We are delighted to introduce this insightful Q&A session with Dr. Mohammed B. Ansari, a leading expert in the field of hydrogen energy and its applications in the MENA region. Dr. Ansari holds a doctorate in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from the esteemed Inha University in South Korea and currently serves as Lead Scientist of Oxygenates Technology-T&I at the renowned Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC).

With over 15 years of experience in research and development, Dr. Ansari's contributions to clean fuels, hydrogen research, and the Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) are extensive. His groundbreaking work is reflected in his numerous publications in prestigious journals, international patents, and successful intercompany technology transfers.

Dr. Ansari is a true visionary, dedicated to bridging the gap between cutting-edge research and practical applications in the field of sustainable technologies.  He actively collaborates with key stakeholders throughout the GCC and Asia-Pacific region, providing valuable insights into decarbonization efforts and driving the adoption of clean fuels, especially hydrogen.

In this Q&A Session, Dr. Ansari shares his expertise on the current state of hydrogen development in the MENA region, highlighting advancements in Clean hydrogen, and the key factors and challenges influencing the region's transition towards this sustainable energy source.

#WHF: Could you describe the current state of the hydrogen industry in the MENA region, particularly focusing on advancements in green hydrogen?

#Dr. Mohammed B. Ansari: The current state of the hydrogen industry in the MENA region showcases remarkable advancements in both green and blue hydrogen production, driven by the region's rich renewable energy resources and strategic gas reserves. The active players spearheading these endeavors in the MENA region are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco.

Saudi Arabia, for instance, is strategically pursuing both blue and green hydrogen initiatives. The kingdom's focus on blue hydrogen entails leveraging the abundant resources of the Jafurah gas field, complemented by robust carbon capture and storage capabilities. This approach ensures a swift and economically viable energy transition while paving the way for the eventual adoption of green hydrogen as it becomes cost-competitive. Notably, the NEOM Green Hydrogen Company in Saudi Arabia aims to produce 1.2 million metric tons per annum of low-carbon hydrogen by 2026.

Similarly, Masdar in the UAE has committed to producing 1 million tonnes per annum of low-carbon hydrogen by 2030, underscoring the region's dedication to sustainable energy solutions. Moreover, countries like Oman, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt are leveraging their abundant renewable energy resources to propel green hydrogen production forward.

Furthermore, active participation in global collaborations, conference engagements, and the establishment of hydrogen standards enhance the credibility of the MENA region's hydrogen industry on the global stage. These collective efforts position the MENA region as a pivotal contributor to the global energy transition towards a low-carbon future, reaffirming its role as a leader in sustainable energy innovation.

#WHF: What factors are driving the adoption of green hydrogen technology in the MENA region? Are there any unique incentives or motivations?

#Dr. Mohammed B. Ansari: The adoption of green hydrogen technology in the MENA region is propelled by several key factors. Firstly, the region's abundance of solar and wind energy resources positions it as a prime location for green hydrogen production, leveraging electrolysis to harness renewable energy for hydrogen generation. Additionally, the region's robust industrial base and expanding population contribute to a growing demand for cleaner energy alternatives. As industries and urban areas increasingly prioritize sustainability, green hydrogen emerges as a viable solution to reduce carbon emissions and meet environmental targets. Moreover, the MENA region's strategic geographic position offers lucrative export opportunities, particularly to European and Asian markets, driving investments in hydrogen production and infrastructure. Political commitments, exemplified by initiatives like Saudi Arabia hosting MENA Climate week and Saudi green initiative, Egypt's participation in COP27 and Dubai’s participation in COP28. The signing of memoranda of understanding for green hydrogen and green ammonia production, underscore the region's dedication to hydrogen development. Furthermore, collaboration between public and private sectors plays a pivotal role in enabling successful hydrogen projects, leveraging the region's wealth of expertise in the energy sector.

Overall, the convergence of renewable energy potential, industrial demand, export opportunities, political commitments, and collaborative efforts positions the MENA region as a key player in the global transition towards a hydrogen-based economy.

#WHF: What challenges are hindering the implementation of green hydrogen projects in the MENA region, if any and how are these addressed?

#Dr. Mohammed B. Ansari: The implementation of green hydrogen projects in the MENA region presents both promising opportunities and notable challenges. On the one hand, the region's vast flat land offers ample space for the rapid expansion of renewable energy infrastructure, making it an ideal location for green hydrogen production. However, the MENA region also faces a significant hurdle in the form of water scarcity, which is crucial for electrolysis-based hydrogen production. Addressing this challenge requires the exploration and deployment of innovative water-efficient technologies, alongside collaborative efforts among stakeholders to optimize water usage.

Moreover, securing long-term offtake agreements and establishing robust infrastructure are critical for ensuring the bankability and scalability of green hydrogen projects. The development of clear policy frameworks and supportive regulations is essential to provide the necessary incentives and guidance for project developers and investors. Additionally, ongoing technological innovation plays a crucial role in overcoming challenges and driving progress in green hydrogen production methods, making them more efficient and cost-effective over time.

Furthermore, the MENA region must focus on developing a domestic and international hydrogen trading market to ensure the viability and competitiveness of its green hydrogen projects. This involves securing contracts in export markets and fostering collaboration with countries investing in their local hydrogen markets, such as Germany, France, Australia, Japan, and South Korea.

By effectively addressing water scarcity, ensuring project bankability, building necessary infrastructure, establishing clear policy frameworks, fostering technological innovation, and expanding export opportunities, the MENA region can capitalize on the immense potential of green hydrogen and play a significant role in the global transition towards sustainable energy solutions

#WHF: What opportunities does the MENA region offer to companies willing to invest or expand their businesses, especially in the context of green hydrogen initiatives?

#Dr. Mohammed B. Ansari: The MENA region presents compelling opportunities for companies looking to invest or expand their businesses, particularly in green hydrogen initiatives. With a growing emphasis on renewable energy, countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE have embarked on ambitious projects such as the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai and the NEOM project in Saudi Arabia, signaling the region's commitment to sustainable energy solutions. Leveraging over 1,500 wind and solar photovoltaic projects producing over 20 GW, the MENA region offers substantial potential for green hydrogen production. Furthermore, existing gas pipelines such as the Dolphin Gas Project provide a strategic advantage for the rapid exchange and export of green hydrogen, minimizing infrastructure costs. The region's ability to produce cost-competitive green hydrogen, priced at just under $1.5 per kilogram, positions MENA countries as key exporters, attracting investment interest from Europe and beyond. Noteworthy examples include companies like Siemens Gamesa and ACWA Power, which have announced plans to invest in green hydrogen projects, capitalizing on the region's favorable conditions. Moreover, the transition towards high-scale clean hydrogen production holds the potential to reshape geopolitical dynamics, positioning MENA nations as leaders in the global energy landscape. In summary, the MENA region's combination of renewable energy potential, existing infrastructure, cost competitiveness, and geopolitical significance makes it an attractive destination for green hydrogen investments and business expansion.

#WHF: Can you elaborate on the role of global events like the World Hydrogen Forum in influencing green hydrogen development in the MENA region, particularly in terms of collaboration and innovation?

#Dr. Mohammed B. Ansari: Global events such as the World Hydrogen Forum play a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of green hydrogen development in the MENA region. These gatherings serve as unparalleled platforms for fostering collaboration, driving innovation, and facilitating knowledge exchange among industry leaders, policymakers, researchers, and investors from around the world. Through engaging discussions on policy advocacy and alignment, participants ensure that regional strategies are not only in harmony with global trends but also conducive to the successful implementation of green hydrogen projects. Moreover, these forums provide an invaluable opportunity for showcasing cutting-edge technologies and successful case studies, thereby inspiring local stakeholders and accelerating the adoption of green hydrogen solutions. Additionally, they serve as catalysts for announcing ambitious projects and commitments, effectively signaling intent and attracting crucial investment. Furthermore, MENA participants benefit from insights gleaned from global leaders in hydrogen development, drawing upon lessons learned from mature markets like Germany and Japan to inform regional strategies and expedite progress.

In essence, the World Hydrogen Forum acts as a driving force behind green hydrogen advancement in the MENA region, propelling it towards a sustainable energy future through collaboration, policy alignment, innovation, and knowledge transfer.

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are solely the personal opinions of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of any company or organisation.