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ADNOC sends first German cargo as it tests hydrogen ambitions

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is shipping low-carbon ammonia to Germany
  • Export of hydrogen has significant transportation costs
  • Test is milestone in Abu Dhabi’s low-carbon ammonia plans

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has announced that its first shipment of low-carbon ammonia has left the UAE bound for Hamburg, Germany, as the company aims to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to its hydrogen industry ambitions. 

The demonstration cargo will be delivered to Aurubis, a global provider of non-ferrous metals and one of the largest copper recyclers worldwide, that has its headquarters in Hamburg. 

The cargo is produced by Fertiglobe, a partnership between ADNOC and Dutch fertiliser and industrial chemicals group OCI, at its Fertil plant in Abu Dhabi’s Ruwais industrial complex. It is the first of several test cargoes sold to customers in Germany as ADNOC expands its strategic energy partnership across the hydrogen value chain. 

The moves comes as analysts say the export of hydrogen is a big challenge, with significant transportation costs to supply large markets in Europe and East Asia.

James Thomas, a partner specialising in the oil and gas industry with Strategy&, told AGBI: “Unfortunately, energy is hard to transport over long distances – there’s no point generating a surplus volt of green energy in the middle of the desert in Saudi if the demand for that volt is to run a steel furnace in Tokyo, power a petchem plant in Frankfurt or operate a bus in Buenos Aires.

“Gulf countries need to find a solution to connect their supply with consumer demand. For that reason, the green hydrogen market will be won in the supply chain.”

Thomas van Lanschot, associate director, energy research at Fitch Solutions, agreed: “Within MENA, a substantial first-mover advantage exists for the first markets that are capable of rapidly increasing the scale of their hydrogen production, establishing trading arrangements to export the fuel, and capitalising on the low-carbon energy transition.

“In particular, we highlight ongoing discussions between the UAE and Germany and other Western European markets to explore future hydrogen export capabilities from the UAE,” he added.

The cargo follows a number of similar low-carbon ammonia sales that have been made to customers in Asia.

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Aurubis in Hamburg is one of the largest copper recyclers worldwide. Source: Aurubis

Aurubis plans to use the low-carbon ammonia as a feedstock in its wire rod plant, testing its application as an additional, lower-carbon energy source for industrial utilisation. 

The hydrogen it contains has the potential to be a low-carbon energy alternative for the energy-intensive processes in multi-metal production.

This is another important milestone in the planned scale-up of hydrogen and low-carbon ammonia production capabilities in Abu Dhabi, where ADNOC is developing a new world-scale one million tonnes per annum low-carbon ammonia plant at TA’ZIZ, the chemicals, industrial services and logistics hub in the Ruwais Industrial Complex.

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and ADNOC managing director and group CEO, said: “This demonstration cargo of low-carbon ammonia builds upon the longstanding bilateral relationship between the UAE and Germany and our growing partnership in clean energy.

“It highlights ADNOC’s expanding role as a trusted exporter of low-carbon fuels, as the UAE focuses on the industrial growth opportunities within the energy transition.”

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Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE’s Minister for Industry and Advanced Technology and CEO of ADNOC

He added: “Our collaboration with customers in Germany also underlines ADNOC’s ambitious growth plans for the production of clean hydrogen, and its carrier fuels such as ammonia, which will play a critical role in decarbonising hard-to-abate industrial sectors.

“We are committed to accelerating and deepening private and public sector collaboration in clean hydrogen projects that will reduce carbon emissions and the carbon intensity of the energy that supports our everyday lives.”

Roland Harings, CEO of Aurubis, said: “To guarantee stable processes at our sites, we are expanding our portfolio of reliable energy sources and thus investing in the decarbonisation of our production at the same time.

“This first trial shipment of low-carbon ammonia from ADNOC represents an important milestone in our long-term vision for hydrogen solutions that will help meet our decarbonisation goals.”

In March 2021, ADNOC signed agreements with a number of German companies to explore opportunities for collaboration in low-carbon and renewable hydrogen derivatives.

ADNOC plans to significantly grow its hydrogen production in support of the UAE’s ambition to supply up to 25 percent of imported hydrogen in key global markets. 

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Roland Harings, CEO of Aurubis in Germany

In November, the UAE announced the Hydrogen Leadership Roadmap, a national blueprint to support domestic, low-carbon industries to contribute to the country’s net-zero 2050 ambition and establish the country as a competitive exporter of hydrogen.

The country will export to markets including Japan, South Korea, Germany and India initially along with additional high-potential markets in Europe and East Asia.

Germany’s national hydrogen strategy expects an import demand for clean hydrogen of approximately three million tonnes per annum (mtpa) by 2030 and up to 15 mtpa by 2050 when – according to research from the Hydrogen Council – hydrogen could meet up to 18 percent of the world’s energy demand.

Separately, Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Petroleum on Tuesday unveiled its new brand name of Mubadala Energy to reflect its plan to explore new energy sectors including blue hydrogen and carbon capture.