Why North Africa should not export green hydrogen to Europe [rapport]

Why North Africa should not export green hydrogen to Europe [rapport]

Morocco, Algeria and Egypt are not interested in exporting green hydrogen to Europe. At least that’s what the report published by the Dutch think-tank Transnational Institute (TNI) and the Brussels Industrial Europe Observatory (CEO) suggest. The report, entitled “Assessing EU plans to import hydrogen from North Africa”, summarizes European demand for green hydrogen and climate needs and goals in North Africa.

North Africa has been a partner of the European Union in the search for carbon-free energy for several years. Many green hydrogen projects in Morocco have also elevated the country to the top 5 “future hydrogen players of the world,” according to the Financial Times.

However, the study, published on May 17, believes that hydrogen exports from North African countries to Europe are not economically viable. For TNI and the CEO, developing green hydrogen for export is “expensive, untested and potentially economically unviable.” This plant in the export of green hydrogen to Europe would be harmful to the North African economies, the authors add.

Morocco, Algeria and Egypt would therefore be more interested in “using renewable electricity, sun and wind locally and sharing with neighboring countries in Africa and possibly the Middle East through interconnections. That would be a much more effective option than trying to create an export market for very expensive chemicals. “

Green hydrogen, expensive and inefficient energy

Indeed, the study shows that green hydrogen production is very expensive today and is likely to remain so. In order for green hydrogen to compete with gray hydrogen, which costs 50 eurocents less per kilogram, the price of energy needed to produce it should fall drastically. Also, the cost of producing green hydrogen depends to a large extent on the costs of electrolysis and the production of green energy, its conversion, transport and storage, which are currently too expensive to compete with the production of gray hydrogen.

In particular, the production of green hydrogen can cost up to 11 times more than the use of natural gas, the report estimates. “If Europe is not prepared to pay for the difference between green hydrogen and natural gas, North African governments should beware of the promises of major export markets,” he added.

In addition, the production of green hydrogen is “relatively energy inefficient and its use as an energy source is also inefficient,” the report added. It is estimated that almost 60% of energy from renewable sources is “wasted” in the production of green hydrogen. The use of this hydrogen as a heat source is relatively more efficient, he adds.

Who should benefit from Moroccan green energy?

In Morocco, green hydrogen production “does not offer very viable potential”. However, Morocco could use green hydrogen to eliminate the high emissions caused by ammonia by replacing it for fertilizer production. However, the technologies associated with this production of green ammonia using hydrogen are “unproven” in this case and no independent verification of their feasibility has been carried out, which, according to the authors, makes this bet risky.

Also in the latter case, various projects being prepared with Germany (power to X) involve high production costs due to the high demand for electricity, which could not be covered by the current solar and wind installations.

Exporting Moroccan hydrogen to Europe is also energy intensive and very expensive. It really takes three times more energy to liquefy hydrogen than natural gas. In addition, the energy density of hydrogen is less than the density of liquefied natural gas, so that a ship of the same volume could carry only 27% of the energy in hydrogen that it could carry in gas.

Therefore, for the authors of the study, Morocco would do better to use renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions from coal consumption to generate electricity. This transition is estimated to prevent more than 27 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

“It does not make sense for Morocco to use its renewable electricity to produce hydrogen and hydrogen products because it sends them to Europe, wasting a lot of energy so that the EU can achieve greater reductions in climate emissions,” concludes the case report from Morocco.

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