“Power to X”: What role could Morocco play in this new paradigm?
“Power to X” in few words
“Power to X” or “PtX” is a technology that consists in transforming electricity into another energy vector. This “X-vector” could be heat (Power to Heat) to meet industrial needs or to supply heating networks. It could also be a synthesis gas (Power to Gas) such as hydrogen for mobility purposes, or methane which can itself be injected into the gas network for industrial, heating, or mobility needs.
“Power to X”: What opportunities exist for Morocco?
Thanks to its strategic geographical position and exceptional wind and solar energy potential, Morocco could capture a significant share of Power to X demand, estimated at 2- 4% of global demand in 2030. This was the most prominent result of the two studies carried out simultaneously by the three German Fraunhofer Institutes in 2018 that aim to explore the economic and ecological impact of Power to X on Morocco.
In this regard, a workshop about Power to X technology and its opportunities in Morocco was organized on February 11, 2019 within the framework of the Moroccan-German Energy Partnership (PAREMA). The purpose of the workshop was to showcase the results of these studies that reveal to which extent this technology will constitute an opportunity for renewable energy in Morocco as a local industry with high export potential given the country’s objective of reaching 52% of the renewable energy mix by 2030.
However, according to Prof. Wolfgang Eichhammer project coordinator from Fraunhofer ISI, investing in technologies substituting fossil energy sources but involving other environmental risks such as increasing the consumption of land, water and resources have to be assessed very carefully and linked to sustainability criteria. In this respect, Morocco could become an exporter of carbon-neutral energy sources and make a major contribution to achieving the Paris Climate Agreement target if and only if it is able to deal with the risks associated with PtX.
To this end, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development announced the establishment of a national task force supported by a consortium of public and private actors as well as the elaboration of an in-depth study to prepare the PtX roadmap for Morocco.
Hydrogen & Ammonia: main development focus by 2030
The Research Institute for Solar Energy and Renewable Energies (IRESEN) has announced recently that Morocco will become a carbon-neutral energy exporter by 2030 through the launch of construction works for a dedicated platform for green hydrogen and ammonia starting January 2020.
This infrastructure, with an investment amounting MAD 150 million, results from a partnership between IRESEN, via Green Energy Park, and both OCP and the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University on the Moroccan side, as well as Fraunhofer institutes on the German side. The platform will be dedicated to the R&D demonstration of Power to X technologies, with a diversified research program on hydrogen applications in the production of high added value green molecules such as ammonia and methanol.
It is worth pointing out that this technology is complementary to renewable energies and will help to reduce carbon emissions while creating a strong opportunity for economic and social development through exports due to the current lack of profitability of conventional electricity exports given the sharp drop in renewable energy costs compared to electricity transmission.
In addition, beyond the existing infrastructures, in particular, the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline and the port infrastructure, capable of playing the role of a liquid fuel export platform, economic relationship with the European Union are constantly strengthening. In Europe, Germany which is the Kingdom’s privileged partner in renewable energy sector, intends to replace its fossil fuel (coal) and nuclear energy needs starting from 2022 until 2038 by importing clean energy, in accordance with its environmental commitments. According to Badr IKKEN the General Director of IRESEN, this situation represents an important opportunity for countries like Morocco, capable of producing clean fuels, particularly green molecules such as hydrogen and green derivatives.
Fertilizer industry: a good illustration of the economic opportunity for Morocco
Together with hydrogen, green ammonia represents a promising economic opportunity to satisfy not only the needs of its local fertilizer industry but also those of the international market in the long term.
Indeed, the Kingdom is highly dependent on imported ammonia as an input for phosphorus-based fertilizers from Ukraine, Trinidad & Tobago, and the USA. Replacing these imports with green ammonia may, therefore, strengthen local fertilizer manufacture. In terms of capacity, about 3 GW will be needed to produce 1 Mt of green ammonia, which corresponds to Morocco’s current imports.
A domestic production of ammonia would represent, for Morocco, not only an opportunity for independence but also an opportunity to diversify its traditional markets. Furthermore, the export of clean ammonia can reduce greenhouse emissions by ~95% making it beneficial for both exporting and importing countries.
National task force to present a study on the development of PtX roadmap
In April 2020, a study on the development of the roadmap was presented at the 3rd meeting of the National Power-to-x task force. According to the study, the draft roadmap should propose:
– Short-term actions that aim to reduce costs along the entire production and operating value chain through the establishment of a dedicated industrial cluster to deal with the development of an infrastructure master plan. The actions also aim to ensure technology transfer through capacity building and the development of local content and to create the right conditions for the export of P2X products.
– Medium-term actions through the development of a storage plan for the electricity sector and the establishment of an appropriate regulatory framework for the use of Power-to-x in transport.
– Long-term actions through the development of a regulatory and commercial framework to extend Power-to-x technologies to heat production.
It was also recommended that three working groups be set up. The first should be tasked with translating the roadmap into a portfolio of concrete, pilot and deployment projects for Power-to-x technologies. The second group will be responsible for developing an appropriate approach to develop exports of green molecules, in order to seize the opportunities offered in Morocco and which are already reflected in the interest expressed by the Kingdom’s European partners. While the third group will be responsible for further strengthening research and development in the various fields related to Power-to-x.
World “Power to X” Summit 2020: a showcase of the Moroccan leadership
Organized by IRESEN, the first edition of the World Power-to-X Summit is a conference gathering policymakers, industry leaders, research experts, and worldwide innovators to discuss the PtX technology and its uses in producing renewable electricity, green molecules and feedstock, CO2 recycling…. This two-day conference was planned to take place in Marrakech from June 10 to June 12, 2020, however, with the current circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a rescheduling might take place.
Safae Laghmari – Senior Analyst at Infomineo
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www.energypartnership.ma (The Moroccan-German Energy Partnership – PAREMA website)