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UAE, Egypt to develop major green hydrogen project in Mauritania

The UAE is interested in Africa's green hydrogen potential, but the lack of development in the country could prove challenging.
Hydrogen renewable energy production pipeline - hydrogen gas for clean electricity solar and wind turbine facility.

The German investment company Conjuncta announced on Wednesday a new green hydrogen project involving the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Mauritania.

Conjuncta said it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Egyptian renewable energy firm Infinity, the Emirati renewable energy firm Masdar and the government of Mauritania to build a green hydrogen plant in the North African country. The plant will be located northeast of the capital, Nouakchott, and have a capacity of 10 gigawatts. This amounts to 8 million tons of green hydrogen per year. Conjuncta said the facility will also produce ammonia or fuel produced from plants and the energy will be used for exports, according to a press release.

"Our country is determined to play a leading position on the global map of the green hydrogen economy in the coming decades. We strongly believe that the development of the green hydrogen industry in Mauritania will bring environmental, economic and social benefits to our country and the world," said Mauritanian Energy Minister Abdessalam Ould Mohamed Saleh.

Reuters reported that the deal amounts to $34 billion. 

What it means: Hydrogen can be used as an energy source when it is separated from water via electricity. When that electricity is powered by renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, it is referred to as green hydrogen. 

Ammonia is a compound of hydrogen and nitrogen that can also be used for energy. Green ammonia is produced via renewable energy. Blue ammonia refers to ammonia whereby the carbon dioxide used in the process is captured and stored. 

Conjuncta did not provide further details on its plan to produce fuel from plants, but plant matter can be used for energy. One example is sustainable aviation fuel. 

Why it matters: Green hydrogen has the potential to reduce carbon emissions since it is produced via renewable energy. Masdar, which is owned by the UAE sovereign wealth fund Mubadala, has shown significant interest in green hydrogen’s potential on the African continent. At the COP27 climate change conference last November, Masdar released a report on Africa’s green hydrogen potential. Africa is rich in sun and wind, meaning it offers possibilities for renewable energy. 

Producing green hydrogen could prove challenging in Africa due to the relative lack of development there. For example, only around 47% of the Mauritanian population had access to electricity as of 2020, according to The World Bank. 

Earlier this week, UAE Industry and Advanced Technology Minister Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber called for a faster transition to renewable energy. He made the remarks at an energy conference in the United States. 

Know more: Some energy companies are also interested in Egypt's green hydrogen potential. In December, British Petroleum (BP) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Egyptian government on establishing a green hydrogen plant there, according to a press release from BP. 

What’s next: The first phase of the plant, with a capacity of 400 megawatts, is “expected” to be operational by 2028, according to Conjuncta.

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