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Use hydrogen to decarbonize hard to convert sectors, not cars: Industry CEO

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Hydrogen should be used for sectors that have traditionally been hard to convert to more climate-friendly energy sources, such as heavy industry, and not for cars, as electric cars are more efficient than hydrogen, Seifi Ghasemi, chairman, president and CEO of US chemical industry international firm Air Products told Al Arabiya.

The global energy transition is well underway, with industry insiders, experts, and governments looking to convert from climate-damaging fossil fuels to greener alternatives. In this debate, hydrogen technology has emerged as a possible solution to providing energy in a climate-neutral manner. While not as green as fully renewable sources, such as solar power, using hydrogen could slash carbon emissions, and provide power for sectors that are difficult to convert to green energy.

“We do not see passenger cars being a great user of hydrogen, because electric cars are more efficient as you say. We see hydrogen as a means of decarbonizing the world for hard to convert sectors, which electricity can’t be the solution for, such as very heavy buses, very heavy trucks, ships, trains, planes, steelmaking, and chemicals. You can’t electrify those applications. And if you want to go through the energy transition you have to use hydrogen,” Ghasemi said in an interview with Al Arabiya Senior Presenter Naser El Tibi.

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Ghasemi added that he believes governments should be encouraging consumers to use clean energy, noting that as a provider of clean energy there is no encouragement to invest in the sector and there is no incentive to build new power plants.

“The key ingredient for success has got to be the governments’ encouragement and incentives for the consumers, for the truck companies to convert their trucks to hydrogen, for steel companies to convert their steelmaking to hydrogen,” he said.

So far, much in the way of government encouragement for green energy has been focused on subsidizing new technology and power investment, but Ghasemi believes that it is important for subsidies to focus on customers as this, “will create the demand and then we as commercial organizations, if there is a demand, we will produce the product.”

Air Products doubles down on hydrogen

Air Products is betting big on the future of hydrogen, with Ghasemi stating that the firm’s aim is “to be the leading industrial gas company for the hydrogen of the future.”

Hydrogen production is currently achieved through three different methods – “green” hydrogen, produced from renewable energy technology, “blue” hydrogen created from hydrocarbons which are then stored to prevent climate damage, and “grey” hydrogen, created similarly to blue hydrogen, but with greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

Ghasemi explained that he views production of green and blue hydrogen as the company’s future.

NEOM green hydrogen supplier

In July last year, Air Products, in conjunction with ACWA Power and the Saudi Arabia city-of-the-future NEOM, announced the signing of a $5 billion agreement to build a green hydrogen-based ammonia production facility.

NEOM, a high-tech, next generation city which is aimed at becoming a global center for innovation, trade and creativity in the Kingdom, is set to become 100 percent run on renewable energy, with the Air Products agreement representing one facet of the energy plans for the city.

“We are very, very proud to be part of the NEOM project. It is not our first electrolyzer facility, we have another one, but it is the first in terms of scale … I like to call it a green hydrogen facility as Ammonia is only just a means of transporting the hydrogen to the world markets. That plant produces green hydrogen. It is by far, as I said, the world’s largest,” Ghasemi said.

Air Products currently has 500 people working on the engineering and design of the plant, with plans in place for the plant to come online in 2026.

“We are very proud of the cooperation and the degree of support that we are getting from NEOM and the Saudi Government. And we will demonstrate to the world that mankind does have, currently, we do have the technologies to solve the world’s energy problems. So let us get together, let us support each other, to make it happen,” Ghasemi concluded.

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