We're thrilled to present an exclusive Q&A session with Ahmad Baqa, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at SACHLO. With a distinguished career in Chemical Engineering spanning over two decades, Ahmad brings unparalleled expertise and visionary leadership to the forefront of our discussion. In this session, Ahmad delves into the dynamics of the Middle East's burgeoning hydrogen industry, offering illuminating insights into its current status, impact on global dynamics, and future trajectories. Moreover, he shares profound perspectives on the pivotal role of byproduct hydrogen in steering the chemical industry toward sustainability and cleaner energy solutions.

Join us as Ahmad Baqa unveils the complexities and promises of the evolving hydrogen landscape in this engaging dialogue.

#WHF: What is the current status of the Middle East's hydrogen industry as both a market and a producer? How does the region's involvement impact global hydrogen dynamics and future prospects?

#Ahmad Baqa: The Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia, has been actively exploring opportunities in the hydrogen industry, recognizing its potential as a key player in both the market and production. Here are some key points regarding the current status:

Market Presence:

  • The Middle East is strategically positioned to become a major player in the global hydrogen market. Several countries in the region are keenly investing in and developing hydrogen projects to diversify their energy portfolios.
  • Initiatives range from hydrogen production for domestic use to exporting hydrogen to international markets.
  • Especially Saudi Arabia is strategically focusing on hydrogen as part of its Vision 2030 initiative to diversify its economy and reduce dependence on oil. The country aims to become a significant player in the global hydrogen market

Production Capacity:

  • The region, with its abundant natural resources, particularly in terms of natural gas and renewable energy potential, is exploring various pathways for hydrogen production. This includes green hydrogen (produced using renewable energy) and blue hydrogen (produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage).
  • Projects and partnerships have been formed to scale up production capacity, aligning with the global push for clean and sustainable energy.
  • Specifically Saudi Arabia has abundant renewable energy resources, including vast areas suitable for solar projects. The country is exploring green hydrogen production by utilizing these renewable resources.
  • Blue hydrogen projects, which involve the production of hydrogen from natural gas with carbon capture and storage, are also being considered.

Impact on Global Dynamics:

  • The Middle East's significant involvement in hydrogen production has the potential to reshape global hydrogen dynamics. With the region being a major energy exporter, its entry into the hydrogen market can influence global supply chains and pricing structures.
  • Countries in the Middle East are also exploring partnerships with international counterparts to establish a global hydrogen economy.
  • Particularly Saudi Arabia's involvement in the hydrogen industry has the potential to significantly impact global hydrogen dynamics. As a major energy exporter, the Kingdom's entry into the hydrogen market can influence global supply chains, pricing structures, and overall market dynamics.
  • The country's strategic location and established infrastructure for energy exports make it a key player in shaping the future of the global hydrogen economy.

Future Prospects:

  • The Middle East's commitment to hydrogen aligns with broader global efforts to transition towards cleaner energy sources and achieve carbon neutrality.
  • The future prospects include continued investments in research, technology, and infrastructure to support the growth of the hydrogen industry. The region's focus on sustainable practices is expected to drive innovation and efficiency in hydrogen production.
  • Saudi Arabia's commitment to hydrogen aligns with broader global efforts to transition to cleaner energy sources. The country is expected to play a crucial role in the development of a global hydrogen economy.
  • Ongoing investments in research, technology, and infrastructure are likely to drive the growth of the hydrogen industry in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom's focus on sustainability and innovation positions it for long-term success in the evolving energy landscape.

#WHF: How do you foresee the role of byproduct hydrogen from processes like chlor-alkali shaping the future of the chemical industry's sustainability efforts and its transition towards cleaner energy solutions?

#Ahmad Baqa: The role of byproduct hydrogen from processes like chlor-alkali has the potential to significantly shape the future of the chemical industry's sustainability efforts and its transition toward cleaner energy solutions. Here are key aspects to consider:

Hydrogen as a Clean Energy Source:

  • Byproduct hydrogen from chlor-alkali processes, often termed as "grey hydrogen," can serve as a cleaner energy source when integrated into various industrial processes.
  • As industries across the globe strive to reduce carbon emissions and transition toward sustainable practices, byproduct hydrogen becomes a valuable resource for achieving cleaner energy solutions.

Green Hydrogen Production:

  • By improving and implementing advanced technologies, chlor-alkali processes can evolve to produce "green hydrogen," which is generated using renewable energy sources like solar or wind power.
  • The integration of green hydrogen production into chlor-alkali processes aligns with the broader trend toward utilizing clean energy in industrial applications.

Reducing Carbon Footprint:

  • Utilizing byproduct hydrogen in the chemical industry contributes to reducing the overall carbon footprint of industrial operations. Hydrogen, when produced through cleaner processes, acts as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional hydrogen production methods.

Integration into Chemical Processes:

  • Byproduct hydrogen can be integrated into various chemical processes, serving as a feedstock or fuel. This integration allows industries to replace fossil fuels with hydrogen, reducing the reliance on non-renewable resources and mitigating environmental impact.

Industry Collaboration and Innovation:

  • The transition toward cleaner energy solutions involves collaboration among industry stakeholders, research institutions, and policymakers. Companies engaged in chlor-alkali processes have the opportunity to lead in innovation and contribute to sustainability efforts.

Policy and Regulatory Support:

  • Supportive policies and regulations that encourage the utilization of byproduct hydrogen in the chemical industry can further accelerate its role in promoting sustainability. Governments and regulatory bodies play a crucial role in incentivizing cleaner energy practices.

Economic Viability:

  • The economic viability of integrating byproduct hydrogen into industrial processes is a key factor. Continued advancements in technology, coupled with increasing awareness of the economic benefits of sustainable practices, will drive industry-wide adoption.

In summary, byproduct hydrogen from processes like chlor-alkali has the potential to be a cornerstone in the chemical industry's sustainability efforts. As the industry continues to prioritize cleaner energy solutions, the responsible use of byproduct hydrogen can contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future.

#WHF: Given that hydrogen is obtained as a byproduct in your process, could you elaborate on your methods for both storing and transporting this hydrogen within your operations?

#Ahmad Baqa: We do not store or transport hydrogen; instead, it is internally utilized in the production of HCl. However, the following are potential methods for storing and transporting hydrogen:

Hydrogen Storage:

Compressed Hydrogen:

  • Hydrogen gas can be compressed and stored in high-pressure tanks. This is a common method for short-term storage and is suitable for applications where space is limited.

Liquid Hydrogen:

  • Hydrogen can be cooled to extremely low temperatures to become a liquid. Liquid hydrogen has a higher energy density than gaseous hydrogen and is often used for long-term storage and transportation.

Hydride Storage:

  • Hydrogen can chemically combine with certain metals to form metal hydrides, offering a method for safe and reversible hydrogen storage. This approach is being explored for various applications.

Underground Storage:

  • Hydrogen can be stored underground in salt caverns or depleted natural gas reservoirs. This method is suitable for large-scale and long-term storage.

Hydrogen Transportation:

Pipeline Transport:

  • For short-distance transportation, hydrogen pipelines can be used. Pipelines are a cost-effective and efficient means of transporting large quantities of hydrogen.

High-Pressure Tube Trailers:

  • Hydrogen can be transported in high-pressure tube trailers. These trailers contain compressed hydrogen gas and are suitable for both short and medium distances.

Liquid Hydrogen Tankers:

  • Liquid hydrogen is transported in cryogenic tankers. These tankers are designed to maintain extremely low temperatures to keep hydrogen in a liquid state.

Ammonia as a Hydrogen Carrier:

  • Hydrogen can be chemically bonded to ammonia, creating a hydrogen carrier. Ammonia is easier to transport and handle, and the hydrogen can be extracted at the destination.

Hydrogen Blending:

  • Hydrogen can be blended with natural gas and transported through existing natural gas pipelines. This approach, known as hydrogen blending, is being explored to gradually introduce hydrogen into existing infrastructure.

It's important to note that the specific methods that must be chosen for hydrogen storage and transportation depend on factors such as the scale of operations, distance to be covered, safety considerations, and the intended use of the hydrogen.

#WHF: How do you envision the future of the global hydrogen industry, considering its current trajectory and emerging trends?

#Ahmad Baqa: Here are key factors influencing the industry's trajectory:

Green Hydrogen Dominance:

  • There is a growing emphasis on green hydrogen, produced using renewable energy sources. The industry is witnessing increased investments in electrolysis technologies powered by solar and wind energy, aiming to enhance the sustainability of hydrogen production.

Policy Support and Government Initiatives:

  • Governments worldwide are implementing policies and incentives to support hydrogen as a clean energy carrier. Hydrogen strategies and roadmaps are being developed to facilitate industry growth, reduce carbon emissions, and achieve broader climate goals.

International Collaboration:

  • Collaboration on an international scale is becoming crucial. Countries are forming partnerships to facilitate the development of a global hydrogen market, including initiatives for hydrogen trade and infrastructure development.

Technological Advancements:

  • Ongoing research and development efforts are focused on advancing hydrogen production, storage, and transportation technologies. Innovations in electrolysis, fuel cells, and storage methods contribute to making hydrogen more economically viable and scalable.

Diverse End-Use Applications:

  • Hydrogen is finding applications across various sectors, including transportation, industry, and power generation. The versatility of hydrogen makes it a key player in achieving decarbonization across multiple industries.

Hydrogen in Transportation:

  • The transportation sector, including fuel cell electric vehicles and hydrogen-powered buses, is increasingly adopting hydrogen as a clean energy source. This trend is expected to continue, driven by the need for zero-emission mobility solutions.

Industrial Decarbonization:

  • Industries with high emissions, such as steel and chemical manufacturing, are exploring hydrogen as a means of decarbonizing their processes. Hydrogen's role in industrial applications is anticipated to grow as carbon reduction targets become more stringent.

Hydrogen Infrastructure Development:

  • Investments in hydrogen infrastructure, including production facilities, pipelines, and refueling stations, are gaining momentum. The establishment of a robust infrastructure is critical for the widespread adoption of hydrogen technologies.

Hydrogen Economy Integration:

  • Efforts are underway to integrate hydrogen into existing energy systems, creating a hydrogen economy. This involves blending hydrogen into natural gas networks, exploring power-to-gas concepts, and incorporating hydrogen into broader energy transition strategies.

Increased Private Sector Participation:

  • Private companies are playing a significant role in driving hydrogen initiatives. Partnerships between energy companies, technology providers, and investors are accelerating the development and commercialization of hydrogen projects.

The future of the global hydrogen industry appears promising, with a continued shift toward sustainable and clean energy solutions. However, challenges such as cost competitiveness, infrastructure development, and scaling up production remain focal points for industry stakeholders.

#WHF: In what ways do events like the World Hydrogen Forum contribute to advancing the hydrogen industry, fostering collaboration, and shaping the future of hydrogen-based technologies and applications?

#Ahmad Baqa: Events like the World Hydrogen Forum play a crucial role in advancing the hydrogen industry, fostering collaboration, and shaping the future of hydrogen-based technologies and applications in several ways:

Knowledge Sharing:

  • Forums provide a platform for experts, researchers, industry leaders, and policymakers to share insights, research findings, and best practices related to hydrogen technologies. This knowledge exchange accelerates learning and innovation within the industry.

Networking Opportunities:

  • These events facilitate networking among professionals from diverse sectors of the hydrogen industry. Networking opportunities enable collaborations, partnerships, and the exchange of ideas, fostering a collaborative environment for industry growth.

Technology Showcases:

  • Forums often include exhibitions and technology showcases where companies can demonstrate their latest innovations and advancements in hydrogen-related technologies. This enables stakeholders to stay informed about the latest developments in the field.

Policy Discussions:

  • Policymakers often participate in these events, providing a platform for discussions on regulatory frameworks, incentives, and government policies that can support the growth of the hydrogen industry. It allows for direct engagement between industry stakeholders and policymakers.

Market Trends and Opportunities:

  • Attendees gain insights into current market trends, emerging opportunities, and challenges in the hydrogen sector. Understanding market dynamics is crucial for industry players to make informed decisions and strategic plans.

Investment and Funding Opportunities:

  • Investors, venture capitalists, and funding organizations often participate in these forums, providing an avenue for companies and projects to attract investment. This financial support is essential for scaling up hydrogen technologies and infrastructure.

Global Collaboration:

  • The international nature of forums allows for global collaboration. Participants from various countries can discuss and explore opportunities for cross-border collaborations, joint ventures, and technology transfer, contributing to the development of a global hydrogen economy.

Policy Harmonization:

  • Forums can contribute to the harmonization of hydrogen-related policies and standards on a global scale. Consistent regulations and standards enhance the interoperability of hydrogen technologies and facilitate international trade and collaboration.

Public Awareness and Education:

  • Events like the World Hydrogen Forum provide a platform to raise public awareness about the benefits of hydrogen technologies. Educating the public, policymakers, and industry stakeholders is crucial for garnering support and fostering wider acceptance.

Acceleration of Transition:

  • By bringing together key players, thought leaders, and decision-makers, these forums contribute to accelerating the transition to a hydrogen-based economy. They create a sense of urgency, aligning efforts toward common goals and milestones.

In summary, events like the World Hydrogen Forum serve as catalysts for progress in the hydrogen industry by facilitating collaboration, knowledge exchange, and the development of a global community committed to advancing hydrogen-based technologies and applications.