Understanding the HYDROGEN HYPE
Gulf Business|July 2021
Here’s why the GCC is well-positioned globally to play a leading role in the supply of hydrogen
Aarti Nagraj

The new buzzword in the energy landscape has been decarbonisation, with hydrogen being touted as the fuel of the future. But how far has the GCC actually progressed in the production and deployment of hydrogen? And where is it headed? We speak to Martin O’Neill, VP - Product Management at GE Gas Power and head of GE’s Center for Decarbonisation, to find out more.

Hydrogen has become a hot topic of interest globally and regionally. In the GCC, where do we stand right now in terms of hydrogen production/adoption?

The GCC is starting to look at hydrogen as the primary fuel in a future where only low-carbon fuels will be allowed to burn. With huge reserves of hydrocarbons that have fuelled the world for decades and the increasing global interest in hydrogen for power generation and other uses, we see more and more oil and gas companies in the Gulf focusing on the production of either blue hydrogen or blue ammonia. This is a means for them to remain relevant in the global energy market in the decades ahead as well. We are still at the beginning but plans have already been announced by Saudi Aramco, ADNOC and NEOM to produce either hydrogen or ammonia, which is a suitable carrier of hydrogen, and to ship this fuel overseas to markets such as Japan, South Asia and potentially other parts of the world as well.

What are the biggest challenges in deploying hydrogen for power generation?

There are many practical challenges in the use of hydrogen as a fuel for power generation:

• Transporting and storing hydrogen requires special considerations due to its property of attacking and embrittling certain materials and the extreme pressures and temperatures needed to compress and liquefy it.

• Operating a gas turbine on a fuel with hydrogen may require changes to combustion, fuel and plant safety systems.

• Hydrogen has a heating value that is approximately one-third of natural gas. For a given volume of flow, hydrogen delivers less energy. It is also a smaller molecule than natural gas, meaning that it can leak through seals that would be leak-free in a natural gas system.

• Hydrogen is more flammable than natural gas and special considerations are needed for the safe operation of a gas turbine with a natural gas/ hydrogen fuel blend.

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