The Strategist

Saudi Aramco: Hydrogen will not become quick substitute for conventional hydrocarbons

06/30/2021 - 04:08

Saudi Aramco, the Saudi oil state-owned company, has become disillusioned with hydrogen as a quick substitute for conventional hydrocarbons. It believes that large-scale gas production is unlikely to begin this decade, Saudi Aramco’s chief technology officer, Ahmad Al Khowaiter, told Arab News.

Joseph Brent
Joseph Brent
According to him, there will be no large-scale investment in the industry until at least 2030, when demand for blue ammonia and other low-carbon types of hydrogen will emerge.

"This is very similar to the LNG industry. The LNG industry first enters into a purchase agreement and then makes capital investments," says Al Khowaiter.

Hydrogen can be produced in different ways. A colour scale is used to classify according to production technology and feedstock. For example, "grey" hydrogen is produced from natural gas by converting methane in a large-scale facility, "brown" hydrogen is produced from coal. However, such methods are not considered environmentally friendly: the production of 'grey' and 'brown' hydrogen involves emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.

Most of the hydrogen in the world today (around 95 per cent) is considered brown or sulphuric because it is produced by the steam conversion of natural gas, partial oxidation of methane or gasification of coal. Although the end product is a clean fuel, the production process uses huge amounts of energy and creates significant amounts of carbon dioxide.