Saudi to start building green hydrogen plant in NEOM

Saudi Arabia will start construction of a green hydrogen plant as soon as this month as it pushes ahead with plans to export the fuel in about four years. 

The kingdom is on track to sell carbon-free hydrogen from a USD 5bn project in NEOM by 2026, according to Peter Terium, the head of energy and water for the new region. Engineers have finished flattening the site in north-western Saudi Arabia and US-based Air Products & Chemicals will soon begin building the facility, he said.

There will probably be demand from companies from Asia to the US for the exports, Terium said in an interview. Hydrogen is seen as pivotal for the transition to cleaner forms of energy.

“There’s a potential competition between Europe, Japan, South Korea, and some parts of the US,” said Terium. Shipments will be sold “to those who bid the highest price.”

Saudi Arabia wants to be the exporter of hydrogen. The fuel only emits water vapour when burned, making it less polluting than oil, natural gas, and coal. The technology for producing it on a mass scale is still unproven, but the market could be worth USD 700bn annually by 2050 if manufacturers can bring down costs.

State oil firm Saudi Aramco is leading the country’s efforts to make blue hydrogen, produced by converting gas and capturing the carbon dioxide emissions.

The NEOM project, called Helios, is led by a consortium including Air Products and ACWA Power International, a Saudi utility. Green hydrogen is manufactured with renewable energy.

The companies will use 120 Thyssenkrupp electrolysers, each of them about 40 meters long, to split hydrogen from water. The fuel will be shipped from Saudi Arabia as ammonia, which is easier to transport than hydrogen in gaseous form.
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