Hydrogen to play crucial role in SABIC’s net-zero carbon goal

Nurluqman Suratman


SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Hydrogen could play a crucial role in SABIC’s production ecosystem in the future as the company strives to achieve its carbon neutral goal by 2050, said a company executive of the Saudi petrochemical giant.

“At this point in time, we are focused on ammonia made from ‘blue’ hydrogen, which is made from methane with carbon capture,” Janardhanan Ramanujalu, vice president and regional head for south Asia & Australia at SABIC, told ICIS.

“But looking to the future, we are involved in projects to produce ‘green’ hydrogen using renewable electricity and water. Hydrogen – in both its blue and green forms – will play a crucial role in our carbon neutral goal,” he said.

SABIC Agri-Nutrients Co and SABIC parent firm Aramco early last year received independent certifications for the production of blue ammonia and hydrogen from Germany-based TUV Rheinland, an independent testing, inspection and certification agency.

A significant portion of the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the process of manufacturing ammonia and hydrogen must be captured and utilised in downstream applications, to be certified as “blue”, according to SABIC.

SABIC in December last year said that South Korea’s Lotte Fine Chemicals received the world’s first commercial shipment of 25,000 tonnes of blue ammonia from SABIC Agri-Nutrients and Saudi Aramco.

Saudi Arabia is working towards becoming the world’s largest exporter of clean (blue) hydrogen by 2030, according to SABIC.

Blue hydrogen is hydrogen produced from natural gas via steam methane reforming, while green hydrogen is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen via a process of electrolysis powered by renewable energy.

Earlier this month, Saudi Aramco and Linde Engineering signed an agreement to develop a new ammonia cracking technology jointly, with a demonstration plant to be built in northern Germany to showcase the technology using a newly developed cracking catalyst.

SABIC announced in 2021 its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

“For a petrochemical company, this is an important statement of intent, and we have already made tangible progress. We’re well on track to meet our interim, 2030 emission-reduction target of 20% (relative to 2018),” Ramanujalu said.

“At the start of this year, we made another commitment related specifically to circularity: we aim to process at least one million metric tons of products made from bio-based or recycled feedstock annually by 2030,” he said.

In Malaysia, the company has collaborated with partners to divert ocean-bound plastic into the material stream to produce circular polymers.

“SABIC is always open to engage and partner with leading companies from around the world, as part of our goal to become carbon neutral and produce products such as sustainable ammonia,” Ramanujalu said.

Asia will continue to represent a major part of SABIC’s Agri-Nutrients business in the coming years as it strives to meet growing food demand with its sustainability targets, according to Ramanujalu.

“Asia contains more than half of the world’s population, and everyone requires nutritious food every day. Agri-nutrients play a vital role in the farm products that cater to that demand,” he said.

“But Asia is relatively deficient in the hydrocarbon resources required to manufacture fertilizer,” Ramanujalu noted.

SABIC intends to be at the forefront of sustainability in meeting the customer demand for agri-nutrients, he said.

“We want to be smart and responsible in the way our products are produced and used, bearing in mind both the effects of climate change and the greater environmental regulation of farming,” he said.

SABIC’s research centre in Bengaluru, India, is developing the next generation of sustainable fertilizers “with enhanced efficiency to improve nutrient uptake, soil health and yield to meet global food demand”, the SABIC executive said.

As for petrochemicals, Ramanujalu said that Asia remains an importer driver for demand growth globally, “at a rate higher than the average global GDP growth”.

“When it comes specifically to India, the government has undertaken many economic reforms that are having a tangible impact,” he said.

“In addition, there is a conscious effort from the government to institute policies to expand the manufacturing sector, which will likely mean higher demand for materials over the next decade,” he added.

Interview article by Nurluqman Suratman


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