Saudi energy minister touts pink hydrogen made by ’empowered young women’
Saudi Arabia aims to become a leading exporter of hydrogen from clean and polluting sources as part of an economic diversification plan
Saudi Arabia is touting hydrogen exports as a win for climate and gender equality, as oil energy seeks to diversify its economy away from oil.
Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman told the World Economic Forum online this week that the kingdom was pursuing the development of blue, green and pink hydrogen, the colors representing how it is made – some cleaner than d ‘others.
He said the EU was interested in green hydrogen, made from renewable electricity, and joked that pink – which will be generated with planned nuclear power plants – was of particular interest to women in the EU. industry.
“We are recruiting, by the way, young Saudi women who are happy to see pink coming,” bin Salman said. “We started to be very concerned about taking care of our new female recruits and our new cadets. We are becoming an extremely well-emancipated society.
However, most of it is probably blue, made from methane and emitting carbon dioxide in the process.
“We will have a field day with blue hydrogen because again, we are the cheapest gas producer,” bin Salman said. “We are making a huge investment in shale gas in Saudi Arabia and we are committed to using this gas to produce blue hydrogen.”
Hydrogen can be burned to power processes like making steel or powering planes and ships. Although it is currently expensive and not widely used, many analysts see it as the clean fuel of the future, especially for applications that cannot be easily electrified. Cleanliness depends on how it is made.
By 2050, the global trade in hydrogen is expected to be worth more than the global trade in oil, according to at the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Europe and East Asia will likely need more hydrogen than they can produce and the Gulf countries are geographically well placed to export by ship or pipeline.
Egypt appoints Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to lead COP27 climate talks
Bin Salman said he had discussed the export of green hydrogen to the EU with European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans. Saudi Arabia expands a $5 billion green hydrogen plant in its new Neom megacity, which is expected to start operating by 2025.
E3G hydrogen analyst Lisa Fischer said the EU is developing guidelines on what constitutes “low carbon” hydrogen and what blue hydrogen, particularly if it comes from of fractured shale gas, will probably be excluded.
The other big hydrogen market is East Asia, which is more likely to accept blue hydrogen. Saudi Arabia is in hydrogen talks with South Korea and Japan.
Saudi Arabia’s electricity has always been almost entirely from oil and gas, but it now plans to increase renewables and to construct two large nuclear reactors for electricity and smaller ones for the extraction of salt from sea water.
With his abundant gas reserves and sunshine, the kingdom is well placed to produce blue and green hydrogen at a lower cost. Its competitive advantage in nuclear is less clear.
While women have won more freedoms in Saudi Arabia in recent years, including the right to drive cars, in 2021 the World Economic Forum Gender Equality Index ranked Saudi Arabia 147th out of 156 countries.
There are no female government ministers in Saudi Arabia, women occupy only 7% of senior positions and earn on average a quarter of a man’s income, according to the report.
Green hydrogen creates jobs in the production of renewable energy and electrolysers, and can support industries like fertilizer production.
Those jobs would help Saudi Arabia move away from oil and gas while keeping its public on its side, Fischer suggested. “If you don’t have as many rents from your fossil fuels anymore, you need another way to keep people happy, to manage politics.”