ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Gulf Arab oil exporter Abu Dhabi plans to spend $15 billion in the first phase of an initiative to develop green energy and build the world’s largest hydrogen power plant, it said on Monday.
The investment would be part of the Masdar initiative, set up to develop sustainable and clean energy, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan told the World Future Energy Summit in the emirate. He gave no time frame.
“I would like to underscore the government of Abu Dhabi’s commitment to the Masdar initiative by announcing an initial investment of $15 billion,” he said. “Next month ground will be broken on Masdar city, the world’s first carbon-neutral city.”
The money will go into infrastructure, renewable energy projects such as solar power, and manufacturing, to position Abu Dhabi as a leader in the global clean energy market, said Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, or Masdar.
The project includes plans to start building a zero carbon, zero waste city of up to 15,000 residents in the desert in the first quarter of this year. “Achieving a zero carbon city is doable,” Jaber said.
Abu Dhabi, capital of the seven-member United Arab Emirates federation, would also build the world’s largest hydrogen power plant with 500 megawatts of capacity, said Jaber.
Masdar will hold a 60 percent stake in the “multi-billion-dollar joint venture,” a Masdar official said, adding that the rest would be equally held by British Petroleum and Rio Tinto.
The project’s engineering and design would be concluded by the end of 2008, he said.
“The capital cost is $2 billion only for the hydrogen power plant, and does not include the carbon dioxide part,” Vivienne Cox, chief executive of BP Alternative Energy, told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.
“We have not yet negotiated the full commercial framework for the project,” she added.
BP was in talks with partners in some other countries in the Middle East and Asia to build hydrogen power plants, she said. “There is interest from some countries in this region and we are in talks,” she said without giving further details.
Masdar has said it plans to develop a network of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to pump greenhouse gases into oilfields, reducing emissions while boosting oil output.
CCS, an as yet commercially unproven technology, should free up natural gas that is now reinjected to push oil out of oilfields. The UAE needs the gas for power generation to meet rising demand as petrodollars fuel an economic boom.
According to a U.N. Development Program report issued last year, UAE greenhouse gas emissions were 34.1 tons per head in 2004, the third highest in the world after Qatar and Kuwait and well above U.S. per capita emissions of 20.6 tons.
Abu Dhabi signed an agreement with France this month for cooperation on the development of nuclear energy in the world’s fifth-largest oil-exporter.
Sheikh Mohammed also announced the establishment of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, with an annual prize pool of $2.2 million, designed to reward achievements in energy innovation.
Masdar’s $250 million Clean Technology Fund has already invested in different projects and Jaber said there were plans to launch another fund soon.
Writing by Lin Noueihed and Inal Ersan, editing by James Jukwey