Delivering the opening keynote speech, Hamid Sabzikari, Vice-President and General Manager, Middle East, Egypt and Turkey of Air Products, said, “What we need is to come together, to scale up – and there are tremendous opportunities in the Middle East to be realised.”

Despite the challenges of COVID, he said Air Products has been very active in recent years – drawing on more than 20 years’ experience in the Middle East – by focusing on the “higher purpose” needed to combat climate change and develop a low-carbon and hydrogen economy. It is investing at least $15bn through to 2027 to drive clean hydrogen at scale.

“Hydrogen is the best solution to address emissions from hard-to-abate industries,” he said. “Industries where electrification isn’t practical or feasible – such as trucks, ships, planes, buses and steel – then hydrogen is the best substitution.”

In the opening session on ‘The hydrogen economy – developments in the Middle East’, hosted by H2 View, David Edmondson (pictured), NEOM Green Hydrogen Company, outlined how it is building the world’s largest green hydrogen plant; Raymond Ewart, Manager – Project Development at AMEA Power presented on ‘A green hydrogen ecosystem for MENA: water, wind, solar and ammonia’; and Tina Andersen, Head of Sales & Applications Engineering at Hystar, shared her insights on the the ‘Next generation of PEM electrolysers for the MENA region’.

Ewart echoed the importance of collaboration in reducing bottlenecks and obstacles. “We need the likes of industrial gas companies partnering with strong renewable players – like with Air Products and ACWA Power in NEOM. The off-take is still quite unchartered territory, and many of the electrolysers haven’t been done at scale which we have to be wary of. For ramping up, we need economies of scale to drive prices down and manufacturing in place so it arrives on time.”

Edmondson said construction is advancing at NEOM, which is targeting 600 tonnes of green hydrogen daily.

“It’s a huge piece of land – as we’re in the World Cup, it’s about the equivalent of 325 football fields – and a lot of space set aside for expansion. All the product initially is for export but we do now need to look at opportunities for hydrogen across greater Saudi Arabia and the region.”

He said many of the key challenges have been overcome by selecting partners in good time (18 months ago). “In many ways the traditional challenges with operating a mega project we have managed to eliminate. But the main projects with large projects is how to configure them.”

Andersen highlighted Hystar’s development, zero emission value creation in MENA, the attributes of its “thinner” patented PEM electrolysers and efficient solutions for wind and solar.

She believes MENA is “the most competitive” green hydrogen region, given its abundant renewables, access to global shipping routes and pipelines, and extensive oil and gas experience.

She said Hystar is building its first containerised large-scale system which will be commissioned in 2023.