We are delighted to present a Q&A session with Shafeen Nayan Veettil Muhammed, a distinguished Global FEED Tender Manager at Schneider Electric. With over 16 years of experience in commercial and project management roles, Shafeen is also a certified Hydrogen Energy Consultant with expertise in green hydrogen business development. His insights stem from his work supporting customers with sustainable energy automation and electrification solutions. In this Q&A session, Shafeen delves into digitalization's role in green hydrogen, decarbonization strategies, the Middle East's position in the green hydrogen landscape, and more. Get ready to learn about the future of energy and the innovative pathways to a greener world.

#WHF: Digital technologies are rapidly changing the energy landscape. How can digitalization best support the development and deployment of green hydrogen, especially for efficiency and optimization?

#Shafeen Muhammed: Digitalization plays a pivotal role in unlocking the challenges that we face today & may encounter in future. Today most of the projects are under conceptual & feasibility study stages.

Implementing Digital Twin methodology right from the beginning of the life cycle of the project optimises the plant design and also significantly improves the engineering & operational efficiency.

During the conceptual & feasibility study stage, Digital technologies like combined power & process simulation gives visibility early in the decision process for investment in Green hydrogen projects. It enables optimal sizing and operation strategy and provides visibility to end-to-end economic (LCOH), technical and greenhouse gas emission details at the conception stage, incorporating different vectors like renewable energy models, weather forecasts, electricity market price, electrolyser models, balance of plants, and hydrogen derivatives.

Another major challenge today is the rapid scaling of electrolyser manufacturing and incorporation of new innovations within the existing production processes. Digitalization can help in automating the manufacturing process,  automating the testing scenarios which would otherwise take weeks to perform manually. optimise the complex production processes by predicting and controlling parameters. This increases efficiency, quality and safety while reducing CapEx and accelerating faster time to market.

While Electrification is the best vector for decarbonisation of energy systems, it is also the main driver of the exorbitant price of green hydrogen production , at more than 70% of the cost on average. Digital technologies like:

Energy Management Systems (EMS) can significantly help the Green Hydrogen developers during operation stages to run the plant at best economical model on a day. EMS helps in orchestrating the Renewable Electricity Supply & Hydrogen production based on renewable energy and its forecast , Spot market and its forecast, Electrolyser characteristics and lifecycle, H2 demand, storage capacity and production forecast, Decision to export energy, Decision to use the process flexibility etc.

#WHF: How is green hydrogen directly supporting efforts to achieve decarbonization or net-zero targets across various industries? Could you highlight a few sectors where it might have the greatest impact?

#Shafeen Muhammed: I would like to emphasise the Importance of ‘Priority settings for hydrogen applications across the energy systems’. Focus is required by governments/regulating institutions while forming policies & incentives such as a way to prioritise projects for the 'targeted offtake sectors'. Priority for green hydrogen applications must be for 'hard-to-abate sectors' like Iron & Steel, Heavy & long distance transport,refineries etc. (where you can either not directly electrify or not economical to electrify) & where there is possibility of maximum yield of reducing GHG emissions.

For quicker decarbonization, 'existing hydrogen application sectors' shall also be prioritised like fertilisers, chemicals & refineries etc. where there already exists sufficient infrastructure for deployment of hydrogen or its derivatives.

Faster permitting & higher incentives required for innovation & technology development ,must be focused towards hard-to-abate sectors.

#WHF: The Middle East has emerged as a significant player in the green hydrogen arena. How do you see collaborative partnerships between companies from other regions and the Middle East influencing and accelerating the global adoption of green hydrogen?

#Shafeen Muhammed: The Middle East possesses abundant solar resources and land for generating renewable energy. It is also strategically positioned to serve European and Asian markets where there is maximum demand.

To ensure the success of the energy transition, it is crucial to establish both global and local working committees or groups tailored to stakeholders within each stage of the new energy ecosystem. This approach fosters targeted collaboration, which is essential for effectively navigating the complexities of the transition. Furthermore, facilitating a swift energy transition also requires an active exchange of experiences and learnings.

Joint development and partnerships are pivotal in accelerating technology development for the energy transition by promoting shared expertise, resources, and diverse perspectives. Collaborative efforts facilitate quicker innovation, reduce duplication of work, and enable the pooling of resources.

#WHF: What are some promising alternative methods for transporting and storing hydrogen on a large scale?

#Shafeen Muhammed: Transporting Hydrogen in the form of Ammonia is a low hanging fruit since we have the existing infrastructure & technology know-how of how to deal with Ammonia.

In this case, strategic allocation of hydrogen to the end-use requirement within the country is key for better adoption of green hydrogen. Where possible, imported ammonia to be directly used in end-use applications like fertilisers, detergents , chemical plants etc. without cracking which otherwise will add to the cost & reduce efficiency.  Locally produced Hydrogen to be directed for other applications.

There also exists alternative indirect methods based on end-use applications. For example, in the case of steel, many DRI-EAF technology-based steel plants, adaptable to hydrogen applications for decarbonization, are located in the Middle East Africa region. As a result, we have recently witnessed steel companies from Asia investing or partnering in DRI Production Plants in the Middle East and shipping the Hot Briquette Iron to their countries for steel manufacturing, rather than exporting hydrogen or its derivatives itself.

#WHF: How do you think events like the World Hydrogen Forum can contribute to the further development of green hydrogen on a global scale?

#Shafeen Muhammed: Hydrogen events like the World Hydrogen Forum are crucial for sharing knowledge, fostering collaboration, raising market awareness, influencing policies, showcasing technologies, and attracting investments, all of which accelerate the growth and adoption of green hydrogen. It is also equally important for the event organisers to explore ways to ensure affordability & accessibility to such events. This approach ensures a broader range of stakeholders can engage & widespread awareness of benefits, challenges & solutions that we need to face together in the energy transition journey.