Saudi Aramco inks hydrogen agreement as Bezos, Musk and Blair address B20 gathering

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RIYADH: Oil giant Saudi Aramco used the gathering of business leaders ahead of the Group of Twenty summit of world leaders to sign an agreement with Indonesia’s energy firm Pertamina to explore collaboration across the hydrogen and ammonia value chain.

The memorandum of understanding was inked on the sidelines of the so-called B20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, as both Saudi Arabia and the host nation eye achieving the net-zero target by 2060.

The MoU involves a pre-feasibility study that aims to assess the possibility of cooperation related to the development of a clean ammonia and hydrogen value chain.

The understanding also includes potential carbon capture, utilization and storage at Pertamina Group’s existing facilities and other agreed potential locations.

The pre-feasibility study, which will be conducted over the next two years, will also explore the investment viability of developing commercial structures for clean ammonia and hydrogen in Indonesia.

“As a company, our ambition is to achieve net-zero scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions across our wholly-owned operating assets by 2050,” said Aramco’s senior vice president of Downstream Mohammed Al-Qahtani.

Saudi Aramco had pledged to achieve the net-zero targets by 2050, 10 years ahead of the Kingdom’s net-zero goal.

Al-Qahtani added: “Our work in developing new ammonia and hydrogen energy pathways will be pivotal in achieving that goal while helping to advance an affordable, equitable and more sustainable transition for all.”

Nicke Widyawati, president director of Pertamina, said that energy transition should not jeopardize energy security and affordability, especially for countries that are highly dependent on fossil fuels.

“Hydrogen and ammonia are expected to play a key role in a future climate-neutral economy, enabling emission-free power generation, heavy transport, heating and industrial processes,” said Widyawati.

Last week, during the UN’s Climate Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman announced the Ministry has joined hands with Aramco to establish a carbon capture and storage hub as the Kingdom steadily pursues its sustainability journey.

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said that the new carbon capture and storage hub will be located on the east coast of Saudi Arabia in Jubail.

Nasser added that the hub will have a storage capacity of up to 9 million tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2027.

Inside the B20 event, Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos used a pre-recorded speech to urge global leaders not to think about sustainability policies as being detrimental to economic growth.

“Let’s not get stuck in the mindset of either/or thinking,” he said, adding: “Many business and government leaders would like to be bold in reducing environmental damage but they fear it will raise costs and hurt growth but we now know that smart action against climate change doesn’t just stop bad things happening, it also can improve resource efficiency, drive new technology, reduce uncertainty and lead to new opportunities.”

Bezos reaffirmed his pledge to power all of Amazon’s operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025, and said the company is working to convert its delivery fleet to electric vehicles.

He also set out the criteria by which the Bezos Earth Fund will hand out $10 billion in grants by 2030.

“These include phasing out internal combustion engines, decarbonizing steel and cement, raising food crop yields, reducing food loss, and empowering indigenous communities to manage tropical forests,” said the businessman, adding: “For each of these factors we try to identify how close they are to positive tipping points and what barriers we can help remove in order to cross these tipping points.”

Also appearing at the conference was Elon Musk, who is negotiating a troubled start to his reign as CEO of Twitter, including confusion over the so-called ‘blue tick’ system.

Taking part in a discussion via video link, Musk said it is a “no brainer” that the social networking site needs to focus more on video content, and this would benefit users.

“Twitter is ready to give revenue share to content creators to make a living,” he said.

Reflecting on the controversies surrounding his tenure at the organization, he said: “There is no way to make everyone happy, that is for sure.”

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair used a pre-recorded speech at the event to insist the world of the 21st century represents an “entirely new economy”.

“The premium is on people who are educated, are capable of developing the skills of the future and who understand the way this technology revolution will operate,” he said.

Blair argued that technology would not just change the way people live and work, but “every culture”, and massive investment is needed not just in education but also healthcare.

“We have seen how much damage the pandemic could do, not just to people’s health — 15 million excess deaths worldwide — but to trillions of dollars lost in the pandemic,” he said, adding: “If we produce better health, it will add trillions more to the global economy.

“Better health equals better productivity equals higher growth.”