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1 July 2021

Kazakhstan proposes 45 GW hydrogen with eye to exports

German developer Svevind Energy has announced a memorandum of understanding with Kazakh Invest to develop the world’s largest proposed green hydrogen production plant. With swathes of empty desert, this project joins a long list of being similar to those in Australia and Saudi Arabia, which aim to supply a significant chunk of the world’s future hydrogen demand from individual sites.

While details are naturally scarce, the initial outline for the project includes 45 GW of combined wind and solar capacity feeding 30 GW of electrolyzer capacity to produce three million tons of green hydrogen every year.

This 3-million-ton figure would account for more than 4% of today’s global demand for hydrogen. Assuming the project reaches full capacity by 2040 at the latest, when demand is set to reach nearly 200 million tons per year due to the emergence of new technologies in transport, industry, heating, and power generation, the project is more likely to provide 1.5% of the world’s hydrogen demand by that time.

Kazakhstan currently accounts for just 0.3% of global energy demand, meaning that the project would be a huge opportunity for the country to become a major export of clean energy to the rest of the world. Early indications suggest that the green hydrogen will be either exported directly to Eurasian markets – potentially stretching as far west as continental Europe or as far east as demand centers in Japan and Korea – or used locally to produce high-value green products, like ammonia, steel or aluminum, which could also then be exported.

In Kazakhstan, renewables currently account for just 3% of total electricity consumption, while the government recently announced a target to push this to 15% by 2030 – up from a previous target of 10% – before hitting 50% by 2050. The country has also announced plans to become carbon neutral by 2060.

“The green hydrogen facilities will lift Kazakhstan among the global leaders of renewable energy and hydrogen at very competitive, ultra-low production costs,” said Svevind’s CEO Wolfgang Kropp.

The project will be situated primarily in the western and central area of the Kazakh Steppe, which spans across the country’s Northern border with Russia. While in this semi-desert region, solar irradiance can vary on a seasonal basis – averaging at around 1,300 kWh per square meter per year – wind speeds are both strong and consistent, with an average of nearly 8 meters per second. The project would also sit near the overland route of the northern section of China’s belt and road initiative, providing increased access for trade to both Europe and Asia.

Svevind Energy presented the plans for the project in mid-May as part of a consultation process, which has now resulted in a partnership with Kazakh Invest National Company JSC – a state-owned company set-up to promote foreign investment in Kazakhstan.

The project is now expected to take up to ten years to become operational. Development through to financing – including engineering, procurement, and financing – is anticipated to take between three and five years, while construction and commissioning are expected to take another five years.

This follows a similar timeline to many of the other hydrogen-hubs that have been proposed over the past year, including InterContinental Energy’s 25 GW initiative in Oman and 15 GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub in Australia – both with eyes on export markets. The latter of these, however, just took a blow from the Australian Government, which rejected plans to scale the projects proposed capacity to 26 GW.

Other projects of similar scale include NortH2 (10 GW), AquaVentus (10 GW), Murchison Renewable Hydrogen Project (5 GW), Mongolia Beijing Jingneng (5 GW), Helios Green Fuel Project (4 GW), Pacific Solar (3.6 GW), and H2 Hub Gladstone (3 GW).

Svevind is based in Dresden in Germany and has been primarily focused on the development of large-scale onshore wind power projects in Scandinavia, including the Markbygden 1101 in northern Sweden, which is expected to have a capacity of around 4 GW once it is completed in 2022.

Earlier this year Svevind passed the 1 GW mark for turbines in operation, with another 1.5 GW under construction. It has raised around €2.8 billion in equity and long-term debt to finance those projects.