Utilities Middle East
KEY TRENDS IN ACCELERATING THE MENA ENERGY TRANSITION
With a staggering estimate of $42bn-worth of green hydrogen-related projects being planned across MENA , there is increasing confidence in the region’s ability to utilise hydrogen as a clean energy alternative, says Khalid Salem, President, Middle East, a
As the world strives to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the energy sector is demonstrating its resilience in the face of global challenges. Energy demand is recovering after being severely impacted and the outlook for power projects is positive.
However, in this energy transition era, it is not sufficient to simply increase production capacity to meet rising demand.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, energy players are focused on tackling climate change while addressing rising energy needs. Governments, business, and communities across the region are already working to accelerate the development of clean energy, while diversifying their local economies away from a reliance on oil and gas revenues.
Growing significance of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS)
10 technology development
The Middle East is a leading energy hub – not only because of its excellent renewable resources, but also due to its strategic location for potential green hydrogen exports.
It is this clean hydrogen production potential that makes the region a natural leader to implement hydrogen technology as well as build strategic partnerships and projects to develop hydrogen supply chains.
There is growing interest in advanced technologies such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) to reduce emissions in key sectors. In this process, CO2 is captured from sources, such as energy production and manufacturing, or directly removed from the air, and reused or stored permanently.
Deploying hydrogen to the scale needed, will require the intermediate step of decarbonizing traditional hydrogen production through
CCUS solutions until production from electrolysis powered by renewables becomes commercially viable.
The industry can expect to see increased investment in decarbonisation technologies including CCUS and hydrogen to transition natural gas to a low carbon energy source.
HYDROGEN ADAPTABILITY TO ENHANCE ENERGY TRANSITION
The scale of transitioning the energy system from one that is largely based on fossil fuels towards a heavier reliance on cleaner energy solutions is immense. Till date, oil and gas remain an important part of the energy mix, especially in developing regions.
However, the existing natural gas infrastructure has the potential to remain an integral component of the low carbon energy transition for decades to come and provides an
accelerator for the hydrogen economy.
With a staggering estimate of $42bn-worth of green hydrogen-related projects being planned across MENA , there is increasing confidence in the region’s ability to utilize hydrogen as a clean energy alternative. However, the main challenge to achieving mass-scale hydrogen demand is the high production cost.
Part of our journey towards a net-zero carbon future requires investment in technological innovation to make clean energy sources like hydrogen more affordable and widely adopted. This will put us one step closer to creating a strong production and storage chain of hydrogen in the energy industry.
Research & development is crucial to making hydrogen production cost-competitive compared to conventional fuels, while minimising the environmental impacts of the process. Mitsubishi Power has been researching and innovating hydrogen technologies since 1970.
In 2018, the company developed a 30% hydrogen mixture combustion technology for the company’s advanced class gas turbines. By 2025, Mitsubishi Power will have 100% hydrogen readiness in the large-scale, industrial J-class gas turbines.
This transition capability of gas turbines will significantly elevate the demand for hydrogen in the region, ultimately driving innovation and cost reductions.
Also, customers with existing Mitsubishi Power “F” and “J” class gas turbines in their fleet, can convert their power generation facilities with minimal modification and investment, to 100% hydrogen-fired units. Upgrading these power plants and gas turbines to become hydrogen capable will bring them up to ‘state-ofthe-art’ status while at the same time, extending their operating life.
Mitsubishi Power has also recently established the world’s first centre to validate hydrogenrelated technologies, which ranges from hydrogen production to power generation. This integrated system that covers all aspects of hydrogen-related technologies, from development to demonstration and verification, is located at the Takasago Machinery Works in Japan.
The company is beginning to test and demonstrate operations of technologies including hydrogen production and storage and hydrogen fuelling of gas turbines, with the goal of commencing operations in fiscal year 2023.
This hydrogen production facility utilizes a water electrolysis system, and Mitsubishi Power plans to conduct successive testing and verification of additional next-generation hydrogen production technologies such as turquoise-hydrogen production by pyrolysis of methane into hydrogen and solid carbon, etc.
DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION TO HELP REDUCE EMISSIONS AND INCREASE EFFICIENCY AND RELIABILITY
To meet growing energy needs, countries worldwide leverage various sources of energy available, both traditional and renewable, coming together to form a unique energy mix.
As the energy mix diversifies, it will necessitate greater flexibility and stability in existing power grids. There will be a need for smart grid technologies to enable multi-directional flows and greater control over electricity and information in a wide distributed network.
Utility executives, who have witnessed Big Data’s transformative impact across industries, are now asking for similar digital-powered insights on operating and maintaining plants.
Developing technologies such as predictive artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain are set to make energy systems around the world more connected, intelligent, efficient, reliable, and sustainable.
A widespread transition to the “power plant of the future” will not happen overnight but in steps, and the pace will be determined by the state of digital transformation that plants are in today. A solution like TOMONITM for instance, has turned the concept of autonomous power plant into an achievable reality, by harnessing Big Data using sophisticated analytics to improve power plant performance and manage the generation and distribution of power in a stable and efficient manner.
It provides real-time adaptive control and actionable knowledge and helps plant operators in lowering the cost of electricity, improving efficiency, extending maintenance cycles, optimizing, and improving performance, and achieving environmental performance goals.
ADVANCING THE FUTURE OF ENERGY
The path to a decarbonised future will require continuous investments in clean energy technology. The Middle East will be at the heart of this transformation. Countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia recognize the opportunity hydrogen presents and are working towards building a substantial green hydrogen economy
12 by developing roadmaps to accelerate the region’s adoption and use of hydrogen in major sectors that are usually hard to abate.
Late last year, the UAE announced the Hydrogen Leadership Roadmap, a comprehensive national blueprint to support domestic, low-carbon industries, contribute to the country’s net-zero ambition and establish the country as a competitive exporter of hydrogen.
The roadmap comprises three core objectives: unlocking new sources of value creation through exports of low carbon hydrogen, derivatives, and products to key importing regions, fostering new hydrogen derivative opportunities and contributing to the UAE’s 2050 net zero commitments to achieve climate neutrality mitigate climate change and drive sustainable economic growth.
In a similar vein, the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia is building the biggest hydrogen plant in the world at its giga-project NEOM, with a daily production target of 650 tonnes of environmentally friendly green hydrogen.
The plant will use hydrogen produced from an electrolyser powered by solar, wind and storage and will be able to harness natural energy in all seasons.
While hydrogen has the potential to transform the global energy industry, countries in the MENA region stand to benefit. The region has a competitive advantage when it comes to generating low-cost renewable electricity, abundant resource base, low cost of natural gas resources and access to depleted oil wells for CO2 storage. The UAE particularly has the potential to become a global leader in hydrogen exports due to its strategic geographic advantage as a bridge between Europe and Asia.
As a result, the region is now recognized as a reliable and secure supplier of hydrogen and its carriers to customers around the world as demand continues to grow. Pledging to work continuously towards reaching global climate efforts and working to protect planet Earth, Egypt and the UAE were announced as the successors to host the upcoming climate change summit in 2022 and 2023.
While there are still hurdles to cross, a growing ‘environment- conscious’ population, the fuel mix diversification, development of new technologies, and the public sector ambition still point to a brighter, cleaner future.