NEOM’s green hydrogen plant will secure Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition: CEO

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The $8.4 billion green hydrogen production plant in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s NEOM will put the Kingdom on the global map for clean energy transition, the CEO told Al Arabiya English.

Construction is progressing on the site – based in NEOM’S OXAGON - and remains on track for completion and full-time operations by the end of 2026, David Edmondson, CEO of the NEOM Green Hydrogen Company (NGHC), revealed in an exclusive interview.

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The site – which will based in NEOM’S OXAGON - remains on track for completion and full-time operations by the end of 2026. (Supplied)
The site – which will based in NEOM’S OXAGON - remains on track for completion and full-time operations by the end of 2026. (Supplied)

Once complete, the joint venture between Acwa Power, Air Products and NEOM will be the world’s largest green hydrogen production facility – stretched over 300km2 of land, in which around 5.6 million solar panels will produce up to 2.2GW of solar energy. When operational, it promises a staggering output of carbon-free hydrogen, Edmondson said.

“Once operational, we will supply up to 600 tonnes per day of carbon-free hydrogen for transportation globally, integrating up to 4GW of solar and wind energy and exporting up to 1.2 million tonnes of green ammonia annually through the combined expertise of our three shareholders,” the CEO told Al Arabiya English.

Edmondson puts this figure into context, explaining if all this hydrogen is used in the heavy-duty truck market, “this will translate to as much as five million tonnes of CO2 emissions being eliminated from the atmosphere per year.”

“Producing 600 tonnes of green hydrogen daily is enough to power around 20,000 hydrogen-fuelled buses and trucks around the world and will save almost five million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year compared to diesel trucks or buses.”

A world leader in hydrogen

The $8.4 billion green hydrogen production plant that will lie in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s NEOM will put the Kingdom on the global map for clean energy transition. (Supplied)
The $8.4 billion green hydrogen production plant that will lie in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s NEOM will put the Kingdom on the global map for clean energy transition. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia is pivoting toward renewable energy as it looks to meet its ambitious climate commitments – including a pledge to generate at least 50 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030 as part of the Saudi Green Initiative - while diversifying away from oil exports.

“Saudi Arabia has built a robust roadmap to become a world leader in the hydrogen economy, and we are paving the way for the Kingdom to assume global leadership in this field,” said Edmondson. “As a major step towards realizing the Kingdom’s ambitions, our plant is leveraging NEOM’s natural resources and strategic location to become a global leader in the production and export of clean energy.”

“We know green hydrogen is one of the most promising solutions to address climate change and carbon-free strategies and, as the global surge towards net zero continues, this clean fuel will create energy capable of decarbonizing entire industrial sectors, with Saudi Arabia primed to be at the energy transition forefront regionally and internationally.”

Achieving Saudi’s climate goals

Edmondson also said there is “great potential” for hydrogen in Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom has considerable clean hydrogen production targets – both blue and green – with plans to produce 2.9 million tonnes per year (t/yr) by 2030 and 4 million t/y by 2035.

“By harnessing the power of both nature and technology, our plant will ultimately support the Kingdom’s climate mandate by enabling the large-scale adoption of green hydrogen and ushering in a new sustainable clean energy era in the process,” said Edmondson. “We are committed to developing a sustainable and scalable green hydrogen ecosystem in Saudi Arabia, in line with the Kingdom’s vision for a low-carbon future.”

“We hope and believe that our investment in NEOM will be the catalyst that ensures we make such contributions at the national level.”

This week, Saudi Arabia’s NEOM Green Hydrogen Company signed deals worth $8.4 billion with financial institutions for the plant it is building at OXAGON in the Kingdom’s $500 billion futuristic city NEOM.

“I am delighted to say on Monday NEOM Green Hydrogen Company announced that we had achieved full financial close with support from 23 local, regional, and international banks and investment firms at a total value of $8.4 billion,” said Edmondson. “This is clearly a significant milestone on our journey to building the world’s largest green hydrogen production facility in NEOM.”

“Concluding the financing on the project will ensure our work on the ground can continue to accelerate, as will the vital efforts of Air Products as the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor and system integrator for the entire facility.”

Creating employment opportunities

The green hydrogen plant is not only a catalyst for clean energy but will also create hundreds of jobs.

“We expect to employ up to 300 people as part of our initial investment with an expectation that this will increase as we near the next project execution phase.”

As for manpower required to run the mega-plant, a further 300 direct jobs will be created in NEOM when the plant is on-stream and fully operational, with “many more sure to become available in the future,” said Edmondson.

“A series of glowing statistics and projections highlight the vast potential of green hydrogen in terms of professional opportunities,” he added, pointing to a report issued by Dii Desert Energy and Roland Berger which estimated that GCC countries can generate up to $200 billion in revenue and create one million jobs by 2050 through investing in hydrogen.

Meanwhile, another report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has stated that green hydrogen production through renewable energy could create as many as 30 million jobs worldwide by 2050.

“As fossil fuel demands wane and energy transition progression manifests, more and more clean energy projects – including green hydrogen – will be initiated, developed, and completed across geographies, opening up new and exciting career paths for millions of people to pursue,” Edmondson said.

“From an NGHC standpoint, we are already placing a strong emphasis on hiring the best global talent, creating hundreds of jobs with a clear plan for enabling many more throughout the project execution phase and subsequent operation as OXAGON becomes a major industrial hub through the green hydrogen we produce.”

NEOM an ‘ideal location’

When it came to choosing a location for the world’s largest hydrogen plant, the Kingdom’s $500 billion futuristic city was the obvious choice, Edmondson told Al Arabiya English, as it aligns with NEOM’s vision and purpose: adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change, promoting new ways of preventing environmental degradation and regenerating nature.

“There are several reasons why NEOM was selected as the location for our green hydrogen production plant,” he said. “Our strategic location at the heart of NEOM was the outstanding choice that would best enable us to realize our vision of leading the world in its transition to a carbon-free future by producing and exporting the cleanest, most efficient fuel known to us.”

Edmondson continued, “We have access to NEOM’s abundance of natural resources and our green hydrogen production facility, located within OXAGON, NEOM’s coastal city, which is connected to reliable, sustainable sources of renewable energy from our onshore solar and wind gardens located at Aqaba and Shiqri that will power our operations.”

Edmondson also said that the Port of NEOM, located within OXAGON will also be an essential part of the plant’s supply chain network throughout the construction phase.

‘A blueprint for others to follow’

He believes Saudi Arabia – and NGHC - will build a roadmap – a blueprint – for others to follow in green hydrogen.

“We believe we will be opening doors to tomorrow’s green hydrogen market,” he said. “The clear support we have received from the local, regional and international financial institutions clearly demonstrates the viability of our business case and the potential for others to follow.”

“Already, the region boasts significant advantages for enabling world-scale green hydrogen production, with available land and abundant access to wind and sun.”

Economic gains

Edmondson said it was important to note that GCC countries could generate revenues of $120-to-$200 billion by 2050 by producing and exporting green hydrogen and derivatives, such as green ammonia or clean fuels, to markets in Europe and Asia.

“Over many decades, the region has gained enormous significance as a global producer and exporter of energy,” he said. “As fossil fuel reliance wanes and demands for cleaner energy increase, the region has an opportunity to assume this position in the field of green hydrogen, as well as establish world-class infrastructure and internationally recognized certification systems.”

Stepping up clean energy production comes at a critical time for the region.

In November, the UAE, Saudi Arabia’s neighbor, will stage the next UN Climate Change Conference, with COP28 aiming to be a conference for concrete change in climate emissions.

Edmondson said Saudi Arabia is positioning itself globally as a leader in reducing carbon emissions.

In 2019, the Kingdom unveiled its plan to cut emissions by up to 130 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030. Since then, Saudi Arabia has made substantial investments in energy efficiency initiatives and renewable energy projects such as wind and solar.

The Kingdom is also working to reduce its dependence on oil by diversifying its energy sources and investing in renewable energy technologies. Increasing its use of hydrogen and nuclear energy has also emerged as a top priority in line with Saudi Arabia’s commitment to reach Net Zero emissions by 2060.

As part of its commitment to reducing emissions, Saudi Arabia is also developing green cities, investing in green transportation, and encouraging green building standards – activities sure to help ensure long-term economic security in tomorrow’s Net Zero era.

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