‘Petrostates will still dominate the energy world after fossil fuels’

A new report suggests that existing international trade relationships could remain in the global trade of hydrogen, halting its progress

The Big Zero report

Even after the dominance of fossil fuels, ‘petrostates’ such as Saudi Arabia and Russia could still continue to have a heavy influence over the global energy trade if blue hydrogen takes off.

That is according to a new study from the University of Sussex Business School, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, the Colorado School of Mines and Hanyang University, revealing that if hydrogen becomes ‘broadly traded’ rather than locally produced it may result in a continuation of the current supply chain witnessed in the trade of fossil fuels, which is dominated by the ‘petrostates’.

These include Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Middle Eastern Gulf States.

The report suggests this could be a problem as the race to adapt to widespread blue hydrogen use could lead to countries vying to extend their geopolitical dominance and this could decelerate progress towards a low carbon economy.

It argues that the continuation of ‘petrostate’ dominance in a renewable-led world would stop smaller countries from establishing themselves in the hydrogen industry and therefore become a barrier to its overall progression.

The authors of the study put this down to the high possibility of international competition to access strategic locations and natural resources to harness dominance over the hydrogen trade, as fossil fuels lose their power.

The research shows that key areas of the oil and gas world such as the Suez Canal could remain just as relevant in a low carbon economy world if fossil hydrogen is produced using carbon capture and storage (CCS) and renewable hydrogen is produced and exported from the Middle East.

Benjamin Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Sussex Business School, said: “In the current fossil fuel-led global economy, energy security is uneven across nations and presents important national and human security implications.

“Fossil energy resources are used as foreign policy instruments, to create military advantage, enable some countries to hold disproportionate influence in international affairs and stoke geopolitical tensions.

“It is envisaged that the move to a renewables-led global economy will see many of these issues dissipate as we move to energy production that can be localised, stored and used across multiple sectors.

“However the role of hydrogen complicates that narrative and allows for the potential for the energy tensions of the past to interfere with the present remain unless action is taken during the migration form one global energy system to the other.”

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