. (AFP/File Photo)

They recommend the creation of a unified vision for decarbonization and, for good measure, centralized and transparent planning in the shift to cleaner energy and economic activity.

CCE is a closed-loop energy strategy designed to promote the reduction, reuse and recycling of carbon products and even their removal in an effort to eliminate harmful pollutants from the atmosphere.

Energy ministers from the G20 group of leading economies endorsed Saudi Arabia’s CCE approach to managing greenhouse gas emissions last year when the Kingdom held the G20 presidency.

In partnership with Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom has made energy efficiency and the minimization of flaring at its oil fields top priorities in mitigating climate change, alongside fossil-fuel reduction through substitution with low-carbon energy sources such as renewables, hydropower, nuclear and bioenergy.

Seznec, one of the report’s authors and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, praises efforts made by Saudi Aramco toward carbon capture and describes the main transition challenge as organizational.

“I am a great admirer of it and how it is managed,” Seznec told Arab News. “But their view is that, to have a proper transition and a decarbonized economy is to use the assets they have, which is carbon and oil, and to decarbonize that.

“The capture of CO2, which comes out of oil when they burn it, is then reinjected underground, and they’ve done some of that with medium-sized plants.”

By using this kind of technology, CO2 can be captured from the air and stored in the ground, or reused for useful products, such as fuels, bioenergy, chemicals, building materials, food and beverages. It can also be chemically transformed into new products such as fertilizer and cement, or other forms of energy such as synthetic fuels.

Methods such as these involving carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies, or CCUS, are seen as a potential game-changer in the world’s efforts to quickly reduce CO2 emissions.

In its latest report published in August this year, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that without the widespread adoption of CCUS technologies, long-term global climate goals may be unreachable.

But because the type of plants used by Aramco are expensive, only a handful has been built worldwide. Aramco is in the process of developing more, which could make such technologies increasingly attractive to other countries.

Nevertheless, “from the point of view of oil producers, such as the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and Aramco, it is very important to continue producing, by keeping the value of the asset in the ground,” Seznec added.




In partnership with Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom has made energy efficiency and the minimization of flaring at its oil fields top priorities in mitigating climate change. (Supplied)

According to the report, although Aramco is at the forefront of the Kingdom’s work on the CCE, it is not the only big player. Seznec argues that it makes sense to have a more centralized approach.

“In Saudi Arabia, this means support from the country’s leadership for Saudi Aramco and SABIC’s technologies in CCUS, crude-to-chemicals, and the circular carbon economy,” the report read. “For the UAE, this means staying the course with ADPower and ensuring that it has the bandwidth to extend its expertise to broader portions of ADQ.”

New technologies are set to play a pivotal role in cutting CO2 emissions worldwide and in the Gulf’s economic energy transition in the future. For Seznec, decarbonization will serve the Kingdom and the UAE best as they develop technologies to improve the process and sell it to the rest of the world.

“I would strongly suggest that the Gulf countries make an effort to control and develop the technology themselves, just as they did for chemicals, because once they do, then they can make money on the technology and the new sources of energy,” he said.

“It’s very important that it’s centralized and developed very actively on both sides. It should happen as quickly as possible, and it can only happen if what’s efficient is pushed first.”




Jean-Francois Seznec

Developing CCUS technologies could provide regional countries with another potentially valuable line of exports, Seznec said. But the future lies in the hands of inventors and engineers.

“Saudi Arabia has done this superbly in many other areas in the past, so I’m not worried they can’t do it in the future,” Seznec said. “The development of technology is really what needs to be centralized and the tech experts have to be given the means to do what they need to do to achieve that.”

The means to do this include strengthening the private sector through investment, in addition to government investments in state-owned companies.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE were advised in the report to limit the extent to which private firms can be taken over by state entities, while actively helping their respective private sectors acquire foreign tech firms, with a priority on knowledge and skills transfer.




An employee connects an electric car cable to a loading station of German carmaker Volkswagen. (AFP/File Photo)

It will also require investment in education. The report urged both countries to help universities and existing state entities, such as Aramco and SABIC, to research and commercialize locally developed technologies.

“Both countries should set a goal of making CCUS commercially viable, emphasize local content requirements in all renewables and circular carbon economy projects, much like Saudi Aramco has done with the In-Kingdom Total Value Add (iktva) program,” the report said.

It also urged the Kingdom and the UAE to “encourage national oil companies, such as  ADNOC and Saudi Aramco, to match the goals set by many international oil companies of getting to zero net emissions by a target date.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek

 


Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh

Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh
Updated 59 min ago

Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh

Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh
  • Five other Peshmerga fighters were wounded in the violence late Sunday in northern Iraq

BAGHDAD: Four Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were killed in an attack blamed on the Daesh group, a security official said Monday, the third such assault in less than two weeks.
Five other Peshmerga fighters were wounded in the violence late Sunday in northern Iraq that targeted an outpost north of Kirkuk, the source said.
Kurdish army forces confirmed the deadly attack but did not say how Peshmerga fighters were killed in wounded, in a statement accusing Daesh of responsibility.
It was the third attack blamed on Daesh militants in less than two weeks against the Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.
On Thursday, Daesh claimed responsibility for an assault south of the Kurdish capital of Irbil that killed at least nine Peshmerga fighters and three civilians.
At the end of November, five Peshmergas were killed in a roadside bombing also claimed by the militant group.
Daesh seized swathes of Iraq in a lightning offensive in 2014, before being beaten back by a counter-insurgency campaign supported by a US-led military coalition.
The Iraqi government declared the extremists defeated in late 2017, although the Daesh retains sleeper cells which still strike security forces with hit-and-run attacks.


Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead

Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead
Updated 06 December 2021

Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead

Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead
  • Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbing, car-ramming and occasional shooting attacks in recent years
  • Most have been carried out by lone attackers with no known connection to militant groups

JERUSALEM: A 16-year-old Palestinian rammed a vehicle into an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank overnight, wounding a security guard before being shot and “neutralized” at the scene, the Israeli Defense Ministry said Monday.
Israeli media reported that the alleged attacker was killed, while a ministry official declined to comment further.
The attack came two days after a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank stabbed and wounded an Israeli man just outside Jerusalem’s Old City and tried to stab a Border Police officer before being shot and killed. Video taken by bystanders showed the police continuing to shoot the attacker after he had dropped to the ground and preventing medics from approaching him.
The shooting drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground. The soldier was imprisoned for several months in a case that divided the country.
The Israeli Justice Ministry said the two officers involved in Saturday’s shooting were brought in for questioning before being released without conditions. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top officials have praised the officers’ response to the attack.
Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbing, car-ramming and occasional shooting attacks in recent years. Most have been carried out by lone attackers with no known connection to militant groups, which have praised the attacks without claiming responsibility for them.
Rights groups say Israel sometimes uses excessive force, killing suspected attackers who could have been arrested and did not pose an immediate threat. Israeli officials say forces must make split-second decisions in dangerous situations and that all such incidents are investigated.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want it to form the main part of their future state. The territory’s 2.5 million Palestinian residents live under Israeli military rule, with the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority administering cities and towns.


Nigeria added to Bahrain’s travel ‘red list’

Nigeria added to Bahrain’s travel ‘red list’
Updated 06 December 2021

Nigeria added to Bahrain’s travel ‘red list’

Nigeria added to Bahrain’s travel ‘red list’
  • The recent directive comes amid an increase in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 omicron cases around the world

MANAMA: Nigeria has been added to Bahrain’s travel ‘red list’ as part of a new update announced on Sunday by the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the country’s Civil Aviation Affairs. 
According to Bahraini authorities, the list also includes South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola and Zambia.
Passengers from red list countries are prohibited from entering Bahrain, including those who have transited through the mentioned countries; however, this does not apply to citizens and residents of Bahrain.

The recent directive comes amid an increase in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 omicron cases around the world, which was first detected in southern African nations. 

Several countries have already imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa, including the UAE, US, Britain, Brazil, Indonesia, Kuwait and the Netherlands.


Lebanese president, PM and parliament speaker express satisfaction with Saudi-French agreement

Lebanese president, PM and parliament speaker express satisfaction with Saudi-French agreement
Updated 06 December 2021

Lebanese president, PM and parliament speaker express satisfaction with Saudi-French agreement

Lebanese president, PM and parliament speaker express satisfaction with Saudi-French agreement
  • MP Ali Darwish, from Mikati’s parliamentary bloc, hopes 'positive signs to emerge in coming days’

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has affirmed his government’s commitment to honoring its undertakings for reform.

Mikati said that his joint phone call on Saturday with Saudi and French leaders was “an important step toward restoring historic brotherly relations with Riyadh.”

A joint Saudi-French statement, following the joint phone call between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Macron with Mikati, linked “economic aid to Lebanon with the implementation of the required reforms.”

The statement reiterated demands that Lebanon should “implement comprehensive reforms, monitor borders, abide by the Taif Agreement, limit arms to the legitimate state institutions and not be a launching pad for any terrorist acts that destabilize the region (nor) a source of drug trafficking.”

Mikati also said: “I thank President Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their keenness in maintaining the friendship toward Lebanon.”

Mikati called both President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and briefed them on the phone call.

Mikati’s media office said that Aoun and Berri “expressed their satisfaction and stressed their adherence to the best relations with Saudi Arabia and all brotherly Arab countries, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”

Mikati called “all parties in Lebanon to appreciate the sensitivity of the situation and circumstances and not to take any action or interfere in any matter that offends the Arab brothers and harms the Lebanese.”

He added: “It is time to commit again to the policy of disassociation and not to involve ourselves and our country in what has nothing to do with us.”

The Saudi position toward Lebanon left the Lebanese anxiously relieved about the extent of the seriousness of the ruling authority in implementing what was agreed on in Jeddah between French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Although Macron succeeded in opening the door to a solution to Lebanon’s diplomatic and economic crisis with Saudi Arabia, and thus the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, after the resignation of Information Minister George Kordahi from the government following his statements about the Kingdom, there is a fear that Hezbollah will continue to embroil Lebanon in regional politics.

However, MP Ali Darwish, who is from Prime Minister Mikati’s parliamentary bloc, expects “positive signs to emerge in the coming days.”

Darwish said that appointing a parliamentary committee to try presidents, ministers and MPs in return for allowing Cabinet sessions to take place was “one of the proposals.”

Darwish told Arab News that “the Saudi-French move has undoubtedly breached the wall of stalemate in Lebanon’s relationship with the Gulf, which Lebanon is keen to be extremely good in the midst of the conflict in the region.”

On the implementation of the French-Saudi statement, Darwish said: “The reforms are contained in the ministerial statement of Prime Minister Mikati’s government, and they are his government’s agenda, and he is striving to achieve them.”

Darwish added: “The most important thing now is to restore the connection that was cut off, to return the ambassadors to Saudi Arabia and some Gulf countries, and to return the Arab ambassadors to Lebanon.”

Darwish said that the Mikati government would “never interfere in the judicial matter, as there is a separation of powers.”

However, he indicated that activating the Parliamentary Council for the Trial of Presidents and Ministers was possible but it required steps to be taken by parliament.

Darwish added: “However, the trade-off between this matter and any other matter, especially the dismissal of the governor of the Banque du Liban, is not on the table.”

Darwish said that Mikati’s concern “is securing the livelihood of the Lebanese people in light of the current severe economic crisis.”

He said work was “now focused on rounding the corners and bringing the views closer.”


Hoping virus won’t wreck Christmas, Bethlehem lights up giant tree

Hoping virus won’t wreck Christmas, Bethlehem lights up giant tree
Updated 06 December 2021

Hoping virus won’t wreck Christmas, Bethlehem lights up giant tree

Hoping virus won’t wreck Christmas, Bethlehem lights up giant tree
  • It is very joyful, a very nice evening. The air is full of hope, full of joy, full of expectation

BETHLEHEM: Residents lit up a giant Christmas tree outside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, hoping that a new coronavirus variant does not ruin another holiday season in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

The Palestinian city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was all but closed last Christmas, losing its peak tourist season to the pandemic.

This December has seen Israel shut out foreign travelers for 14 days to try to prevent the omicron variant taking hold, and the hope is that the ban will end as scheduled, in time for Christmas travel. In its last pre-pandemic winter, in 2019/20, Bethlehem hosted 3.5 million visitors.

The giant tree, topped with a bright red star, was lit up with hundreds of colored lights as red, white and green fireworks illuminated the night sky.

Mayor Anton Salman said the travel ban had prevented several foreign delegations attending.

Nonetheless, the audience in Manger Square in front of the church was far bigger than last year, when coronavirus restrictions kept even local spectators away.

"It is very joyful, a very nice evening. The air is full of hope, full of joy, full of expectation," said Maria, a tourist from Finland who did not provide her full name.