How Gulf energy powerhouses are blazing a trail for green industrialization

Special Gulf states have signaled their commitment to meeting global greenhouse emissions targets. (Green Riyadh Project)
Gulf states have signaled their commitment to meeting global greenhouse emissions targets. (Green Riyadh Project)
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Updated 22 October 2022

How Gulf energy powerhouses are blazing a trail for green industrialization

How Gulf energy powerhouses are blazing a trail for green industrialization
  • GCC members intend to supply Europe and the Asia-Pacific with environmentally friendly hydrogen power
  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have committed themselves to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions

DUBAI: As the effects of weather variations possibly linked to climate change intensify around the globe, many countries have set goals to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, hoping to prevent Earth from warming 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman — the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council — are home to around one-third of the world’s oil reserves and approximately one-fifth of its natural gas reserves.

As a strategy for effective climate-change mitigation, the GCC states see themselves as trailblazers of the hydrogen economy by unveiling ambitious plans to supply Europe and the Asia-Pacific region with the low-carbon, environmentally friendly fuel.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have committed themselves to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and 2060, respectively. Bahrain has pledged to meet the same target by 2060.

Net zero means that all greenhouse gas emissions produced are counterbalanced by an equal number of emissions that are removed from the atmosphere.

Achieving this important goal will require rapid decarbonization. Hydrogen, as a new energy carrier, can play a key role in successfully decarbonizing the most difficult sectors, such as shipping, aviation, steel, and chemicals.




Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power will play a key role as Saudi Arabia and the UAE embark on the journey to net zero. (Reuters)

Replacing fossil fuels partly with hydrogen would be a big step toward meeting the targets for reduction in greenhouse emissions set in the Paris Agreement, an international treaty adopted in 2015 covering climate-change mitigation, finance, and adaptation.

In a report published in January, the International Renewable Energy Agency projected that hydrogen could cover 12 percent of global energy use by 2050, and that 30 percent of hydrogen could be traded internationally in the same timeline — another sign that fossil fuel assets could be devalued by mid-century, despite today’s high oil prices and record gas prices.

Looking to the future, Gulf states are exploring ways to diversify their economies and decarbonize by producing hydrogen using their vast reserves of fossil fuels, from which carbon capture, or blue hydrogen, is produced.

Among them, Saudi Arabia plans to expand beyond blue hydrogen into other, even cleaner forms, such as green hydrogen, which is made by using renewable energy to split water.

The NEOM Green Hydrogen Project, to be commissioned in 2026, will be the world’s largest green hydrogen plant powered entirely by renewables and will have a production capacity of 650 tons of hydrogen per day, according to Saudi energy developer and operator ACWA Power.

As Saudi Arabia continues to develop its clean, safe nuclear energy program in line with International Atomic Energy Agency regulations, it will also push for the production of pink hydrogen, according to statements made by Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman at the World Economic Forum last year.

Pink hydrogen is produced by electrolysis using nuclear power. This year, Prince Abdulaziz signed several memoranda of understanding on the use of hydrogen fuel cell-powered public transportation throughout the Kingdom.




The Saudi Green Initiative aims to reduce the Kingdom’s carbon footprint by safeguarding natural habits, through developments such as the green hydrogen project to be built in NEOM's Oxagon region. (Supplied/NEOM)

Early last month, IRENA joined 14 global companies to set up a new alliance that aims to decarbonize industries and help countries to achieve net-zero goals in line with the Paris Agreement.

The Alliance for Industry Decarbonization was unveiled during IRENA’s Investment Forum on Energy Transitions in Bali, Indonesia, on Sept. 1.

Speaking at the event, IRENA Director General Francesco La Camera said: “Climate action needs industry leaders.

“This alliance stands for the growing commitment of global industry to act on decarbonization and unlock opportunities that come with a green industrialization through renewables and other transition-related technologies like green hydrogen.

“By standing together we send a clear signal of solidarity ahead of COP27 (UN Climate Change Conference) and we invite new partners to join our common vision,” he added.

The first meeting of the alliance is scheduled to take place at this year’s COP27 meeting being held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in November. Members of the alliance include Abu Dhabi’s Taqa, Italy’s Enel Green Power, Egypt’s Taqa Arabia, Eni, and Technip Energies.

FASTFACTS

* World Energy Day is marked each year on Oct. 22 to raise awareness about energy usage, affordability, safety and sustainability.

* Launched in Oct. 2021, the Saudi Green Initiative established 60 schemes to cut emissions, plant 10m trees, and safeguard habitats. 

* Saudi Arabia also launched the Middle East Green Initiative — a first-of-its-kind regional alliance to combat climate change.

* The Kingdom is also involved in the Global Ocean Alliance, aiming to make 30% of the world’s oceans marine preserves by 2030.

Addressing the Bali forum, Karim Amin, a member of the executive board of Siemens Energy, said: “We need to slash greenhouse gas emissions urgently if we are going to tackle climate change.

“Accounting for more than a quarter of global emissions, the industrial sector is the second-largest emitter and requires rapid decarbonization. In this endeavor, partnerships are crucial.

“With our technologies, we at Siemens Energy constantly seek to create value with our partners toward a low-carbon future. I am convinced the alliance for decarbonization will accelerate decarbonization by installing a first-class exchange forum for industry, technology, and knowledge partners.”

In 2021, during COP26 in Glasgow, IRENA unveiled the $1 billion energy transition accelerator financing (ETAF) platform to support new renewable energy projects in developing countries. Both Masdar — the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co. — and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development are supporting the platform.

In June, IRENA signed agreements with ADFD and Masdar to provide the anchor investment of $400 million to ETAF.

La Camera told Arab News: “Climate challenge is a universal challenge. It is one that requires a rapid, holistic transformation of our energy system and the decarbonization of industrial processes represents a major part of that challenge.




Saudi Aramco and Air Products open the Kingdom’s first hydrogen fueling station. (Supplied)

“However, it presents a great opportunity as well. It is a daunting task that requires the highest levels of cooperation between industry leaders. This alliance, led by IRENA and the private sector, will be instrumental in coordinating efforts and paving the way to net zero.”

For Saudi Arabia and the UAE, reconciling their ambitious environmental commitments with their present reliance on hydrocarbons will be at once a challenge and an expensive journey. For both countries, the journey begins with decarbonizing their oil and gas production to reduce their carbon footprint and increasing their domestic green-energy production.

This does not of course mean they will stop producing hydrocarbons completely. As Middle East energy expert Ruba Husari pointed out in an article for the Middle East Institute, though demand for oil and gas will continue past 2050, “albeit at lower levels than now — their net-zero target does not equate to zero oil and gas production. Instead, their transition will differ from that of other countries and will happen at a different pace.”

At the Youth Green Summit in Riyadh in October 2021, Prince Abdulaziz announced the goal of becoming the world’s largest hydrogen producer.

The same year, Saudi Aramco, the national petroleum and natural gas company, published its first sustainability report detailing its road map toward net zero. Aramco’s ambition, the report said, was to decarbonize its operations and achieve “a net-zero footprint by 2050 across its wholly owned operated assets.”

The report acknowledged that achieving net-zero operational emissions while also growing its business to meet global energy demand would be “a huge challenge.”

Aramco has set initial interim targets for 2035, planning to cut carbon emissions from 10.2 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per barrel of oil equivalent (CO2e/boe) in 2018 to 8.7 kg of CO2e/boe by 2035 — a 15 percent-plus reduction.

Aramco’s corporate strategy is based on its “ability to produce the lowest cost and lowest carbon oil and its intent to work with customers along the value chain to offer products that support their ambitions for low-carbon fuels.”

Since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, Saudi Arabia has taken significant steps to step up climate action and environmental protection through greater reliance on clean energy and offsetting emissions.

The Saudi Green Initiative, launched at the inaugural Green Initiative Forum on Oct. 23, 2021, consists of more than 60 initiatives, the first wave of which entails investments worth SR700 billion ($187 billion) designed to contribute to the growth of a “green economy.”




A new global alliance aims to help countries, including those in the Middle East, achieve their Paris Agreement targets by accelerating energy transition. (AN Archive)

Meanwhile, as part of its net-zero strategy, the UAE intends to invest 600 billion Emirati dirhams ($163.37 billion) in clean and renewable energy projects over the next three decades.

On Sept. 12, the UAE Cabinet approved an updated version of the second National Determined Contribution, setting a higher economy-wide emission reduction target for 2030 of 31 percent relative to business as usual, an increase from the 23 percent initially submitted in 2020.

Additional announcements were made on sectoral contribution to this target.

Evita Moawad, an international sustainable energy and decarbonization consultant, told Arab News: “The UAE was the first Gulf country to commit to net zero by 2050 and has defined interim targets for 2030.

“It is important that the UAE and other countries’ targets are consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit. The next steps are to define road maps to net zero for the different sectors and create a conducive framework to move forward toward decarbonization.

“The UAE has already achieved successes in clean energy supply; now efforts are needed in other sectors such as industry and transport. Such efforts have started. For example, the UAE is one of five countries to have so far joined the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Industrial Deep Decarbonization Initiative, which has been active since the start of this year,” she said.

To achieve decarbonization, all aspects of a country’s economy must change, including how energy is generated and how goods are produced and delivered. This, La Camera pointed out, “requires a dynamic approach to the energy transition, integrating new solutions and technologies as they become available.”

He lauded the UAE’s recent update of its NDC as “a great display of the country’s leadership ahead of COP28.”

The 2023 annual session of the COP conference will be held in Expo City Dubai toward the end of the year.

 


US says helping quake-hit Syria but not Assad

US says helping quake-hit Syria but not Assad
Updated 08 February 2023

US says helping quake-hit Syria but not Assad

US says helping quake-hit Syria but not Assad
  • The United States has refused normalization of relations with Syrian President Bashar Assad or any direct reconstruction aid, seeking accountability for abuses during the brutal nearly 12-year civil war

WASHINGTON: The United States said Tuesday it was working with partners to provide earthquake relief in Syria but would stand firm against working with the Damascus government.
The United States also said it expected to send further assistance to Turkiye after sending two rescue teams to the NATO ally, which suffered heavily as well in Sunday’s earthquake.
“In Syria itself we have US-funded humanitarian partners that are coordinating lifesaving assistance,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters as he met his Austrian counterpart.
“We’re committed to providing that assistance to help people in Syria recover from this disaster, just as we have been their leading humanitarian donor since the start of the war in Syria itself,” Blinken said.
“I want to emphasize here that these funds, of course, go to the Syrian people — not to the regime. That won’t change.”
The United States has refused normalization of relations with Syrian President Bashar Assad or any direct reconstruction aid, seeking accountability for abuses during the brutal nearly 12-year civil war.
Assad has wrested back most of the country and over the past year has been restoring relations with other Arab nations as well as Turkiye.
Stephen Allen, who is leading the response on the ground for the US Agency for International Development, said that most of the damage was in areas not under Assad’s control and that USAID had local partners there.
USAID is reorienting assistance that was already in place to help war-hit Syrians, instead focusing on rescue efforts and other immediate needs including providing shelter and food, Allen said.
“We’ve got the full gamut of humanitarian response going in northwest Syria right now,” Allen told reporters.
He declined to name the non-governmental groups working with the United States, citing operational security.
The United States has announced that it was sending two rescue teams to NATO ally Turkiye. Allen said the teams would arrive Wednesday morning and head to the city of Adiyaman, where search efforts have so far been limited.
The teams, coming on two C-130 transport aircraft, are bringing 158 personnel, 12 dogs and 170,000 pounds (77,100 kilograms) of specialized equipment, he said.
“What we’re focused on right now in Turkiye is getting those teams out and saving lives, to put it bluntly,” Allen said from Ankara.
“If they need further assistance when it comes to populations who may be without housing or need immediate assistance, we are certainly ready to provide that,” he said.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake has killed more than 7,100 people in the two countries, according to officials and medics.

 


Israeli court delays demolition of West Bank village again

Israeli court delays demolition of West Bank village again
Updated 08 February 2023

Israeli court delays demolition of West Bank village again

Israeli court delays demolition of West Bank village again
  • Right-wing Israeli group Regavim had taken the government to court in order to force officials to raze the village
  • Opponents to the demolition believe levelling Khan Al-Ahmar would pave the way for the expansion of Israeli settlements in the area

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday approved a new delay to the controversial demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank.
The Khan Al-Ahmar community, which lies on a strategic highway east of Jerusalem, was slated for demolition in 2018 after a ruling that it was built without Israeli permits.
Right-wing Israeli group Regavim had taken the government to court in order to force officials to raze the village, whose 200 residents have drawn international support.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration, which took office in December, had requested more time to decide on Khan Al-Ahmar’s fate, telling the court it needed an extension before presenting a plan to demolish the village.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the Supreme Court granted a delay until May 1 but expressed regret that the government was “satisfied with the current situation... postponing its response every few months.”
Prior administrations have delayed their decision on Khan Al-Ahmar eight times.
Opponents to the demolition believe levelling Khan Al-Ahmar would pave the way for the expansion of Israeli settlements in the area, effectively forming a barrier between annexed east Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
Israel has been under international pressure to block the demolition, with European diplomats most recently visiting the community on January 30.
Khan Al-Ahmar is located in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control and where it is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain construction permits.
The West Bank has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.


Newborn, toddler saved from rubble in quake-hit Syrian town

Newborn, toddler saved from rubble in quake-hit Syrian town
Updated 07 February 2023

Newborn, toddler saved from rubble in quake-hit Syrian town

Newborn, toddler saved from rubble in quake-hit Syrian town
  • The newborn girl’s umbilical cord was still connected to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who was dead
  • Baby was the only member of her family to survive from the building collapse Monday in the town of Jinderis

JINDERIS, Syria: Residents digging through a collapsed building in a northwest Syrian town discovered a crying infant whose mother appears to have given birth to her while buried underneath the rubble from this week’s devastating earthquake, relatives and a doctor said Tuesday.
The newborn girl’s umbilical cord was still connected to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who was dead, they said. The baby was the only member of her family to survive from the building collapse Monday in the small town of Jinderis, next to the Turkish border, Ramadan Sleiman, a relative, told The Associated Press.
Monday’s pre-dawn 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by multiple aftershocks, caused widespread destruction across southern Turkiye and northern Syria. Thousands have been killed, with the toll mounting as more bodies are discovered. But dramatic rescues have also occurred. Elsewhere in Jinderis, a young girl was found alive, buried in concrete under the wreckage of her home.
The newborn baby was rescued Monday afternoon, more than 10 hours after the quake struck. After rescuers dug her out, a female neighbor cut the cord, and she and others rushed with the baby to a children’s hospital in the nearby town of Afrin, where she has been kept on an incubator, said the doctor treating the baby, Dr. Hani Maarouf.
Video of the rescue circulating on social media shows the moments after the baby was removed from the rubble, as a man lifts her up, her umbilical cord still dangling, and rushes away as another man throws him a blanket to wrap her in.
The baby’s body temperature had fallen to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and she had bruises, including a large one on her back, but she is in stable condition, he said.
Abu Hadiya must have been conscious during the birth and must have died soon after, Maarouf said. He estimated the baby was born several hours before being found, given the amount her temperature had dropped. If the girl had been born just before the quake, she wouldn’t have survived so many hours in the cold, he said.
“Had the girl been left for an hour more, she would have died,” he said.
When the earthquake hit before dawn on Monday, Abu Hadiya, her husband and four children apparently tried to rush out of their apartment building, but the structure collapsed on them. Their bodies were found near the building’s entrance, said Sleiman, who arrived at the scene just after the newborn was discovered.
“She was found in front of her mother’s legs,” he said. “After the dust and rocks were removed the girl was found alive.”
Maarouf said the baby weighed 3.175 kilograms (7 pounds), an average weight for a newborn, and so was carried nearly to term. “Our only concern is the bruise on her back, and we have to see whether there is any problem with her spinal cord,” he said, saying she has been moving her legs and arms normally.
Jinderis, located in the rebel-held enclave of northwest Syria, was hard hit in the quake, with dozens of buildings that collapsed.
Abu Hadiya and her family were among the millions of Syrians who fled to the rebel-held territory from other parts of the country. They were originally from the village of Khsham in eastern Deir Ezzor province, but left in 2014 after the Daesh group captured their village, said a relative who identified himself as Saleh Al-Badran.
In 2018, the family moved to Jinderis after the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army, an umbrella for several insurgent groups, captured the town from US-backed Kurdish led fighters, Sleiman said.
On Tuesday, Abu Hadiya and the girl’s father Abdullah Turki Mleihan, along with their four other children were laid to rest in a cemetery on the outskirts of Jinderis.
Back inside the town, rescue operations were still ongoing in their building hoping to find survivors.
The town saw another dramatic rescue Monday evening, when a toddler was pulled alive from the wreckage of a collapsed building. Video from the White Helmets, the emergency service in the region, shows a rescuer digging through crushed concrete amid twisted metal until the little girl, named Nour, appeared. The girl, still half buried, looks up dazedly as they tell her, “Dad is here, don’t be scared. … Talk to your dad, talk.”
A rescuer cradled her head in his hands and tenderly wiped dust from around her eyes before she was pulled out.
The quake has wreaked new devastation in the opposition-held zone, centered on the Syrian province of Idlib, which was already been battered by years of war and strained by the influx of displaced people from the country’s civil war, which began in 2011.
Monday’s earthquake killed hundreds across the area, and the toll was continually mounting with hundreds believed still lost under the rubble. The quake completely or partially toppled more than 730 buildings and damaged thousands more in the territory, according to the White Helmets, as the area’s civil defense is known.
The White Helmets have years of experience in digging victims out from buildings crushed by bombardment from Russian warplanes or Syrian government forces. An earthquake is a new disaster for them.
“They are both catastrophes — a catastrophe that has been ongoing for 12 years and the criminal has not been held accountable, and this one is a natural catastrophe,” said the deputy head of the White Helmets, Munir Mustafa.
Asked if there was a difference between rescue work in the quake and during the war, he said, “We cannot compare death with death … What we are witnessing today is death on top of death.”


Quake imperils cross-border aid to Syria: UN

Quake imperils cross-border aid to Syria: UN
Updated 07 February 2023

Quake imperils cross-border aid to Syria: UN

Quake imperils cross-border aid to Syria: UN
  • "The cross-border operation has itself been impacted," Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, told reporters
  • A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, said the Bab al-Hawa crossing itself is "actually intact"

GENEVA: The sole border crossing used to shuttle life-saving aid from Turkiye into conflict-ravaged Syria has seen its operations disrupted by the deadly earthquake that struck the two countries, the UN said Tuesday.
The 7.8-magnitude quake and its aftershocks struck Turkiye and Syria on Monday and killed more than 5,400 people.
“The cross-border operation has itself been impacted,” Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, told reporters in Geneva.
A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, said the Bab Al-Hawa crossing itself is “actually intact.”
“However, the road that is leading to the crossing has been damaged, and that’s temporarily disrupted our ability to fully use it,” Dujarric said.
Disaster agencies said several thousand buildings were flattened across an area plagued by war, insurgency, refugee crises and a recent cholera outbreak.
Concerns have been running particularly high for how aid might reach all those in need in Syria, devastated by more than a decade of civil war.
Humanitarian aid in rebel-held areas usually arrives through Turkiye via a cross-border mechanism created in 2014 by a UN Security Council resolution.
But it is contested by Damascus and its ally Moscow, who see it as a violation of Syrian sovereignty.
Under pressure from Russia and China, the number of crossing points has been reduced over time from four to one.
And now areas surrounding that one border crossing have suffered significant infrastructure damage, while the aid workers on the ground have been hit by the catastrophe.
“Every effort is being done to overcome these logistical hurdles, which are created by the earthquake,” Laerke said.
“There is a window of about seven days” when survivors are generally found, Laerke said, adding that it was critical to get teams to those in immediate need as soon as possible.
“It is imperative that everybody sees it as a humanitarian crisis where lives are at stake,” he said.
“Please don’t politicize this. Let’s get the aid out to the people who so desperately need it.”
He said the UN was intent on using “any and all means to get to people, and that includes the cross-border operation and the cross-line operation from inside Syria.”
But Laerke said access by road was a challenge and pointed out that the quake had impacted the UN’s “own staff, our own contracting partners, our truck drivers that we work with, our national staff.”
“They’re looking for their families in the rubble... That has had an impact on that operation in the immediate,” he acknowledged.
At the same time, he said, partners that deliver aid in northwestern Syria said they were “operational and they are asking for supplies, and they are also asking for funding.”
For now though, the specific Syria cross-border humanitarian fund is empty, he warned.


Iran unveils underground base for fighter jets

Iran unveils underground base for fighter jets
Updated 07 February 2023

Iran unveils underground base for fighter jets

Iran unveils underground base for fighter jets
  • Base can accommodate ‘all types of fighter jets and bombers, in addition to drones’

TEHRAN: Iran’s army on Tuesday unveiled its first underground base for fighter jets designed to withstand possible strikes by US bunker-busting bombs, state media reported.

The base — named Oghab 44 (“Eagle” in Persian) — can accommodate “all types of fighter jets and bombers, in addition to drones,” the official news agency IRNA said, releasing images and videos from inside the base.

The exact location of the base was not revealed, but state media said it was “at the depth of hundreds of meters under the mountains,” and capable of withstanding “bombs by strategic US bombers.”

In May last year, Iran’s army revealed an air force base for drones under the Zagros mountain range in the west of the country.

The latest unveiling comes the day before Iran marks Air Force Day, part of the buildup to the 44th anniversary on Saturday of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

State media on Tuesday showed Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri and the army’s commander-in-chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi at the new base.

Oghab 44 is “one of numerous tactical underground air bases for the army’s air force built in different areas of the country in recent years,” IRNA reported.

It can prepare fighter jets to “counter possible offensives” such as those practiced by the US and Israel in their recent military drill, according to state media.

Iran has mostly Russian MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets that date back to the Soviet era, as well as some Chinese aircraft, including the F-7.

Some American F-4 and F-5 fighter jets dating back to before the revolution are also part of its fleet.