Aramco aims to partner with China on blue hydrogen, CEO says

The Saudi oil colossus and the Chinese petro giant are teaming up on a blue hydrogen and ammonia undertaking based on splitting natural gas following the Asian country's recent announcement of aggressively pursuing H2 as a method to achieve its climate objectives.

Photo: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Saudi Aramco plans to “expand and intensify” cooperation with China on research in areas including hydrogen and ammonia production from natural gas, according to Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser.

Aramco is looking to work with China on blue hydrogen and ammonia, synthetic fuels and carbon capture utilization and storage, Nasser said at the China Development Forum in Beijing. “All of these are essential to achieving our long-term, low-carbon ambitions,” he said.

The oil major is also sizing up possible investments in Chinese projects despite spending constraints arising from a period of low oil prices as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We see opportunities for further investments in integrated downstream projects to help meet China’s needs for heavy transport and chemicals, as well as lubricants and non-metallic materials,” Nasser said.

China is the world’s largest producer of hydrogen, though currently uses fossil fuels for most of that output. Spurred by the nation’s target for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, energy giants including China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, are working on a shift to blue hydrogen -- a process in which most carbon dioxide is captured and stored -- and green hydrogen, which delivers oxygen as a byproduct.

Sinopec also plans to install 1,000 hydrogen refueling stations by 2025, up from about 27 pilot stations at the end of last year, as the company and other key producers position themselves for growth in the use of fuel for transportation.

Oil companies globally reported losses or falling profit for 2020 as plunging demand due to the coronavirus pandemic led to lower prices and forced producers to shut in output. Aramco, the world’s biggest producer, was no different, reporting Sunday a 44% drop in profit and further investment reductions. Still, some advanced or strategic projects are going ahead.

Domestically, the Jazan refinery is “on stream,” Nasser told reporters on a separate conference call to discuss earnings on Sunday. The planned 400,000 barrel-a-day crude-processing plant on Saudi Arabia’s southern Red Sea coast was set to start running at about half capacity after taking crude in the first quarter this year, Aramco said in August.

Nasser didn’t provide updates on the schedule or capacity for the plant that’s meant to bolster employment in the remote and less-wealthy regions along Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen.

World's largest oil firm saw collapsed earnings in 2020 

Sinopec throws itself into hydrogen for China's green car goals 

China beats record with major surge in wind capacity

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