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In a regional dynamic, the Kingdom of Morocco aims to create an economic and industrial sector based on green hydrogen and its derivatives, to consolidate its energy transition while contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the decarbonization of partner countries. Such an impetus is based in particular on the development of an exceptional potential in renewable energies as well as on the expertise that the Kingdom has gained over the last decade. [1].

Key milestones of Green Hydrogen and applications in Morocco

The beginning of the exploration of the opportunities offered by the Power-To-X subsidiary in Morocco began in 2018 with two studies conducted simultaneously by the German institutes Fraunhofer IMWS, IGB, and ISI were presented at a workshop organized in February 2019 by the Research Institute for Solar Energy and New Energies (IRESEN) and the Secretariat of the Moroccan-German Energy Partnership «PAREMA» under the chairmanship of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Environment. These studies concluded that «Morocco could capture a share of global PtX demand, estimated at 2-4% in 2030.» [2,3].

Debate on these presented findings resulted in the announcement of a national commission to prepare a «Power-To-X» roadmap. The first meeting of this commission was held in late May 2019 and brought together representatives of key state actors. During this meeting, the latest advances in the field of Power to X technology were presented, in addition to the results of preliminary studies carried out, as well as the practical applications of this technology, namely: hydrogen production, energy storage, direct injection of hydrogen into the gas network, electric mobility and the production of green molecules such as ammonia and methanol. [2,4,5].

By June 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published a report entitled «The Future of Hydrogen». This document shows Morocco among the countries where electrolytic hydrogen would be almost cost-competitive with natural gas and coal to produce ammonia and methanol, given that it is among the countries with the cheapest renewable electricity. According to the same report, «although these sites are far from the current demand centers for these products, they could attract foreign investment in the future.» [2,6]

The same year has seen the decision to activate the dynamics on the Power-to-X by IRESEN and its partners, including the Green Energy Park, the OCP Group, and UM6P, by announcing the realization of platforms dedicated to hydrogen and green ammonia [2,7]. The year 2019 also saw the organization of a conference on «solar hydrogen» by the Amadeus Institute and its partners [8], in addition to the publication of the document «A North Africa – Europe Hydrogen Manifesto» by the German organization Dii Desert Energy with the contribution of the former DG of IRESEN Badr Ikken and the current acting DG Samir Rachidi [9].

In addition to the creation of the National Commission for Green Hydrogen, the year 2020 has seen the start of the realization of the Moroccan vision for this promising sector. Thus, in June 2020, a Moroccan-German agreement was signed to develop the green hydrogen production sector and to set up research and investment projects in the use of this material [10]. The Year 2020 also saw the publication of the report of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) entitled «Accelerating the energy transition to install Morocco in the green growth» recommending to «dock to the hydrogen revolution (Power-to-X) in which the comparative advantages of Morocco are considerable. In the scenario «on orbit» of the same document, the CESE mentioned the study of «the opportunity to exploit the deposit of renewable energy available to Morocco to achieve large-scale industrial projects including around the Power-to-X sector related to hydrogen.» [11,12].

At the end of the year 2020, the first edition of the World Power-to-X Summit was organized by IRESEN and UM6P under the auspices of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Environment. This edition, held in virtual mode due to Covid-19 restrictions, was a regional platform for exchange, dedicated to Green Hydrogen and its applications and brought together several ministers, secretaries of state, business leaders, representatives of national and international organizations (CESE, AIE, IRENA, Dii, ..), researchers and experts [13,14].

The year 2021 began with the announcement of a connection between the port of Tangier Med and the German port of Hamburg, through a letter of intent evoking the export of green hydrogen from Morocco to Germany in an article published in the Serbian newspaper «Politka» [15,16]. In February 2021, the Moroccan and Portuguese Ministers in charge of the sector signed a declaration of cooperation on green hydrogen in Rabat. During this ceremony, the parties agreed to align the priorities of green hydrogen in Morocco and Portugal with the decarbonization strategies linked to the Paris Agreement, as well as to encourage the commercial demand for green hydrogen [17,18].

In March 2021, the «GreenH2 Morocco Cluster» was founded during its constitutive general assembly chaired by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and

Environment and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Green and Digital Economy in the presence of representatives of the industrial sector, research and training as well as public bodies. It is a national cluster of green hydrogen dedicated to applied research, innovation, and industry, whose executive board was elected the following month by the founding members [19,20].

In March 2022, OCP Group, Shell company, and UM6P signed a collaboration agreement to develop a pilot project to assess the feasibility of large-scale production of low-carbon ammonia using hydrogen produced from renewable energy [30]. A month later, the firm CWP Global announced its project AMUN in Morocco, which consists of a 15 GW hybrid wind and solar power plant to produce hydrogen for fertilizers [31]. In May 2022, on the sidelines of the Green Hydrogen Global Assembly in Barcelona, Morocco co-launched Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance along with Mauritania, Egypt, Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa [32].

At the end of the first half of 2022, the World PtX Summit took place in the second edition held in Marrakech. This summit, now positioned as the leading event on green hydrogen both at the national and continental level, included six sessions discussing a broad range of topics. During this event, six agreements have been concluded between key stakeholders in the hydrogen industry to deliver support and enhance R&D and innovation throughout the Hydrogen and power-to-X chain values. Among those conventions, one related to the MELHY project which is a feasibility study of hydrogen storage in saline cavities [33,34].

In July 2022, UM6P and the Dutch company Proton Ventures BV, in the presence of IRESEN and the Chargé d’Affaires of the Dutch Embassy, Mr. Fred Duijn, signed an agreement for the construction of the Green Ammonia Pilot at the OCP Group’s chemical complex in Jorf Lasfar [35]. Two months later, IRESEN announced the successful completion of the installation of its first green hydrogen micropilot system. This unit, named «Power-to-X μPilot», consists of an electrolyser with a capacity of 20 kW and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels [36]. The same month, September 2022, IRESEN organized the first edition of the Middle East & Africa Clean Tech Academy (MEA-CTA) training program under the theme of “The Challenges of Green Hydrogen Economy”, jointly with the Green Tech Institute – GTI of UM6P and in partnership with the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives (CEAtech), the Oman Hydrogen Center (OHC), the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) and the Arab Fertilizer Association (AFA) [37]. [1]

In June 2021, Morocco’s Ministry of Energy, Mines, and the Environment and International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) signed an agreement to advance knowledge and usage of renewable energy [21]. A month later, a value chain agreement was signed for the project “HEVO Ammonia Morocco» production plant. This project, led by Portugal’s Fusion Fuel Green and the U.S. Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) with a total value of €865 million, aims to produce 183,000 tons of green ammonia by 2026.

And in September 2021, McKinsey & Company published a report, titled “Africa’s Green Manufacturing Crossroads: Choices for a Low Carbon Industrial Future,” which included a case study box highlighting Morocco as a leading country in the green hydrogen economy [22,23]. The same month, IRESEN and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) concluded an MoU aiming to accelerate Morocco’s energy transition including green hydrogen production [24]. The third quarter of 2021 saw a strong mobilization of IRESEN in two major international events; during its participation in Dubai Expo in October, the institute organized an event on green hydrogen with the title «Green Hydrogen: Key to Decarbonizing the Economy», and during its strong mobilization at the COP26 in Glasgow, IRESEN organized a workshop entitled «Green Hydrogen: From R&D to Deployment: Which Ways to Cooperate and which Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts?» [25,26].

The most significant event of the year 2021 remains the publication of the Moroccan “Roadmap for Green Energy” by the Ministry of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development. Thus, Morocco has become the first country in the African continent and the Arab-Muslim world to publish its hydrogen strategy [1]. An additional key milestone marked the end of the same year was the announcement of an agreement allowing the establishment of the “Green H2A” in the industrial zone of Jorf Lasfar, in the Casablanca-Settat region. This platform is dedicated to R&D and innovation in the field of Green Hydrogen and its applications [27].

The beginning of 2022 saw the publication of IRENA’s report “Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation: The Hydrogen Factor” considering Morocco among net energy importers that “seem poised to become green hydrogen exporters” in January. According to the same document, “Experts believe that Australia, Chile, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United States are best placed to emerge as major clean hydrogen producers by 2050” [28]. In the same month, the independent power producer (IPP) Total Eren, the subsidiary of the French oil company TotalEnergies, announced a €9.4 billion investment in a hydrogen and green ammonia project in Morocco. This plant will be able to transform 10 GW of clean electricity on a 170,000-ha site [29].

It was a timeline of the significant milestones in Morocco’s progress towards becoming one of the leaders in the hydrogen economy in the region and the world. As has been shown, Morocco has huge potential and is experiencing great momentum in the Green Hydrogen industry. Yet, several challenges have to be tackled to realize the projects within the national strategy, such as the issue of the water stress that can be addressed via desalination, and the need for preparing an adequate legislative and regulatory framework, as well as financial schemes to mitigate investment risks. Each of those issues could be the subject of a next article.