Clean hydrogen key to achieving sustainable decarbonization: NEOM Green Hydrogen CEO

RIYADH: Clean hydrogen is one of the most promising ways to achieve sustainable decarbonization and combat climate change, a top official has told Arab News. 

Wesam Al-Ghamdi, CEO of NEOM Green Hydrogen Co. said that once combusted the fuel produces only water, thus making it totally carbon-free in its end use. 

In its 2023 annual report the International Energy Agency underscored the importance of green hydrogen in the energy transition journey, as it can effectively help decarbonise a range of sectors, including long-haul transport, chemicals, and iron and steel.

Al-Ghamdi revealed that the company’s plant in the $500 billion giga-project will be operational by 2026, and it will produce up to 600 tonnes of clean hydrogen per day, which will be exported globally in the form of green ammonia. 

“As the global surge toward net zero continues, clean hydrogen can be a critical solution for the global energy transition – and in some sectors like steelmaking, and from my experience at Maa’den, even in the mining industry, it could be the only answer to achieve substantial decarbonization,” said Al-Ghamdi. 

He added: “NGHC is crucial in this transition, supporting global efforts toward a sustainable future for us all.” 

NGHC plant progressing as planned

The official further noted that Saudi Arabia is eyeing to become the world’s leading hydrogen producer and exporter. 

He added that the Kingdom has an ambition to produce four million tons of hydrogen per year by 2030. 

“NGHC’s plant is rapidly becoming a reality, making us a first mover in the green hydrogen industry at the forefront of the global energy transition. With the expertise of our dedicated team, I am confident that we will achieve green hydrogen production at a massive scale, and at the lowest cost in the market, from 2026,” added Al-Ghamdi. 

He added that Saudi Arabia’s “long expertise” in renewables, together with its abundant natural resources including wind, sun and available land, mean the Kingdom is poised to lead the world in green hydrogen production.

“I am proud that NGHC is playing its part in Saudi Arabia’s environmental and economic transformation, as well as providing the world with green hydrogen that will help decarbonize key sectors like heavy transport and industry,” said the CEO. 

Developing and exporting renewable and environmentally friendly energy is vital for Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom is steadily diversifying its economy away from oil, aligned with the goals outlined in Vision 2030. 

Wesam Al-Ghamdi, CEO of NEOM Green Hydrogen Co. Supplied

According to Al-Ghamdi, NGHC’s green hydrogen project, once fully operational in 2026 will help reduce 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. 

“Clean hydrogen will be a critical part of the future energy mix, solving the challenge of decarbonizing ‘hard to abate’ sectors that we rely on in our everyday lives. For example, we see huge potential for clean hydrogen use in heavy trucks and machinery where they need to run all day, often in remote parts of the world, with minimal downtime for refueling,” he pointed out. 

Al-Ghamdi noted that NGHC is currently busy building and expanding the team as the company is nearing its operational phase in the next two years. 

Recruiting talents locally and globally

He revealed that NGHC, being a Saudi company, is actively recruiting talents from the Kingdom, along with skilled global experts. 

“The total direct headcount will reach 300 direct jobs once we are fully operational and will also enable many more indirectly via our contractors and technology partners,” he continued. 

The official added: “At NGHC we believe in investing in our people, ensuring that we cultivate a workforce capable of driving the hydrogen industry forward and meeting the future demands of green hydrogen and ammonia production.

“Our commitment extends beyond job creation; we are dedicated to nurturing a skilled workforce through comprehensive education, training, and upskilling programs.” 

He revealed that NGHC is also working with local communities and education institutions in Saudi Arabia to promote and guide young people who wish to enter this emerging industry. 

Al-Ghamdi added that the construction of the green hydrogen plant is progressing as planned, and noted that the first six wind turbines were delivered to the Port of NEOM in October. 

He revealed that more shipments of wind turbines, and deliveries of major equipment for the hydrogen facility, wind garden and solar farm are expected to happen this year.

NGHC’s crucial financial closure

NGHC is a joint venture between ACWA Power, Air Products, and NEOM.

Al-Ghamdi added that NGHC stands apart from other similar projects globally, as it has already reached financial closure for its green hydrogen plant. 

“Despite many other green hydrogen projects in the planning stages elsewhere in the world, only NGHC has investment secured, spades in the ground and full production in sight. NGHC achieved full financial close in May 2023, bringing the total investment in the project to $8.4 billion including support from 23 local, regional, and international financial institutions,” he said.

Al-Ghamdi continued: “Financial close was a huge moment for our project, demonstrating the robustness of our project and allowing us to accelerate construction. Critical to this was our offtake agreement with Air Products, under which they will export 100 percent of the green hydrogen for a 30-year period.” 

According to the CEO, green hydrogen is a very young industry, and it has huge potential for the future. 

He also added that NGHC is also trying to unlock the potential of other projects by proving the business case for green hydrogen at scale, providing a blueprint for other projects and demonstrating this emerging industry’s potential for substantial expansion.

It was in October 2023 that Al-Ghamdi succeeded David Edmondson as the CEO of NGHC, having previously worked at mining firm Ma’aden as the vice president of strategy and business development. 

After announcing the leadership change in October, Nadhmi Al-Nasr, chairman of NEOM Green Hydrogen Co., said: “The focus of the next two years at NGHC will be to complete the construction of the giga-scale facility for the operational phase of the project. I would like to welcome Wesam Al-Ghamdi, who will now lead the execution of the project to its completion.” 

With a career spanning over 25 years, Al-Ghamdi’s expertise lies in engineering, operations and project management in companies including Saudi Basic Industries Corp. and Shell.
 

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