Saudi Arabia sees renewable hydrogen as a way to maintain its role as a “continuous, reliable energy supplier to the world” under a strategy that could even see the green fuel sent by pipeline to Europe, said the executive leading the energy element of the country’s $500 billion Neom future city initiative.

ENERGY EXPLORED: SUBSCRIBE TO ACCELERATE

Gain valuable insight into the global oil and gas industry's energy transition from ACCELERATE, the free weekly newsletter from Upstream and Recharge. Sign up here today.

Neom’s managing director of energy, water and food, Peter Terium, said that as green hydrogen production gears up from giant wind and solar powered electrolysers such as those planned in Saudi Arabia, producers are likely to look at all export options to supply predicted massive global demand.

That could potentially include conversion into ammonia for transportation, shipping as liquefied hydrogen, or conceivably a giant pipeline taking green H2 to Europe, said Terium, a former chief executive of German utility giants RWE and Innogy, who is planning a 100% clean energy system for Saudi Arabia’s ‘living laboratory’ on the Red Sea.

Terium said green hydrogen will be central to the vision for Neom — which has already announced a joint venture with Air Products and developer ACWA Power to host renewable H2 production powered by 4 gigawatts of wind, solar and storage — and the wider Saudi economy.

“If I look at where the natural gas in Russia [sent to Europe] comes from, it’s not that much closer than building a hydrogen pipeline for Neom through Egypt, North Africa and then all the way up into Europe,” Terium told Upstream's sister renewable energy publication Recharge, adding that experts believe it would be possible to use a significant amount of existing pipeline infrastructure to construct the colossal project.

Terium’s remarks echo those of Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, who told an industry conference last week: “If Europe would like to buy more hydrogen, Saudi green hydrogen, we would be more than happy, and even, if the economics allow for it, piping it all the way to somewhere in Europe.”

Reliable supplier

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter. Terium told Recharge: “One of the things [Saudi Arabia] has realised is that they have been a continuous, reliable supplier [of energy] to the world economy.

“Making the move to renewable energy, they have to continue to play that role. Hydrogen is a key element of that.”

European nations have openly discussed needing huge supplies of green hydrogen to meet their decarbonisation plans, with German Energy Minister Peter Altmaier saying last month he had held talks with Russia on the subject.

Terium’s comments came as he spoke in detail to Recharge about his plans to create within a decade from scratch the massive energy base for Neom, which will include one of the largest single wind and solar procurement programmes in recent years that could see up to 40GW deployed.

Neom, which plans to become home to a million people and offer the world an eco-tourism paradise, also wants to pioneer green industrial processes powered by renewable electricity or hydrogen.

(This article first appeared in Upstream's renewable energy sister publication Recharge on 2 March, 2021.)