19 April 2019 | Reading 11 mins.

The new oil: green hydrogen from the Arabian Gulf

Frank Wouters
Director of the EU GCC Clean Energy Network
Ad van Wijk
Sustainable energy entrepreneur

Frank Wouters, Director of the EU GCC Clean Energy Network

Ad van Wijk, Sustainable energy entrepreneur

In the early years of the 21st century, hydrogen enjoyed great industrial attention, from car-makers to developers of fuel cells, electrolyzers and storage systems, expecting a rapid market breakthrough. So far, the market uptake of hydrogen has hardly lived up to the promise, leaving many supporters and financiers disappointed, particularly with regard to transportation. In the short-term, battery electric vehicles seem to have gained the upper hand, at least for the private vehicle sector. What has changed and why should we be excited about hydrogen now? Let’s look at the GCC.

Hydrogen in the GCC

The 6 national economies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – have emerged largely on the back of oil & gas exports. But the availability of hydrocarbons has also led to heavy industry including steel-making, aluminium smelters, refineries and chemical industry. Many of those industries have been producing and using hydrogen at large-scale for decades, mainly for producing fertilizers, in refineries and to a lesser extent in the chemical industry. In the long-run, all industries need to decarbonize and there is a potential pathway for that, involving hydrogen made using renewable energy. This hydrogen has the potential to substitute oil and gas in the electricity and transport sector domestically, as well as for export.

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