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The hydrogen and seawater nexus

green hydrogen energy fuel generation isometric set
(Photo: Envato Elements)
green hydrogen energy fuel generation isometric set

Hamzeh S. Al-Alayani

The writer is a board member of a Jordanian public-sector government investments management company and a regular commentator on regional energy and industrial matters.

There is a massive shift under way in the global economy. The ongoing energy transition is unprecedented due to its scale and the profound impact on the established socio-economic, technological, and geopolitical trends worldwide. Amid this significant reshuffle, renewables, in combination with energy efficiency, now form the leading edge of a far-reaching global energy transition. This transition is not a fuel replacement, but a shift to a different system with commensurate political, technical, environmental, and economic disruptions.اضافة اعلان

Fossil energy costs have risen steeply, causing inflation worldwide. The world benefits from deploying hydrogen in developing countries and emerging economies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to local development and economic growth. Hydrogen as a clean energy carrier is critical to the global decarbonization trend, with the highest energy density of any fuel, three times that of gasoline. Therefore, hydrogen is easier to store and transport than electricity and can facilitate the decarbonization of challenging sectors.

Momentum is building to scale up green hydrogen production in the Middle East and capitalize on rapidly increasing solar and wind capacities as the potential to support industrial decarbonization. Green hydrogen could provide 24 percent of global energy needs by 2050 (38,000 TWh), helping to cut emissions by around a third. Consequently, the transition to green hydrogen could enable $11 trillion of infrastructure investment opportunities over the next 30 years and direct annual revenues of $2.5 trillion.

Global hydrogen production will reach 530 metric tonne per year by 2050. Assuming the full life cycle analysis on average, the solar to hydrogen water footprint is 43 liters of water per kg of hydrogen. Furthermore, producing oxygen as a by-product of the electrolysis process could bring significant benefits to the water industry. For comparison, the extraction and refining of oil has an average water footprint of 133 liters of water per kg of oil.
… the transition to green hydrogen could enable $11 trillion of infrastructure investment opportunities over the next 30 years and direct annual revenues of $2.5 trillion.
In 2019, Jordan ranked fourth most water-scarce country in the world. Aqaba is Jordan’s only sea access. It is on the Red Sea, with a 25-kilometer share of the coast. Therefore, the availability of seawater has led to significant research efforts in developing direct seawater electrolysis technology for hydrogen production.

The direct integration of seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) process and proton exchange membrane electrolysis will be in higher demand soon. The energy consumed for SWRO would be negligible due to renewable energy, leading to an insignificant increase in the levelized cost of hydrogen (<$0.1 per kg of H2).

The Kingdom could produce affordable and cheap energy; the seawater desalination costs will drop significantly. As an additional benefit, the surplus of processed seawater can be further purified and utilized for domestic needs.

Using innovative tools will serve the primary goal of shifting from water-centric resource management to holistic planning and integrated decision making in the water, energy, food, and environment sectors. The new paradigm powered by renewables will provide Jordan with sustainable energy and water supply.

The government has a unique opportunity today to shape the advent of hydrogen, avoid the flaws and inefficiencies of current systems, and influence geopolitical outcomes.

The increased adoption of hydrogen technologies will disrupt specific economic and political alliances and partnerships. Furthermore, to deliver real change, we must enforce green roles and green skills to co-locate hydrogen generation with “green” farming and bio-resource hubs, leading to renewed economic models along a circular economy.

Green skills are the core of the green transition and harnessing the shift of talent. This suite of talents also offers the opportunity to demonstrate the positive forces of disruption, enhancing national and regional sovereignty, resilience, and cooperation.

We can progressively shift toward these greener jobs, using skills to identify jobs with the highest ability to turn sectors green. We need more opportunities for those with green skills, need to upskill workers who currently lack those skills, and need to ensure that green skills are hardwired into the skillset of future generations.


Hamzeh S. Al-Alayani is a board member of a Jordanian public-sector government investments management company and a regular commentator on regional energy and industrial matters.


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