A major gas company is considering importing so-called “green” hydrogen to California from Saudi Arabia in a few years, according to S&P Global, despite the country currently powering the vast majority of its electrical grid with fossil fuels.
Air Products & Chemicals Inc. is working with the Saudi ACWA Power Co. to create a facility in Saudi Arabia of unprecedented size that would manufacture green hydrogen via solar and wind power to be shipped internationally as ammonia, the organization reported. Natural gas and crude oil accounted for almost all of Saudi Arabia’s electricity generation in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“‘Green’ hydrogen as conventionally defined is produced through the electrolysis of water, a very expensive process,” American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Zycher told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Saudi power production is 100% fossil fuel-generated, except for a small amount of electricity derived from the water desalination process, and so the ‘clean’ adjective, as usual, is little more than propaganda.”
In a March 8 CERAWeek panel, CEO Seifi Ghasemi said Air Products believes most of the green hydrogen product made at the future plant in Saudi Arabia, scheduled to open in 2027, will be shipped to either Europe or California, citing the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), according to S&P Global. The LCFS is “designed to decrease the carbon intensity of California’s transportation fuel pool and provide an increasing range of low-carbon and renewable alternatives,” according to the California Air Resources Board.
Zycher said he was “deeply dubious” about the costly prospect of fueling water electrolysis with wind and solar power in Saudi Arabia. He argued shipping the hydrogen in ammonia form “seems sensible narrowly,” but said the ammonia would ultimately have to be broken down to obtain the hydrogen for power purposes and high costs are unavoidable.
“Of course fossil fuels will be used, in significant amounts,” Zycher said of the production and shipping process, describing needed backup units for solar and wind power facilities, pressurized hydrogen pipelines and tanker trucks for transportation. “The idea that ‘green hydrogen’ will yield some sort of environmental nirvana is deeply unserious.”
The possibility of Air Products & Chemicals shipping green hydrogen from Saudi Arabia to California emerges as the state moves forward with climate and clean energy initiatives. Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a climate policy package in September setting the goal of making California carbon neutral as soon as possible, with 2045 as the latest possible deadline, weeks after approving rule to prohibit selling new gas-powered cars in the state by 2035.
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