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

 


Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah

Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah
Updated 28 min 45 sec ago

Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah

Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah
  • The coalition said it had carried out 88 air strikes on the districts of Juba and Al-Kasarah during the last 72 hours
  • Arab coalition said it had destroyed four explosive-laden Houthi boats in Hodeidah on Saturday

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Sunday that more than 264 Houthis had been killed and 36 military vehicles destroyed in air strikes on two districts near the central Yemeni city of Marib.

The coalition said it had carried out 88 air strikes on the districts of Juba and Al-Kasarah during the last 72 hours.

Juba is some 50 km south of Marib, whilst Al-Kasarah is 30 km northwest of the city.

Later on Sunday, the coalition said it had destroyed an explosive-laden Houthi boat on the Kamaran Island that had been prepared to carry out an imminent attack.

The Houthi militia continues to violate the Stockholm Agreement and the cease-fire in Hodeidah, the coalition said.

The coalition added that the hostile behavior of the Houthi militia threatens navigation in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the southern Red Sea

On Saturday, the Arab coalition said it had destroyed four explosive-laden Houthi boats in Yemen’s western province of Hodeidah.

Warplanes targeted Al-Jabanah coastal base, east of Hodeidah city, where the vessels had been prepared to attack international ships sailing through the Red Sea, the coalition said.


Sudan: Political tensions continue as protesters block roads

Sudan: Political tensions continue as protesters block roads
Updated 24 October 2021

Sudan: Political tensions continue as protesters block roads

Sudan: Political tensions continue as protesters block roads
  • The current crisis surfaced with a coup attempt last month

CAIRO: Pro-military protesters briefly blocked major roads and bridges in Sudan’s capital Sunday, amid growing tensions between the generals and the pro-democracy movement that fueled the uprising against autocratic former president Omar Al-Bashir.
The development came a day after US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman met with military and civilian leaders in Khartoum to find a compromise to the dispute.
The souring ties between the military and civilians in the ruling government threaten Sudan’s fragile transition to democracy since the military’s ouster of Al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019 after nearly three decades of autocratic rule.
The current crisis surfaced with a coup attempt last month. Officials blamed Al-Bashir loyalists for the move. But the generals lashed out at the civilian part of the government, accusing politicians of seeking government posts rather than helping ease people’s economic suffering.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling Sovereign Council, said that dissolving the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok could resolve the ongoing political crisis. That suggestion was rejected by hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters who took to the streets of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country Thursday.
That generals’ accusations, echoed by Burhan and his deputy, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, have aroused fears among civilians that the military may eventually hijack the country’s transition to civilian rule.
Pro-military protesters rallied in Khartoum earlier this month, echoing Burhan’s demands. The protesters have since held a sit-in outside the presidential palace in the capital. Last week, they attempted to storm the Cabinet headquarters as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok met with his Cabinet. Security forces dispersed them using tear gas.
On Saturday, dozens of pro-military protesters stormed the reception area of the headquarters of the country’s state-run news agency and set tires ablaze outside the agency offices. It delayed a news conference for pro-democracy activists, according to Mohamed Abdel-Hamid, director of SUNA news agency.
In an escalation Sunday, pro-military demonstrators cut off major roads and bridges, including the Mec Nimr Bridge, which links Khartoum’s downtown with other areas of the capital, according to activist and rights defender Tahani Abbas. The move caused traffic to clog the streets early Sunday, the first work day of the week, especially Nile Street, a main traffic artery in Khartoum.
“What is happening ... is an official coup sponsored by Burhan,” she said. Abbas shared photos of protesters blocking a bridge with passenger buses and vehicles being turned back.
Later in the day, security forces dispersed the protesters using tear gas to open the blocked roads. Video on social media purportedly showed protesters fleeing over the bridge and on Nile Street.
Feltman, the US envoy, met in Khartoum with Buhan, Dagalo and Hamdok and “emphasized US support for a civilian democratic transition in accordance with the expressed wishes of the Sudanese people,” the US Embassy in Khartoum said.
He urged Sudanese leaders “to commit to working together to implement the constitutional declaration and the Juba Peace Agreement” between the government and an alliance of rebel groups, the embassy said.
The tensions come weeks ahead of a scheduled rotation of the leadership on the ruling sovereign council from the military to civilians, according to the constitutional declaration that established the joint government in August 2019.


Libya’s elections commission to open registration for candidates in Nov, commission head says

Libya’s elections commission to open registration for candidates in Nov, commission head says
Updated 24 October 2021

Libya’s elections commission to open registration for candidates in Nov, commission head says

Libya’s elections commission to open registration for candidates in Nov, commission head says

DUBAI: Registration for candidates in Libya’s presidential and parliamentary elections should open in November, the head of the High National Elections Commission, said on Sunday.
Emad Al-Sayah said the registration process should open by mid-November after technical and logistical preparations are completed.
Elections have been viewed as a key step in efforts to end a decade of violence by creating a new political leadership whose legitimacy is widely accepted.
But wrangling over the constitutional basis for elections, the rules governing the vote and questions over its credibility have threatened to unravel the country’s peace process in recent months.
Libya’s prime minister and several foreign powers on Thursday endorsed the holding of a national election on Dec. 24 as envisaged in a UN-backed peace plan aimed at resolving years of turmoil and division.
However, although parliament has issued a law for the presidential election on that date, it has also issued a separate law saying the parliamentary election will happen at a later date. Other political institutions in Libya have rejected parliament’s proposals.
The first round of the presidential election is due to be held on Dec. 24. A second round, along with a parliamentary election, will then be held at a later date, said Al-Sayah.


Israel, UAE sign ‘green corridor’ agreement for vaccinated passengers — Israeli consulate in Dubai

Israel, UAE sign ‘green corridor’ agreement for vaccinated passengers — Israeli consulate in Dubai
Updated 24 October 2021

Israel, UAE sign ‘green corridor’ agreement for vaccinated passengers — Israeli consulate in Dubai

Israel, UAE sign ‘green corridor’ agreement for vaccinated passengers — Israeli consulate in Dubai
  • Passengers vaccinated against the coronavirus can travel freely between the two countries

DUBAI: Israel and the United Arab Emirates have signed a “green corridor” agreement allowing passengers vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to travel freely between the two countries, the Israeli consulate in Dubai said on Twitter on Sunday.


Israel set to OK 3,000 West Bank settler homes this week

Israel set to OK 3,000 West Bank settler homes this week
Updated 24 October 2021

Israel set to OK 3,000 West Bank settler homes this week

Israel set to OK 3,000 West Bank settler homes this week

TEL AVIV: Israel is expected to move forward with thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank this week, a settlement watchdog group said Sunday.
The plan for some 3,000 new settler units in the West Bank has already drawn calls for restraint from the US, which on Friday voiced “concern” over the expected approvals.
Hagit Ofran from the anti-settlement group Peace Now said a committee is set to meet Wednesday to approve 2,800 units deep in the West Bank, complicating any efforts to create a Palestinian state. More than half of those are receiving final approval, meaning construction could begin in the coming year.
On Friday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US was “concerned” about the housing plans. He called on Israel and the Palestinians to “refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tension and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution” to the conflict.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war — for their future state. The Palestinians view the settlements, which house some 700,000 settlers, as the main obstacle to peace. Most of the international community considers settlements illegal.
Israel views the West Bank as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people.
Ofran said Israel is also set to approve 1,600 units for Palestinians in the areas of the West Bank that it controls. But critics say the move comes at the initiative of villagers and not the Israeli government and that the figure is a fraction of the building permits requested by Palestinians over the years.