Potential blue and green hydrogen developments in the Arab countries - ESCWA
14 December 2021
11:00–13:00

Beirut time

Webinar

Potential blue and green hydrogen developments in the Arab countries

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The development of low-carbon hydrogen, which includes blue hydrogen and green hydrogen, is important in efforts undertaken by Arab countries to address the environmental and economic vulnerability the region is exposed to. It can reduce reliance on fossil fuels, both as a source of revenue from exports and in energy consumption.

ESCWA is partnering with the International Energy Agency to organize a webinar on “Potential blue and green hydrogen developments in the Arab countries.” The webinar sheds light on existing and planned hydrogen developments in the Arab region and discusses the major challenges and opportunities for the region’s energy transition within the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, climate action and net-zero emission targets by 2050.

Speakers from international organizations and important stakeholders are invited to discuss the interlinkages between hydrogen and the sustainable development goals and propose recommendations as part of ESCWA activities to address climate change and enable energy transition.

Outcome document

Key messages from the webinar - Potential Blue and Green Hydrogen Developments in the Arab Countries

  • Revise national renewable targets upward and ramp up renewable power generation substantially to meet future renewable electricity demand from the power sector, green hydrogen and desalination sectors within the Arab region
  • Lower the costs of financing to increase economic viability of electrolysis by 2030 and fully ramp up electrolyser capacity by 2050
  • Pursue green and blue hydrogen development in tandem, based on national and local considerations within the region
  • Mitigate water scarcity challenges by using green hydrogen production as an opportunity to expand desalination in an economical manner
  • Build out necessary public infrastructure to enable hydrogen capacity expansion and trade (including derivatives production and export)
  • Establish clear roadmaps for decarbonisation by mid-century to reduce financing risks and accelerate private sector investment in sustainable hydrogen
  • Establish clear targets for carbon pricing at the national and international level
  • Enable a just transition by investing in public research, innovation, and education
  • Establish international approaches and mechanisms to track and certify green and blue hydrogen production
  • Leverage strengths within the Arab region including existing infrastructure and knowledge of the oil, gas, and chemical sectors (7% of global hydrogen demand is already located in the Arab region)
  • Encourage cooperation and collaboration at the regional level to increase trade and leverage economies of scale

The opening presentation from the International Energy Agency provided a comprehensive overview of sustainable hydrogen, including demand growth projections by mid-century, new and traditional uses for hydrogen, what still needs to be done, uncertainties remaining, and policy recommendations. The presentation concluded by providing a series of policy pathways ranging from policies to stimulate demand at the national level, to the establishment of international agreements on common methodologies to calculate hydrogen carbon footprints as well as standardization and certification schemes.

The scene-setting presentation from ESCWA gave an overview of why sustainable hydrogen is needed in the Arab region, from enhanced energy security through diversification to supporting the delivery of national and global climate change objectives. Prospects for both energy importing and exporting countries were discussed and recent hydrogen developments within the region were elaborated, including Saudi Arabia’s planned hydrogen hub in NEOM, which aims to produce 4 million tonnes of green and blue hydrogen per annum. Overarching challenges in the region were elaborated, including water scarcity challenges, availability of skilled labour, renewable power uptake and the lack of legal and regulatory frameworks to support the scale up of sustainable hydrogen production. The presentation ended with a set of policy recommendations ranging from the formulation of sustainable hydrogen strategies at the national level, to leveraging existing regional partnerships, to the public funding of relevant research and development activities in partnership with local universities and research centres.

The moderated panel discussed a wide range of topics within the context of sustainable hydrogen production globally and within the Arab region. Green and blue hydrogen are an essential part of a mix of clean solutions to address the issue of climate change mitigation, especially in hard-to-abate sectors. Besides traditional industries, sustainable hydrogen will also address carbon intensity in heavy duty transport, provide additional flexibility for power sectors, and enable the production and export of new green materials such as steel, in the face of emerging policies in the EU and elsewhere aimed at reducing carbon leakage through carbon border adjustment mechanisms. To prepare for this future, governments in the Arab region must start building the required infrastructure to enable this burgeoning new industry, in order to add resilience to energy sectors and economies through the shift to sustainable fuel exports. Without this shift, hydrocarbon exporters may face significant challenges moving forward as the world decarbonises.

Panellists and attendees highlighted the fact that targets within the Arab region need to be revised to become much more ambitious given the pace of innovation seen within the energy sector recently. When it comes to sustainable hydrogen production, many uncertainties remain since most projects remain at the early stage. However, the Arab region is well placed (including geographically, located strategically between Europe and Asia) given its vast natural resources, namely low-cost solar and wind, to successfully transition to a sustainable hydrogen economy by mid-century. It was noted that such a shift would require not only substantial public investment in renewable technologies, but CCUS in the medium term as well.

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