By Ayman Hussein – Media General Manager – Gas Regulatory Authority
There is no doubt that the world is moving towards renewable energy that does not negatively impact the environment and humans, which makes the move forward occur with utmost enthusiasm and speed. It is worth mentioning that the production of green hydrogen has succeeded in many countries around the world for its many advantages.
The most important advantage is that it does not emit polluting gases, whether during combustion or production. It is also storable since hydrogen is easy to store, allowing it to be used later for other purposes. Moreover, it is versatile; it can be converted into electricity or synthetic gas to be used for domestic, commercial, industrial, or transportation purposes. In addition to its portability, it can be blended with natural gas in proportions of up to 20% using the same gas pipelines and infrastructure.
However, we have to know what green hydrogen is, its nature, and how to produce it. Green hydrogen is a light and highly reactive global fuel, produced through a chemical process known as electrolysis. This method uses an electric current to extract hydrogen from water, in which water is broken down into oxygen and hydrogen.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but on Earth, it does not appear pure in nature and requires energy to be separated. Through electrolysis, all you need is water to produce large amounts of hydrogen, a large electrolyzer, and a plentiful supply of electricity. As long as electricity is produced from renewable sources such as wind or solar energy, then hydrogen is effectively green.
One main difficulty is that large electrolyzers are scarce, and ample supplies of renewable electricity still come at a very expensive price compared to other production processes.
One of the reasons green hydrogen, in general, is green is that it contains nearly three times the energy of fossil fuels, which makes it more efficient, according to an article published by Columbia Climatic College.
We can also use green hydrogen on a large scale, which increases the benefits that we will get after its production. For instance, cars and electric trucks can operate on hydrogen fuel cells, container ships can run on liquid ammonia made of hydrogen, and “green steel” refineries can burn hydrogen as a heat source instead of coal. Furthermore, hydrogen-powered electric turbines can generate electricity at times of peak demand to help stabilize the power grid. It can also be used as an alternative to natural gas for cooking and heating in homes.
Natural gas is currently the main source of hydrogen production, representing about 75% of the annual global production of hydrogen.
But if we look at how much green hydrogen is produced now, we will find that it only represents a small percentage of total annual hydrogen production, according to Wood Mackenzie, a global research group for energy, chemicals, renewable materials, metals, and mining consultancy. Based on forecasts by Wood Mackenzie, this percentage will increase significantly in production in the coming years.
There is no doubt that green hydrogen is on everyone’s mind at the moment, especially in Egypt where we see significant planning and action with direct support from the political leadership. Egyptian President Abdelfattah Elsisi requested the preparation of an integrated national strategy for the production of green hydrogen in Egypt, where the government is looking to launch an initial phase of projects that may amount to $3-4 billion.
We also see some important steps in this project, such as the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS), the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company, and the Italian company Eni, to cooperate in the production of green and blue hydrogen. This initiative will involve technical and commercial feasibility assessments of its targeted production projects in Egypt and under this protocol. The cooperation will be through conducting a study on joint projects for the production of green hydrogen using electricity generated from renewable energy sources. There is also cooperation between the Egyptian government and the private sector, as several companies in the private sector signed a memorandum of understanding to work on this ambitious project, including Siemens, Eni, Demi, Hyundai Rotem, and Sanam.
Some local companies in the field of energy are also cooperating with other foreign firms in this regard, including TAQA Power, which signed a memorandum of understanding with the German company MAN Solutions to launch a pilot project to produce green hydrogen in Egypt. The cooperative efforts to find a national strategy for the production of green hydrogen can and will bring about huge opportunities for electricity generation from renewable energies.
Though green hydrogen may have its advantages, we have to shed light on some of the disadvantages that have to be overcome, such as high costs. Energy from renewable sources is essential for generating green hydrogen through the costly process of electrolysis. Developments will take time and the International Energy Agency has said electrolyte costs could be cut in half by 2040.
Regarding safety, we should also note that hydrogen is a highly volatile and flammable element, and therefore, strict and comprehensive safety measures are required to prevent leakage, explosions, and other potential hazards.
It should also be noted that the Egyptian steps towards a green economy have been strengthened in response to Article (32) of the constitution, which stipulates the preservation and proper exploitation of natural resources, not depleting them, and observing the rights of future generations in them, with a commitment to optimal use of renewable energy sources, and stimulating investment in them. And encouraging scientific research related to it. Therefore, it is necessary to enact legislation regulating the process of producing green hydrogen and everything related to it. Therefore, green hydrogen is considered to be the fuel of the future due to its significant advantages. This is why Egypt sought to be one of the first countries in the world in this industry to complement the various development programs in all fields that Egypt is witnessing at the moment.