ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s vast land and wind resources provide favorable conditions for the country to expand its capacity to produce and export green hydrogen, a key element of green energy, said experts at the first Kazakh-German Hydrogen Diplomacy Symposium in Astana on June 7.
Government and business representatives, diplomats and industry experts gathered at the symposium to discuss the role of green hydrogen in tackling environmental issues as Kazakhstan expands its efforts to shift to greener technologies under its commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.
“Access to green hydrogen is one of the prerequisites that will likely facilitate the security and stability of energy supplies and energy systems, especially for industries where other options are simply unfeasible or excessively expensive,” said Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko in his opening remarks.
Kazakhstan, in this respect, with its vast steppes, an abundance of wind and sunlight and access to water, provides attractive factors for the launch of large-scale hydrogen development projects in Kazakhstan, according to the deputy minister.
“Kazakhstan’s strategic synergy with countries such as Germany, together with the geographic location at the center of intercontinental transport and energy supply routes, provides additional momentum for our countries’ diverse partnership and contributes to the transformation of Central Asia into an investment hub and a key global energy player,” he added.
Vassilenko cited the data that in 2022 the global green hydrogen market was valued at $4.02 billion, which is forecasted to exceed $331.98 billion by 2032, accounting for 55% average annual growth.
In recent years, Kazakhstan has taken steps to advance green hydrogen development by signing strategic cooperation documents with Germany.
The very first document was the memorandum of understanding on strategic partnership in the field of sustainable raw materials, batteries and green hydrogen value chains signed in 2022 by Kazakh Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov and the European Union (EU) Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the margins of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh.
As a follow-up to the implementation of the memorandum, the road map was adopted during the Central Asia – EU Economic Forum in Almaty held in May.
Manuel Andresh, head of the newly established Hydrogen Diplomacy Office in Astana, spoke about the mission of the office and the industrial applications of hydrogen.
“We are now here to institutionalize this exchange and to strengthen the cooperation between both countries [Kazakhstan and Germany] on this evolving topic. And at the same time, we are here to support increasing capacities within the country,” he said.
According to Andresh, Germany is intended to achieve stronger ties with Kazakhstan and establish an exchange between the decision-makers and experts of the two countries.
The initiative to open a Hydrogen Diplomacy Office in Astana was first announced during German Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s visit to the capital in October.
“We are globally at a rather early stage of green hydrogen development, but nevertheless it is increasing so quickly. It is seen as one of the future energy carriers of decarbonization,” said Andresh.
The use of green hydrogen is applicable in a range of sectors such as the fertilizer industry, food industry, mining, chemical industry with pharma and cosmetics, transport sector, aviation and shipping, according to him.
Kazakhstan’s efforts to achieve its net-zero carbon ambitions are being supported by the EU, according to EU Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Kestutis Jankauskas, who called green hydrogen the future of green energy.
According to Jankauskas, the EU and Kazakhstan are at the stage of “matchmaking.” “What unites us at this moment is interest in diversification,” he said.
“I think it is crucial for Kazakhstan to diversify production from the hydrocarbons and green energy is the key [for that]. Europe as well needs to diversify its sources of import for hydrocarbons,” added Jankauskas outlining the EU’s ambition to produce 10 million tonnes of hydrogen and additionally import 10 million tonnes.
European industrialized countries with ambitious climate targets might not be able to meet the increasing demand for green hydrogen from their own production and will consequently have to rely on hydrogen imports, where Kazakhstan’s role comes in handy.
“Today, Kazakhstan supplies over 8% of the European oil consumption. So why not, in the future, to supply a significant 20% of European import needs for the green hydrogen? That’s what unites us and I think the prerequisites for that are here,” said Jankauskas.
Yury Melnikov, an independent hydrogen policy expert outlined some of the challenges associated with green hydrogen production.
“Green hydrogen requires enormous infrastructure in terms of energy production and overall market structure,” he said. “Also, it will require a lot of direct financing from investors.”
Despite those difficulties, Kazakhstan has a lot of industrial potential. “It has a potential to build some parts of the supply chain using its own technologies and own competencies,” said Melnikov.
Ainur Tumysheva, the regional representative of Svevind Energy GmbH, highlighted Kazakhstan’s big capacity to produce hydrogen at a lower cost of production.
Svevind, a German-Swedish group of companies in the renewable energy industry has advanced a green hydrogen project in the Mangystau Region, seeking to establish Kazakhstan as a reliable supplier of green energy in the form of hydrogen and ammonia for the global markets.
“It’s a big industry, it’s a new industry, the industry of the future, and it does require a lot of money, however, we, at this point, understand that technologically it is possible to do,” said Tumysheva.
“Kazakhstan provides the best resources to produce green hydrogen. It’s not only the land or water, it’s the density and speed of the wind that lays the foundation of the production costs. So the economies of scale reduce that cost,” she added.