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Hydrogen-producing nations told to put local use first

Accessories, Formal Wear, Tie Supplied/Irena
Francesco La Camera, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, says hydrogen-producing nations should use the green fuel first themselves before exporting it
  • Exports only in medium to long term
  • Local use ‘can drive economic growth’
  • Aim for inclusive hydrogen economy

Hydrogen-producing nations should put local use of the green fuel ahead of exports, a conference in Dubai has been told.

Francesco La Camera, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), said making hydrogen a major global export commodity is only a medium to long term prospect.

Instead, he said, hydrogen-producing nations should follow the UAE’s example and prioritise local use of the low-carbon fuel as a catalyst for green industrialisation.

“Countries can drive economic growth through local sourcing and job creation and foster a comprehensive hydrogen value chain,” La Camera told the World Hydrogen Mena 2024 conference.

Green hydrogen could provide 13 percent of the world’s final energy consumption by 2050, while maintaining the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement of not allowing the Earth’s temperature to rise by more than 1.5C, the Abu Dhabi-based agency says.

Irena has tracked more than 40 memorandums of understanding covering hydrogen-producing nations. Most of the programmes in countries in the Mena region, such as Saudi Arabia’s Neom green hydrogen project, and those in Egypt and Oman, are being designed with a focus on exporting to mainly European and Asian markets.

La Camera addresses the World Hydrogen Mena conference

Some developing countries, however, have chosen to prioritise the domestic use of hydrogen. La Camera said he believed this approach will build local expertise, be a catalyst for lasting employment and will pave the way for a resilient and inclusive green hydrogen economy.

He said the UAE’s strategy represents a model to be recommended. The country aims to become a leader in low-carbon hydrogen by 2031, and plans to use hydrogen to decarbonise its domestic industry and highly emission-intensive sectors.

The UAE is considering exporting hydrogen derivatives only once domestic demand is met, La Camera said.

Other hydrogen-producing nations in the developing world are following the same path, he said. “Mauritania, for example, aims to export green iron and steel, while Kenya considers green hydrogen and fertiliser as a solution for food price stabilisation and green transition.”

Deloitte said in a report last year that the green hydrogen market could grow to $1.4 trillion a year by 2050.

The hydrogen colour code

  • Green hydrogen is the term used to describe hydrogen that is produced on a CO2-neutral basis through the electrolysis of water. 
  • Turquoise hydrogen is created by a thermal process in which natural gas is broken down with the help of methane pyrolysis into hydrogen and solid carbon.
  • Blue hydrogen is generated from the steam reduction of natural gas. 
  • Grey hydrogen is obtained by steam reforming fossil fuels such as natural gas or coal. 
  • Yellow hydrogen refers to hydrogen production from a mixture of renewable energies and fossil fuels. 
  • Sometimes other colours are ascribed to hydrogen, based on how it is produced. For red, pink and violet hydrogen, the electrolysers are driven by nuclear power. 
  • Hydrogen that is merely a waste product of other chemical processes is referred to as white hydrogen, while the use of coal as a fuel produces brown hydrogen.

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