Bavaria is intensifying its economic relations with the Arabian Peninsula. A 30-strong delegation from the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs with representatives from the fields of energy and hydrogen, environmental technology and medical technology traveled to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for this purpose – with them: Dr. Andy Gradel from the Institute for Water and Energy Management at Hof University of Applied Sciences (iwe). In Riyadh, Dammam and Manama, the group spoke with government representatives of both states and regional key players.
Dr. Andy Gradel, how did you come to be part of this delegation trip?
“The Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy (StMWi) aims to secure the long-term and diversified supply of energy in Bavaria through renewable energy sources. In order to be able to achieve this, in addition to a high level of in-house production of e.g. green hydrogen, it will not be possible to completely dispense with imports. Ammonia is the hydrogen carrier of the near future and we have established a research focus at Hof University of Applied Sciences to address the final scientific issues for the commercialization of the technology. Since Saudi Arabia wants to gradually replace its oil exports with renewable ammonia and we are researching the appropriate application for its use, the ministry asked me to participate in this trip.”
What were the concrete steps involved?
“First of all, our task was to work out the possibilities for cooperation and, if necessary, the establishment of so-called demonstrators. To this end, Bavarian companies and research institutes met on site with the assembled energy industry of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain with the aim of creating cooperations and investments, exchanging technological information or directly networking joint ventures and start-ups on site.”
What exactly was your task?
“My ambition was, of course, to make Hof University of Applied Sciences known as a research partner for ammonia applications in order to give the Saudis access to the German market and us in Bavaria access to the application of imported hydrogen to secure our energy supply. Since our research is practice-oriented, we have talked specifically about pilot and demonstration projects, possibly using the purification methods we have researched.”
That all sounds enormously exciting. In addition, what impressions were you able to gain of the two countries?
“Saudi Arabia is in the left lane at 300 km/h in terms of changes in society and technology. The crown prince is apparently freeing this country from old patterns and taking huge steps in terms of renewable energies, but there also seems to be significant progress in terms of women’s rights and equality. Of course, one could initially speculate that this is a big show to facilitate global business relations – but I deliberately also spoke to locals and there these developments were confirmed again and again. People there are currently enjoying new freedoms on a quasi-monthly basis and living them out.”
How are the two countries positioning themselves with regard to the hydrogen issue?
“It’s all really very ambitious.
Through projects on the largest possible scale, they want to become the world’s No. 1 exporter, and the projects for this have already begun.”Dr. Andy Gradel on Saudi Arabia and Bahrain
Projects like Neom (a planned city with an attached technology park projected by the government of Saudi Arabia; editor’s note) are not fiction, but have already begun. Bahrain was an equally positive experience; all the lights there are on renewable energies and future technologies.”
How can we benefit from the contacts made and were there any intersections for direct cooperation with Hof University of Applied Sciences as well?
“Our university can help to give companies access to the Bavarian export market through innovations from research. An initial correspondence as a result of the meetings has already begun.”
What next steps do you see in this?
“My colleague Jasmin Rutka from NürnbergMesse GmbH and I have found in our discussions on site that we first need to understand the requirements and then put together the right consortium on the Bavarian side. She is head of the established HYDROGEN DIALOGUE and specializes in event management in the hydrogen industry – which came in very handy when we identified the issues.
As a logical consequence, we then agreed to jointly plan online workshops and make a selection of technologies and research questions. Based on this, we can then put together specific solutions and the right partners to tackle tangible projects.”
We wish you every success in this endeavor – thanks for the interview!