By Gavin Gibbon
Siemens, DEWA and Expo 2020 Dubai have collaborated to build the region's first solar-driven hydrogen electrolysis facility
Green hydrogen “could be the new oil” in 20 years’ time, according to Manuel Kuehn, senior vice president, business development, Siemens Middle East.
Siemens is currently involved in a collaboration with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and Expo 2020 Dubai to build the region’s first solar-driven hydrogen electrolysis facility at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the emirate.
Ground was broken in February last year and the pilot plant is scheduled to be up and running ahead of the start of Expo on October 20.
Kuehn said: “The project is currently in commissioning stage. A good part of the asset is already in the country, they will now install it and test it before Expo 2020. It will be ready before the summer.”
The facility will test and demonstrate an integrated megawatt-scale plant to produce hydrogen using solar PV, store the gas, and then deploy it for re-electrification, mobility, or other industrial uses.
Burning hydrogen for electricity could work economically in some countries by 2050 if emission prices rise to $55 per ton of carbon dioxide, according to a report from Bloomberg NEF. The research group assumes a natural gas price of at least $6.50 per million British thermal units.
If the Dubai plant only uses daylight solar power from PV at the solar park, each unit can produce up to 240 kilograms of hydrogen per day - an average fuel cell electric vehicle requires about one kilogram of H2 per 100 kilometres of range, depending on the model, environmental conditions, and other factors.
“It will be a big benefit because it will make people aware of the technology and we will get experience of what it means to run it under Middle East conditions in terms of temperature. This will help us to build up larger scale productions in the Middle East,” said Kuehn.
The facility will provide hydrogen energy for mobility purposes at Expo 2020 Dubai, which is set to run from October 20 this year to April 10 2021.
Kuehn explained: “On a very generic level you can use it in industries, you can use it for transportation and you can use it for re-electrification which means hydrogen can be burned again in all kinds of combustion engines up to large gas devices.”
That includes powering ships, large trucks and air travel.
He added: “If you look at the current predictions, everybody says, depending on where you look, we will double or even triple the amount of flown miles in the next 30 years or so. Imagine, we will be doubling or tripling our carbon emissions from planes.
“That’s a no-go. We need to decarbonise the air traffic. The question is how? Because of the distances involved, battery is probably not the answer, but there must be something done with the existing fuel and currently there is the idea of using hydrogen or a derived from green hydrogen, is probably one of the better answers we have.”