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Siemens Energy, Masdar to build pilot UAE hydrogen plant by 2022, with focus on SAF

Dubai — Siemens Energy and UAE-based clean energy firm Masdar expect a hydrogen demonstrator plant to be built by 2022 in the country's capital and to focus on showcasing sustainable aviation fuel as part of efforts to create a green hydrogen industry in OPEC's third-biggest producer.

Masdar and Siemens signed a memorandum of understanding in January to develop the demonstrator plant in partnership with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Marubeni Corp., Abu Dhabi Department of Energy and Khalifa University.

The MOU included the construction of a photovoltaic power electrolyzer facility that will showcase the production of SAF, green hydrogen for passenger cars and buses in Abu Dhabi, and clean fuels for the maritime sector.

The hydrogen demonstrator, which is envisaged to be powered by a PV plant producing as much as 20 MW, will be financed by different developers at a cost that has yet to be determined, Fawaz Al Muharrami, acting executive director of clean energy at Masdar, told S&P Global Platts in a recent interview.

"Once of course we evaluate this [Siemens Energy hydrogen] technology and integration of this technology then we would be able to scale up this into the commercial scaled-up project in the future," Muharrami said. "Definitely, we are looking to run the plant for like 2 to 3 years to ensure the plant is able to scale up and then we will be able to provide a final conclusion on this."

Hydrogen alliance

Masdar -- set up in 2006 by Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Co., which manages $243 billion in assets -- is undertaking hydrogen investments as part of the UAE's plans to become a leading player in this industry.

Siemens Energy and Mubadala also signed a broader strategic partnership agreement in January to speed up the development of green hydrogen in Abu Dhabi. Mubadala is itself part of a wider hydrogen alliance with Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ and Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. that aims to develop both green and blue hydrogen capabilities in the UAE.

The MOU with Mubadala "is required to build the foundation for a potential new industry in the UAE which can also be expanded across the region," Dietmar Siersdorfer, managing director of Siemens Energy Middle East, told Platts.

The demonstrator hydrogen plant with Masdar is likely to produce 1,000 mt/year and, based on the outcome of technologies that will be used, it will be scaled up, Siersdorfer said.

Egypt MOU

"We are looking at what technologies we can use after the hydrogen is made in order to scale it up in the future, and this also determines the cost," Siersdorfer said. "It [the demonstrator] will not be something that has a massive impact on commercialization because a lot of the produced fuels and chemicals will also have to be certified, especially when you use such fuels in airlines."

The project involves building a PV plant that is generating electricity to produce hydrogen and this hydrogen will be put into another chemical process where CO2 is added to make synthetic fuels, Siersdorfer said.

Siemens Energy, which has other green hydrogen plants in Austria and Germany and a demonstrator in Chile, has also signed an MOU with Egypt to help the country develop a hydrogen industry.

"We are starting here in the UAE in cooperation with Mubadala, but we are also looking in the region and across the region to other areas in the world," said Siersdorfer. "The idea is also to develop some technologies here in the country [in the UAE] which we can then use in collaboration, in the future, elsewhere in other regions throughout the world."

Masdar, which operates in over 30 countries and aims to double its installed renewables capacity from the current 11 GW in 2 to 3 years, is also in talks with other partners in different geographies opportunities for green hydrogen development, Muharrami added.

"We, through Mubadala, assess different opportunities whenever they come to our doorstep," he said. "We are in discussion with different partners in different geographies on hydrogen as well."