As decarbonisation continues, green hydrogen could be key
LONDON– Saudi Arabia has begun to explore more sustainable and efficient power generation solutions that it envisions will produce 60 gigawatts of renewable energy, including solar and wind, by 2030.
To reach its target, Saudi Arabia has continued to decarbonise the power sector, and to complement renewable energy, improved gas fueled power generation.
As renewable energy comes from natural sources, such as wind, sunlight and rain, the amount generated varies depending on climate and season.
President and CEO of GE Gas Power in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia Joseph Anis said “Gas power technologies not only offer the flexibility to ramp power production up or down rapidly to meet potential gaps in energy supply from variable renewable sources and stabilize the grid but gas also presents the cleanest means to generate electricity from traditional fossil fuels.”
GE has installed over 500 gas turbines across Saudi Arabia, as it helps customers unlock gas’s true potential through an industry-leading solution.GE’s turbines are capable of ramping up or down at up to 88 megawatts per minutes, and can support the kingdom’s transition to increased renewable power by adjusting the turbines’ output to balance to the grid.
Furthermore, upgrade solutions increase not only the efficiency, for which it holds two world records, but also the availability, flexibility, lifespan and output of gas turbines, even while reducing the environmental impact and fuel consumption.
To do so, it uses hydrogen gas, which is formed by using renewable energy to power electrolysis that splits water molecules into its constituent elements.
Green hydrogen is versatile as it can be used in both gaseous and liquid states, converted into either fuel or electricity and produced and transported anywhere. It can also be produced from excess renewable energy and stored for extended periods of time. It contains almost three times as much energy as fossil fuels pound for pound, so more can be accomplished with less.
It can be stored in currently existing gas pipelines to power households and serve as a renewable energy transporter when converted into ammonia. Moreover, anything that uses electricity can be powered by green hydrogen when used with fuel cells, which, unlike batteries, do not need to be recharged as long as they have hydrogen fuel.
Green hydrogen is not without its challenges, however. Like other forms of fuel, it is flammable, but due to its lightness – it is approximately 57 times lighter than gasoline fumes — it can disperse into the atmosphere quickly, serving as a positive safety feature.
Its decreased density does make it difficult to transport, however. It either requires heavy compressions — up to 700 times the atmospheric pressure — to be delivered as compressed gas, or must be cooled to -253°C to be liquefied. It is currently transported via low-temperature liquid tanker trucks, dedicated pipelines or in tube trailers that carry gaseous hydrogen.
Saudi Arabia is in the midst of becoming home to the largest green hydrogen planet plant, due to Air Products & Chemicals, a leading industrial gas giant from the United States. The project was announced in July, and will be powered by 4 gigawatts of solar and wind power. The $5 billion plant will be jointly owned by Saudia Arabia’s ACWA, Air Products and the upcoming mega-city Neom, which will be powered by the plant.
According to Air Products, the facility will be able to power 20,000 hydrogen-fueled buses with 650 tonnes of green hydrogen that will be produced daily.
For the global market, the fuel will be shipped as ammonia and converted back to hydrogen upon arrival, a process that is expected to begin in 2025.
This project is an important step for the kingdom’s goal of turning Neom into a global centre for green hydrogen and renewable energy.
CEO of Neom Nadhmi Al Nasr said in a statement: “This is a pivotal moment for the development of Neom and a key element in Saudi Vision 2030 contributing to the Kingdom’s clean energy and circular carbon economy strategy.”
ThyssenKrupp, a German multinational industrial engineering conglomerate, will provide the electrolyzers.
Other major players in the oil and industrial sectors are also beginning to increase investment into green hydrogen, with Germany allocating the largest share of its clean energy stimulus toward funding green hydrogen and BP studying the feasibility of an Australia-based ammonia plant.