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UAE to open facility that converts waste to green hydrogen

The Gulf state already has one waste-to-energy plant and is looking to build more.

The Sharjah-based sustainability company BEEAH Group signed an agreement Tuesday to build the first waste-to-hydrogen power plant in the United Arab Emirates. 

BEEAH signed a memorandum of understanding with the Japanese gas conglomerate Air Water and the British waste-to-fuel technology firm Chinook Sciences. They will work together to develop a facility in Sharjah that will convert waste wood and plastic into hydrogen that can be used for fuel. The facility will also include a fueling station for vehicles, the official Emirates News Agency reported. 

The chair of BEEAH’s board of directors is Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, the wife of Sharjah ruler Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi. 

Chinook and BEEAH first announced their intentions to work together on hydrogen energy in 2021. 

What it means: Waste-to-energy refers to the process of turning garbage, sewage and other waste into power. It often involves burning garbage into steam and then using that steam to generate electricity. 

Turning waste into hydrogen is somewhat different. According to the European Commission, one way to convert garbage to hydrogen is to use thermal gasification, which involves using high heat until the waste turns into gas. This gas is then cleaned and purified into hydrogen.

Another method is thermolysis, which occurs when substances react with water via a process called steam reforming. The resulting water vapor then reacts with carbon dioxide via what is known as water-gas shift reaction. This results in hydrogen and carbon dioxide, and the latter is ultimately separated from the former, according to the New York-based clean hydrogen company H2 Industries. 

Air Water uses steam reforming, so this could be what the Sharjah plant will do. A spokesperson for BEEAH did not respond to Al-Monitor’s request for comment.

While hydrogen is considered a clean fuel, it is often produced via natural gas and this results in a significant amount of carbon dioxide emissions. One way around the issue is blue hydrogen, which utilizes carbon capture technology. Green hydrogen refers to hydrogen that is generated using renewable energy such as solar or wind power, according to the Brussels-based European Suppliers of Waste-to-Energy Technology.

The Emirates News Agency reported that the facility will produce green hydrogen. 

Why it matters: Waste-to-energy is starting to take off in the United Arab Emirates. BEEAH and Masdar, another Emirati renewable energy firm, unveiled a waste-to-energy plant in Sharjah in May. 

The following July, the Emirates Water and Electricity Company and Abu Dhabi Waste Management Center asked for bids to build a waste-to-energy plant in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra landfill. 

These moves are part of a wider move in the UAE toward green technology and away from oil and gas, though oil and gas remain integral to the UAE’s strategic objectives. 

Know more: BEEAH signed a partnership with Egypt’s Green Planet in September to work on sustainability-focused waste management practices in Sharm el-Sheikh. The Red Sea resort city hosted the United Nations climate change conference COP27 last month. 

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