Germany has handed over a grant to steelmaker Thyssenkrupp’s Uhde Chlorine Engineers’ unit for the development of a prototype of a 20MW alkaline electrolyser for the production of green hydrogen and ammonia in Saudi Arabia.

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The grant is part of Germany’s national hydrogen strategy that seeks to source green hydrogen from abroad given Germany’s limited space for domestic hydrogen production from renewables.

Out of a total of €9bn ($11bn) earmarked by Berlin for the national hydrogen strategy, €2bn are reserved for international projects.

Germany under the scheme earlier this month had handed out a first grant for a synthetic fuel project in Chile.

The Thyssenkrupp unit in a first phase dubbed ‘Element One’ is slated to develop the electrolyser for a hydrogen innovation and development centre in the model region of Neom at the Red Sea, where Saudi Arabia is building as a futuristic high-tech city and region.

"The production of green hydrogen is complex and technologically challenging. German companies are among the world leaders in this innovative technology," German economics and energy minister Peter Altmaier said.

"I am therefore particularly pleased that thyssenkrupp has been selected as an experienced technical partner for the "Element One" project within the framework of Neom's hydrogen innovation and development center in Saudi Arabia."

Neom to lessen dependence on oil

Neom among other things will host massive green hydrogen and renewables projects to make the desert Kingdom less dependent on oil.

All going to plan, yet-to-be-built solar and wind power arrays in a second phase are slated to feed an industrial-scale electrolyser plant at Neom to produce up to 650 tons of green hydrogen and 3,000 tons of ammonia per day by 2025, Germany’s economics and energy ministry said.

Once completed, the so-called ‘Helios’ plant will be one of the world’s largest green hydrogen production facilities.

Saudi Arabia earlier this year had already said the hydrogen project is slated to be be linked to 4GW of wind, solar and storage capacity. The $5bn project also has Saudi renewables developer ACWA Power and gases group Air Products as partners.

Green hydrogen is a CO2-free form of renewable energy that can be used as fuel for heavy transport, or for manufacturing in difficult to decarbonise industries such as steel or cement.

The ammonia produced in Neom is to be shipped internationally and, after being converted back to hydrogen, used in the transport sector, among other things, Germany's energy ministry said.

Neom – a combination of the Greek neos (new’) and the first letter of the Arabic word for future’, mustaqbal – is planned to be a luxury city 33 times the size of New York, with flying cars and taxis, robot servants, holographic teachers, artificial rain, and a giant artificial moon.

The development, which will sprawl over 26,500 km 2 (10,200 square miles) near the Red Sea, was initiated by the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as part his Vision 2030’ project.

UPDATE to add details from Germany's energy ministry