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Natural Gas in Putin’s Russia: The Reconstruction of Energy Geopolitics

Gazprom’s CEO Alexey Miller and Vladimir Putin

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After the dissolvement of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the systematic collapse of communism in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, all the new democratic emerging states had to remodel and reconstruct their economies based on the new demands of a globalized world. Such was the case with the Russian Federation, the de facto successor of the old Soviet Union. A complete transformation occurred in the country in every sector of the economy, including the energy sector. Over the years, since the presidency of Vladimir Putin, Russia has emerged as a steady supplier of natural gas in Europe while supporting various projects that help secure its influence towards the West but also towards the East. The high demand and supply for Russian gas have created a new form of geopolitical struggle in Europe and abroad, and Russia has emerged as a major key player in the 21st-century geopolitical “chessboard”.

Energy politics during the era of communism

During the period of the Soviet Union, the country’s energy sector was one of the most important features of its planned economy. Although the Soviet Union had relatively achieved a status of self-sufficiency in energy, major problems started to appear during the late ‘70s, in a period known as the Brezhnev stagnation (1975-1985). This term was first used by Mikhail Gorbachev, in an effort to present his negative views on the socio-political and economic status of the Soviet Union that started by Leonid Brezhnev and continued under Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko. Also, this stagnation was characterized by the lack of energy demand from the West, which created a difficult situation in the supply-side economic aspect. This stagnation was inevitable, not only because of macroeconomic reasons but also because the political situation inside the Soviet Union did not allow for the appropriate technological innovation regarding the energy sector. Instead, the sheer focus and energy of the leadership in the Soviet Union were concentrated in competing with the United States in the Cold War, mostly in militaristic expansion. As a result, one can speculate that this was the reason why the Soviet Union was effective on a domestic level, but not on an international one, where it was clear that the capitalist nations had the upper hand in terms of technological advancements and innovation.

Vladimir Putin and the geopolitics of natural gas

Ten years after the dissolvement of the Soviet Union, a new era of political and economic stability came after the 2000 Presidential elections, when Vladimir Putin became the new President of the Russian Federation. Alongside many economic and socio-political reforms that began, major transformations occurred in the energy sector, especially in the natural gas sector. It became clear that the preservation of the natural gas sector became the top priority in Russia.

Some analysts argue that, especially in the natural gas sector, the Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin follows the same USSR policy as guidance. Marshall Goldman, the author of the book, Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia, argues that Putin has followed a similar line of thinking when it comes to the cancellation of exports towards buyers who might have gone against national objectives, putting forward a plan of total dependency over Russian gas, especially towards its neighboring states. The Russian state has effectively put this plan in motion for years with the increased natural gas production since the beginning of the presidency of Vladimir Putin. The main and most important asset that contributes to this plan is the Russian majority state-owned energy corporation Gazprom. Following the end of the USSR, the Natural Gas Industry was converted into the private company Gazprom, under the CEO and former deputy Minister of the natural gas industries of the Soviet Union, Viktor Chernomyrdin. Although there were objections from many politicians at that time, this politically driven decision was approved in December 1992, by the new President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin.

However, the situation changed just a few months after Vladimir Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin in 2000. In a fast and methodical way, Putin managed to suppress the overgrowing power of the oligarchy in Russia, and soon business oligarchs like Chernomyrdin were set aside from Putin’s political agenda. Chernomyrdin was fired from the position of CEO of Gazprom. The increased government stocks in Gazprom, allowed Putin to replace Chernomyrdin with Alexei Miller and Dmitry Medvedev. The new majority state-owned Gazprom was under the National Champions program, a program that was advocated by Vladimir Putin himself where corporations would remain technically private but would serve as instruments of the Russian government in order to be efficient and competitive on a domestic and international level. This mix of traditional capitalist systems with some aspects of the old Soviet Union grip over businesses could only be successfully operated in Russia. The fact that Russia has large amounts of natural gas reserves inside its territory allows it to effectively control the natural gas industry for the benefit of the state. Any sort of attempt to privatize Gazprom or exclude the Russian government to support a more laissez-faire system would collapse simply because the era of oligarchy in Russia and forced privatization resulted in an economic and societal collapse.

As of today, Russia is considered to have the world’s largest natural gas reserves, with a steady increase in both natural gas and oil since the presidency of Vladimir Putin. In addition, Gazprom is the world’s largest energy major in terms of natural gas reserves and production. According to the company, its hydrocarbon reserves have amounted to 34.899 billion cubic meters of gas, while analysts predict that by 2030 Russia will double its gas exports in Europe and at the same time Europe’s gas demand will increase by 100 bcm over the next ten years. The latest information regarding natural gas exports in Europe allows us to investigate even further to what extent the Russian government uses Gazprom and natural gas as a geopolitical tool to expand its influence. The fact that Russia has the largest natural gas reserves in the world gives it leverage of economic and political influence, especially over the post-Soviet states. One country that has been influenced the most by Russia, is Ukraine. It is estimated that at least 80% of the exported natural gas to the West is transitioned from Ukraine, allowing Russia to promote its political agenda to the country. However, after the Maidan events of 2014 in Kyiv, the relations between the two states have deteriorated, to a point where Russia tries to find other routes and projects that could boost its influence in Europe.

The new era natural gas projects

The latest statistics show that Russia’s gas production has reached its highest-ever level, producing at least 725 billion cubic meters. Also, Russia’s liquified natural gas has become a significant power tool and a global force, with the possibility of further expansion in the coming years. With that being said, Russia has acquired a status of an energy superpower, and as a superpower, it aims to spread its influence in a more realpolitik strategy. To achieve this, Russia has invested in numerous gas pipeline projects. The most significant projects are the TurkStream gas pipeline and the Nord Stream II gas pipeline.

The TurkStream gas pipeline is running from Russia to Turkey. Starting from Anapa in the region of Krasnodar, it crosses the Black Sea, ending up in the terminal of Kıyıköy in Turkey. The project was announced back in 2014, and the official construction started in 2017. In 2020 the first gas deliveries to Bulgaria officially began. Although Southeast Europe as a regional gas market is often overlooked because of its relatively small size, a project like TurkStream could change this dynamic. Researcher Julian Bowden makes two good points about the significance of the project. First of all, it will change the regional gas flows into Southeast Europe by diverting the transit from Ukraine. It is estimated that at least 19 billion cubic meters per year will be removed from the Ukraine transit in 2020. Secondly, this project has the potential to transport 31.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year, which can be equal to the energy demands of 15 million households. All in all, Russia is expected to be able to divert 19 bcm away from Ukraine. Also, the AKP, the ruling party in Turkey has seen this project more positively, saying that it will eliminate transit risks for Turkey’s security of supply and decrease external dependency by replacing the Western Line.

The other most significant project and by far the most controversial one is the Nord Stream II gas pipeline. The pipeline is part of an offshore natural gas pipeline system in Europe, crossing the Baltic Seas and ending up in Germany. The recent project of the Nord Stream II pipeline began in 2015 and as of June 4, 2021, the first section of the project has been fully completed despite numerous sanctions that were imposed by the U.S. For Alan Riley, an expert in energy and environment issues, the Nord Stream II has divided the West. Supporters of the group might argue that the project will bring the much needed natural gas supplies to Western Europe, while opponents of the project argue that it is only masquerading as a commercial project and in reality, it is used as a political “weapon” to undermine the European Union and give Russia political leverage over the EU countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Some European countries are concerned that the recent disputes with Ukraine and the general foreign policy of Russia towards Eastern Europe, are strong indications of the Kremlin’s intentions to use the Nord Stream II pipeline as a political tool of influence. Although Russia and Germany have expressed their opinions about the project saying that it is purely commercial, it is certain that for whatever reason this project might be used in the end, the geopolitics of Europe has drastically changed and in the short-term, it seems that Russian has the upper hand in energy politics in Europe.

The struggle for international political influence

The projects that were mentioned, surely have the potential to change the geopolitical structure of Europe. This statement cannot be seen as an exaggeration. According to Eurostat the Russian Federation is the largest exporter of natural gas in the European Union. The total imports of energy products from Russia account for at least 60%. From that 60%, at least 39% represents the natural gas imports. This is an important figure, not only for economic reasons but because it also represents a geopolitical struggle between Russian and the United States. The previous American administration under Donald J. Trump has accused Russia of holding the EU as a “captive” due to its energy reliance. His administration and the current administration of Joe Biden have imposed sanctions on the project but with no results as the project seems to be almost done. However, there are still efforts to convince the EU to diversify its energy sources to stop the energy dependency from Russia. One country that can be a potential energy supplier for the future is Qatar. The U.S is very keen on seeing one of its closest Middle East allies as the main energy supplier for the EU to halt the economic and political influence of Russia. According to Reuters, there is a possibility for the creation of a liquefied natural gas pipeline towards Germany in the next five years. As of now, Qatar has promised to invest at least $10 billion to strengthen its ties with Germany who currently is the biggest energy consumer in Europe.

The energy politics of Russia, combined with the ongoing projects that affect Europe and the external pressure from the United States of America, is a great example of how natural gas and energy play a significant role in the reconstruction of the geopolitical map. What can be seen at first glance, as purely economical and commercial projects and energy trade policies, hides underneath it the core essence of the international struggle for political influence. Since the 2008 financial crisis, global natural gas production has been boosted by new innovative technologies and besides the traditional Cold War rivals, other countries like Norway or Qatar seem to climb the “ladder” of natural gas producing countries. Qatar and Norway are producing at least 124 billion cubic meters and 112 billion cubic meters of natural gas respectively. Generally speaking, natural gas markets globally are becoming more integrated. This is because the costs of the liquefied natural gas transportation have fallen significantly over the last few years. This can be interpreted as an important factor not only to the diversification of energy imports in the EU but also to the geopolitical changes in Europe and beyond.

The energy sector in Russia, especially natural gas production, will play a significant role in the following years to come. Russia is entering a new era of energy production and energy exportation, significantly increasing its influence and political power to the West but also the East. One can expect that the ongoing rivalry between Russia and the United States will not stop as both countries are applying a more realistic approach towards their foreign policies and re-evaluating their existent energy diplomacy and trading tactics.

Bachelor's Degree in International Relations & Political Science. Columnist focusing on Global Affairs

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Oil and the new world order: China, Iran and Eurasia

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The world oil market will undergo a fundamental change in the future. Choosing petrodollars or oil wars is no longer a question that can be answered. With the Strategic Agreement on the Comprehensive Economic and Security Partnership between China and Iran officially signed by the Foreign Ministers of both countries in Tehran on March 27, 2021, the petrodollar theorem is broken and the empire built by the US dollar is cracked.

This is because the petrodollar has not brought substantial economic development to the oil-producing countries in the Middle East during over half a century of linkage to the US dollar.

The Middle East countries generally have not their own industrial systems. The national economies are heavily dependent on oil exports and imports of cereals and industrial products. The national finances are driven by the US dollar and the financial system that follows it.

If the Middle East countries wanted to escape the control of the dollar, they should face the threat of war from the United States and its allies – things we have seen over and over again. Just think of Saddam Hussein being supported when he was fighting Iran and later being Public Enemy No. 1 when he started trading oil in euros.

The West has always wanted the Middle East to be an oil ‘sacred cow’ and has not enabled it to develop its own modern industrial system: the lack of progress in the Middle East was intended as long-term blackmail.

In the Western system of civilisation based on exchange of views and competition, the West is concerned that Iran and the entire Middle East may once again restore the former glory and hegemony of the Persian, Arab and Ottoman empires.

China is facing the exploitation of the global oil market and the threat of its supply disruption. Relying on industrial, financial, and military strength, Europe and the United States control the oil production capital, trade markets, dollar settlements, and global waterways that make up the entire petrodollar world order, differentiating China and the Middle East and dividing the world on the basis of the well-known considerations. You either choose the dollar or you choose war – and the dollar has long been suffering.

Just as in ancient times nomadic tribes blocked the Silk Road and monopolised trade between East and West, Europe and the United States are holding back and halting cooperation and development of the whole of Asia and the rest of the planet. Centuries ago, it was a prairie cavalry, bows, arrows and scimitars: today it is a navy ship and a financial system denominated in dollars.

Therefore, China and Iran, as well as the entire Middle East, are currently looking for ways to avoid middlemen and intermediaries and make the difference. If there is another strong power that can provide military security and at the same time offer sufficient funds and industrial products, the whole Middle East oil can be freed from the dominance of the dollar and can trade directly to meet demand, and even introduce new modern industrial systems.

Keeping oil away from the US dollar and wars and using oil for cooperation, mutual assistance and common development is the inner voice of the entire Middle East and developing countries: a power that together cannot be ignored in the world.

The former Soviet Union had hoped to use that power and strength to improve its system. However, it overemphasised its own geostrategic and paracolonial interests – turning itself into a social-imperialist superpower competing with the White House. Moreover, the USSR lacked a cooperative and shared mechanism to strengthen its alliances, and eventually its own cronies began to rebel as early as the 1960s.

More importantly – although the Soviet Union at the time could provide military security guarantees for allied countries – it was difficult for it to provide economic guarantees and markets, although the Soviet Union itself was a major oil exporter. The natural competitive relationship between the Soviet Union and the Middle East, as well as the Soviet Union’s weak industrial capacity, eventually led to the disintegration of the whole system, starting with the defection of Sadat’s Egypt in 1972. Hence the world reverted to the unipolarised dollar governance once the Soviet katekon collapsed nineteen years later.

With the development and rise of its economy, however, now China has also begun to enter the world scene and needs to establish its own new world order, after being treated as a trading post by Britain in the 19th century, later divided into zones of influence by the West and Japan, and then quarantined by the United States after the Second World War.

Unlike the US and Soviet world order, China’s proposal is not a paracolonial project based on its own national interests, nor is it an old-fashioned “African globalisation” plan based on multinationals, and it is certainly not an ideological export.

For years, there has been talk of Socialism with Chinese characteristics and certainly not of attempts to impose China’s Marxism on the rest of the world, as was the case with Russia. China, instead, wishes to have a new international economic order characterised by cooperation, mutual assistance and common development.

Unlike the Western civilisation based on rivalry and competition, the Eastern civilisation, which pays more attention to harmony without differences and to coordinated development, is trying to establish a new world economic order with a completely different model from those that wrote history in blood.

Reverting to the previous treaty, between the US dollar and the war, China has offered Iran and even the world a third choice. China seems increasingly willing to exist as a service provider. This seems to be more useful for China, first of all to solve its own problems and not to get involved in endless international disputes.

It can thus be more accepted by all countries around the world and unite more States to break the joint encirclement of the “democratic” and liberal imperialism of Europe and the United States.

Consequently, China and Iran – whose origins date back almost to the same period – met at a critical moment in history. According to the Strategic Agreement on Comprehensive Economic and Security Partnership between China and Iran, China will invest up to 400 billion dollars in dozens of oil fields in Iran over the next 25 years, as well as in banking, telecommunications, ports, railways, healthcare, 5G networks, GPS, etc.

China will help Iran build the entire modern industrial system. At the same time, it will receive a heavily discounted and long-term stable supply of Iranian oil. The Sino-Iranian partnership will lay the foundations for a proposed new world order, with great respect for Eastern values, not based on some failed, decadent and increasingly radicalising principles.

Faced with the value restraint and the pressure of sanctions from the United States and Europe, China is seeking to unite the European third Rome, Indo-European Iran, the second Rome and the five Central Asian countries to create a powerful geoeconomic counterpart in the hinterland of Eurasia.

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The stages and choices of energy production from hydrogen

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There are three main ways to use hydrogen energy:

1) internal combustion;

2) conversion to electricity using a fuel cell;

3) nuclear fusion.

The basic principle of a hydrogen internal combustion engine is the same as that of a gasoline or diesel internal combustion engine. The hydrogen internal combustion engine is a slightly modified version of the traditional gasoline internal combustion engine. Hydrogen internal combustion burns hydrogen directly without using other fuels or producing exhaust water vapour.

Hydrogen internal combustion engines do not require any expensive special environment or catalysts to fully do the job – hence there are no problems of excessive costs. Many successfully developed hydrogen internal combustion engines are hybrid, meaning they can use liquid hydrogen or gasoline as fuel.

The hydrogen internal combustion engine thus becomes a good transition product. For example, if you cannot reach your destination after refuelling, but you find a hydrogen refuelling station, you can use hydrogen as fuel. Or you can use liquid hydrogen first and then a regular refuelling station. Therefore, people will not be afraid of using hydrogen-powered vehicles when hydrogen refuelling stations are not yet widespread.

The hydrogen internal combustion engine has a small ignition energy; it is easy to achieve combustion – hence better fuel saving can be achieved under wider working conditions.

The application of hydrogen energy is mainly achieved through fuel cells. The safest and most efficient way to use it is to convert hydrogen energy into electricity through such cells.

The basic principle of hydrogen fuel cell power generation is the reverse reaction of electrolysis of water, hydrogen and oxygen supplied to the cathode and anode, respectively. The hydrogen spreading – after the electrolyte reaction – makes the emitted electrons reach the anode through the cathode by means of an external load.

The main difference between the hydrogen fuel cell and the ordinary battery is that the latter is an energy storage device that stores electrical energy and releases it when needed, while the hydrogen fuel cell is strictly a power generation device, like a power plant.

The same as an electrochemical power generation device that directly converts chemical energy into electrical energy. The use of hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity, directly converts the combustion chemical energy into electrical energy without combustion.

The energy conversion rate can reach 60% to 80% and has a low pollution rate. The device can be large or small, and it is very flexible. Basically, hydrogen combustion batteries work differently from internal combustion engines: hydrogen combustion batteries generate electricity through chemical reactions to propel cars, while internal combustion engines use heat to drive cars.

Because the fuel cell vehicle does not entail combustion in the process, there is no mechanical loss or corrosion. The electricity generated by the hydrogen combustion battery can be used directly to drive the four wheels of the vehicle, thus leaving out the mechanical transmission device.

The countries that are developing research are aware that the hydrogen combustion engine battery will put an end to pollution. Technology research and development have already successfully produced hydrogen cell vehicles: the cutting-edge car-prucing industries include GM, Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and other major international companies.

In the case of nuclear fusion, the combination of hydrogen nuclei (deuterium and tritium) into heavier nuclei (helium) releases huge amounts of energy.

Thermonuclear reactions, or radical changes in atomic nuclei, are currently very promising new energy sources. The hydrogen nuclei involved in the nuclear reaction, such as hydrogen, deuterium, fluorine, lithium, iridium (obtained particularly from meteorites fallen on our planet), etc., obtain the necessary kinetic energy from thermal motion and cause the fusion reaction.

The thermonuclear reaction itself behind the hydrogen bomb explosion, which can produce a large amount of heat in an instant, cannot yet be used for peaceful purposes. Under specific conditions, however, the thermonuclear reaction can achieve a controlled thermonuclear reaction. This is an important aspect for experimental research. The controlled thermonuclear reaction is based on the fusion reactor. Once a fusion reactor is successful, it can provide mankind with the cleanest and most inexhaustible source of energy.

The feasibility of a larger controlled nuclear fusion reactor is tokamak. Tokamak is a toroidal-shaped device that uses a powerful magnetic field to confine plasma. Tokamak is one of several types of magnetic confinement devices developed to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion energy. As of 2021, it is the leading candidate for a fusion reactor.

The name tokamak comes from Russian (toroidal’naja kamera s magnitnymi katuškami: toroidal chamber with magnetic coils). Its magnetic configuration is the result of research conducted in 1950 by Soviet scientists Andrei Dmitrievič Sakharov (1921-1989) and Igor’ Evgen’evič Tamm (1895-1971), although the name dates back more precisely to 1957.

At the centre of tokamak there is a ring-shaped vacuum chamber with coils wound outside. When energized, a huge spiral magnetic field is generated inside the tokamak, which heats the plasma inside to a very high temperature, which achieves the purpose of nuclear fusion.

Energy, resources and environmental problems urgently need hydrogen energy to solve the environmental crisis, but the preparation of hydrogen energy is not yet mature, and most of the research on hydrogen storage materials is still in the exploratory laboratory stage. Hydrogen energy production should also focus on the “biological” production of hydrogen.

Other methods of hydrogen production are unsustainable and do not meet scientific development requirements. Within biological production, microbial production requires an organic combination of genetic engineering and chemical engineering so that existing technology can be fully used to develop hydrogen-producing organisms that meet requirements as soon as possible. Hydrogen production from biomass requires continuous improvement and a vigorous promotion of technology. It is a difficult process.

Hydrogen storage focused on the discovery of new aspects of materials or their preparation is not yet at large-scale industrial level. Considering different hydrogen storage mechanisms, and the material to be used, also needs further study.

Furthermore, each hydrogen storage material has its own advantages and disadvantages, and most storage material properties have the characteristics that relate to adductivity and properties of a single, more commonly known material.

It is therefore believed that efforts should be focused on the development of a composite hydrogen storage material, which integrates the storage advantages of multiple individual materials, along the lines of greater future efforts.

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The advantages of hydrogen and Israel’s warnings

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Hydrogen is the most common element in nature. It is estimated to make up 75% of the mass of the universe. Except for that contained in air, it is primarily stored in water in the form of a compound, and water is the most widely distributed substance on earth.

Hydrogen has the best thermal conductivity of all gases – i.e. ten times higher than most of them – and it is therefore an excellent heat transfer carrier in the energy industry.

Hydrogen has good combustion performance, rapid ignition, and has a wide fuel range when mixed with air. It has a high ignition point and rapid combustion rate.

Except for nuclear fuels, the calorific value of hydrogen is the highest among all fossil and chemical fuels, as well as biofuels, reaching 142.35 kJ/kg. The calorie per kilogram of hydrogen burned is about three times that of gasoline and 3.9 times that of alcohol, as well as 4.5 times that of coke.

Hydrogen has the lightest weight of all elements. It can appear as gas, liquid, or solid metal hydride, which can adapt to different storage and transport needs and to various application environments.

Burning hydrogen is cleaner than other fuels –  besides generating small amounts of water – and does not produce hydrogen azide as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide (harmful to the environment), hydrocarbons, lead compounds and dust particles, etc. A small amount of hydrogen nitride will not pollute the environment after proper treatment, and the water produced by combustion can continue to produce hydrogen and be reused repeatedly.

Extensive use practices show that hydrogen has a record of safe use. There were 145 hydrogen-related accidents in the United States between 1967 and 1977, all of which occurred in petroleum refining, the chlor-alkali industry, or nuclear power plants, and did not really involve energy applications.

Experience in the use of hydrogen shows that common hydrogen accidents can be summarized as follows: undetected leaks; safety valve failure; emptying system failure; broken pipes, tubes or containers; property damage; poor replacement; air or oxygen and other impurities left in the system; too high hydrogen discharge rate; possible damage of pipe and tube joints or bellows; accidents or tipping possibly occurring during the hydrogen transmission process.

These accidents require two additional conditions to cause a fire: one is the source of the fire and the other is the fact that the mixture of hydrogen and air or oxygen must be within the limits of the possibility of fires or violent earthquakes in the local area.

Under these two conditions, an accident cannot be caused if proper safety measures are established. In fact, with rigorous management and careful implementation of operating procedures, most accidents do not theoretically occur.

The development of hydrogen energy is triggering a profound energy revolution and could become the main source of energy in the 21st century.

The United States, Europe, Japan, and other developed countries have formulated long-term hydrogen energy development strategies from the perspective of national sustainable development and security strategies.

Israel, however, makes warning and calls for caution.

While the use of hydrogen allows for the widespread penetration of renewable energy, particularly solar and wind energy – which, due to storage difficulties, are less available than demand – Israeli experts say that, despite its many advantages, there are also disadvantages and barriers to integrating green hydrogen into industry, including high production costs and high upfront investment in infrastructure.

According to the Samuel Neaman Institute’s Energy Forum report (April 11, 2021; authors Professors Gershon Grossman and Naama Shapira), Israel is 7-10 years behind the world in producing energy from clean hydrogen.

Prof. Gideon Friedman, actingchief scientist and Director of Research and Development at the Ministry of Energy, explains why: “Israel has a small industry that is responsible for only 10% of greenhouse gas emissions – unlike the world where they are usually 20% – and therefore the problems of emissions in industry are a little less acute in the country.”

At a forum held prior to the report’s presentation, senior officials and energy experts highlighted the problematic nature of integrating clean hydrogen into industry in Israel.

Dr. Yossi Shavit, Head of the cyber unit in industry at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, outlined the risks inherent in hydrogen production, maintenance and transportation, including the fact that it is a colourless and odourless gas that makes it difficult to detect a leak. According to Dr. Shavit, hydrogen is a hazardous substance that has even been defined as such in a new regulation on cyber issues published in 2020.

Dr. Shlomo Wald, former chief scientist at the Ministry of Infrastructure, argued that in the future hydrogen would be used mainly for transportation, along with electricity.

Prof. Lior Elbaz of Bar-Ilan University said that one of the most important things is the lack of laws: “There is no specific regulation for hydrogen in Israel, but it is considered a dangerous substance. In order for hydrogen to be used for storage and transportation, there needs to be a serious set of laws that constitute a bottleneck in our learning curve.” “Israel has something to offer in innovation in the field, but government support will still be needed in this regard – as done in all countries – and approximately a trillion dollars in the field of hydrogen is expected to be invested in the next decade.”

Although the discussion was mainly about Israel’s delay in integrating clean hydrogen into the industry, it has emerged that Sonol (Israel’s fuel supplier ranking third in the country’s gas station chain) is leading a project, together with the Ministry of Transport, to establish Israel’s first hydrogen refuelling station. “We believe there will be hydrogen transportation in Israel for trucks and buses,” said Dr. Amichai Baram, Vice President of operations at Sonol. “Hydrogen-powered vehicles for the country – albeit not really cheap in the initial phase – and regulations promoted in the field, both for gas stations and vehicles.”

Renewables account for only 6% of Israel’s energy sources and, according to the latest plans published by the Ministry of Energy and adopted by the government, the target for 2030 is 30%.

This is an ambitious goal compared to reality, and also far from the goal of the rest of the countries in the world that aim at energy reset by 2050.

The authors of the aforementioned report emphasize that fully using the clean hydrogen potential is key to achieving a higher growth target for Israel.

According to recommendations, the State should critically examine the issue in accordance with Israel’s unique conditions and formulate a strategy for the optimal integration of hydrogen into the energy economy.

Furthermore, it must support implementation, both through appropriate regulations and through the promotion of cooperation with other countries and global companies, as well as through investment in infrastructure, and in research and development, industry and in collaboration with the academic world.

There are countries in Europe or the Middle East that have already started green energy production projects, and finally it was recommended to work to develop Israeli innovations in the field, in collaboration with the Innovation Authority and the Ministry of Energy.

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