Fossil fuels are having a moment as Russia continues to disrupt global energy markets with its murderous rampage through Ukraine. The writing is on the wall, though. Green hydrogen is among the alternative forms of energy coiled and waiting to strike at the fossil economy. The latest hydrogen hotspot is Africa, where two massive, integrated green hydrogen and ammonia projects are taking shape.
From Green Hydrogen To Green Ammonia
For those of you new to the topic, hydrogen is a ubiquitous industrial input as well as a fuel. The main source of hydrogen today is natural gas, with coal and other fossil sources also playing a role. That state of affairs would most likely be locked in forever, except the wind and solar industries began to take off about 12 years ago. That opened the door to water electrolysis, which deploys zero emission electricity to push “green” hydrogen from plain water.
The sustainable ammonia connection is a natural one, considering that ammonia consists of hydrogen and nitrogen, which can be captured from ambient air.
Nevertheless, skeptics abounded until just a few years ago, when the link between green hydrogen and ammonia began to emerge. Aside from its use in producing fertilizer and other products, ammonia can double as a transportable, liquid storage medium for hydrogen gas.
Follow The Money To Green Hydrogen & Ammonia
The nay-saying persists, but the big money is betting that green hydrogen is a giant boot that will help kick fossil sources out of the global economy.
The new green hydrogen plan for Ain Sokhna in Egypt is a case in point.
The Sovereign Fund of Egypt is behind the project, dubbed Egypt Green. So is ADNOC, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Other partners are Scatec for the renewable energy side and OCI for nitrogen. Fertiglobe ( a branch of ADNOC and OCI) owns the project and will operate it.
Earlier this week, the consortium announced that it is putting the final touches on technology and engineering systems design, pending a final investment decision next year. Assuming all goes according to plan, the new 100-megawatt facility will sport the largest polymer electrolyte membrane electrolyzer in Africa.
That’s just for starters. The consortium is already positioning the new plant as ” an important milestone in the development of a green hydrogen ecosystem in Egypt and the broader African region.”
Considering that a final investment decision is still pending, it may seem that the announcement jumped the gun. Nevertheless, the marketing wheels are already in motion.
“Ain Sokhna has a strategic position close to the Suez Canal Economic Zone with the possibility of using renewable electricity to develop an industrial hub near global shipping lanes,” the consortium explains.
“Fertiglobe has a strong global network through its shareholders OCI N.V. and ADNOC and is an early mover in hydrogen and low carbon ammonia. The hydrogen tie-ins for up to 100 MW of electrolysis have already been installed at Fertiglobe’s two existing ammonia plants in Ain Sokhna,” they add.
Follow The Money To Kenya
Speaking of big money, the Egypt Green partners better think about scaling up if they want to hold onto that #1 membrane slot. Kenya is the future site of a 300-megawatt fertilizer plant leveraging green hydrogen to produce sustainable ammonia for fertilizer.
The project will be located in the area of Naivasha at the Olkaria geothermal field. It comes under the umbrella of the Fortescue Future Industries, a branch of the global powerhouse Fortescue Metals Group, in partnership with the Government of Kenya.
Three hundred megawatts is apparently just the tip of Kenya’s green hydrogen iceberg.
FFI and Kenya have also stated their intention to commence feasibility studies on two additional projects aimed at scaling up renewable energy capacity in the nation. The end goal is an additional 25 gigawatts in renewables, which would be deployed to produce 1.7 million tonnes of green hydrogen for export, each year.
“The Agreement will entrench FFI’s commitment to fast-track significant investment to develop green industrial facilities in Naivasha, Mombasa and Lamu, with the potential to create thousands of new jobs and deliver significant manufacturing and industrial development to Kenya,” the partners also note.
As with Egypt, the Kenya announcement is also a little ahead of itself. The Niavasha facility is still in the feasibility phase and FFI expects to make its final investment decision next year.
The Russia Factor
Russian President Vladimir Putin was evidently depending on a second Trump term to neuter the NATO alliance, chase Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky out of Kyiv, and grab control over Ukraine’s vast energy and agricultural assets for himself and his allies. The energy angle would tighten Russia’s grip over European policy making, while control Ukraine’s agriculture industry would pull African nations into the boiling stew of Russian hegemony.
So much for that. Zelensky stayed put, President Biden rallied Europe to lend aid, and Russia has missed out on a chance to tap the waters of the Baltic Sea for offshore wind power. Nations along the Baltic coast — except for Russia — are already laying plans for offshore wind farms that will send clean kilowatts sailing ashore to power the newly emerging EU electrofuels industry, in addition to filling in power supply gaps.
Ukraine still faces a long, hard slog, but even in the midst of war the country is planning to leverage its considerable wind and solar assets to remake itself as the green hydrogen hub of Europe. Ukraine is angling for EU membership and it does not intend to come to the table empty-handed.
EU policy makers are also advocating for a green Marshall plan for Ukraine reconstruction, based partly on Ukraine’s capacity to produce green hydrogen to decarbonize steel making and other heavy industries.
The plan could be patterned on the Just Energy Transition Partnership model that South Africa recently signed with France, Germany, and the UK, US and EU. The idea is leverage decarbonization as an engine for economic growth.
Against this backdrop, it’s a mystery why green hydrogen skeptics cling so tightly to their charts and formulas. Perhaps they know something that others don’t. If you know something, drop us a note in the comment thread.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey (for now).
Photo: Suez Canal, Egypt courtesy of OCI.
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