Uzbekistan authorities have resolved to involve the World Bank to assist the country in studying its options for blue hydrogen production and arranging associated carbon capture and storage solutions, as Tashkent sees increased opportunities in sustainable energy development.

The World Bank and the Uzbek Energy Ministry will jointly investigate options for blue hydrogen projects in the country, aiming to produce a roadmap of actions that Uzbekistan will need to take to progress towards the goal of becoming a hydrogen producing state, before the end of next year.

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Besides outlining possible volumes of blue hydrogen production, the roadmap is expected to consider possible green hydrogen initiatives that are likely to be linked with a continued push from authorities to foster solar and wind generation in the country.

The ministry added that three existing investors in a large energy generation project in the country — France’s Air Products, Germany’s Siemens Energy and Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power — have preliminarily agreed to extend their partnership with authorities to consider pilot hydrogen projects.

In March 2020, the three companies signed a set of power purchase and investment agreements with Uzbekistan, covering the construction of a 1500 megawatt combined cycle gas turbine power plant in the Sirdarya region.

The $1.2 billion plant will sit next to an old gas-fired power generation facility to ease access to piped natural gas, and may be able to supply electric energy to Uzbekistan and neighbouring Tajikistan.

The contract also encompasses the building of two wind power schemes in the regions of Bukhara and Navoy, with a total generation capacity of about 1000 MW.

Additionally, the three companies have reportedly committed to organise training of personnel that may be employed at proposed hydrogen facilities, the ministry said.

Uzbekistan has become one of fastest growing economies in Central Asia and, with a rapidly increasing population, is already facing a shortage of electricity and gas.

However, authorities hope that solar and wind generation projects will reduce this shortage by providing electricity that is competitively priced compared with fossil fuels.

Seeing the influx of investors into Uzbekistan's solar and wind projects over the past two years, neighbouring Kazakhstan has also moved forward renewable schemes despite being a major oil and gas producer and exporter, with a significantly less rapidly growing population.

Speaking earlier in the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan, Prime Minister Askar Mamin said international and domestic investors have committed to inject $2.5 billion into 60 solar and wind generation projects between 2022 and 2025, with the combined output of 2400 MW.