At the end of July, King Mohammed VI reaffirmed in a speech the ambitions of his country, calling on his government to "a rapid and qualitative implementation" of the "Morocco offer" for green hydrogen.

It is necessary, he said, "to enhance the assets available to our country and respond as best as possible to the projects carried out by global investors in this promising sector".

Hydrogen is recovered through the electrolysis of water that separates this gas from oxygen. It is said to be "green" when it is produced thanks to electricity from renewable energies: wind, solar or hydro.

Carrying great hopes in the context of global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, it is an energy vector that can be used to decarbonize steel, cement, fertilizers, chemicals, and the storage of clean energy.

Morocco is aiming for first place in the Maghreb, even if the sector is "embryonic and major global projects will not see the light of day for three to five years," Samir Rachidi, director of the Moroccan Iresen Research Institute, told AFP.

In mid-August, the Ministry of Economy announced that it had reserved about 1.5 million hectares of public land -- almost as much as the surface of Kuwait -- to accommodate "eight green hydrogen and ammonia production sites".

How much does it cost?

Moroccan media reported on plans by Australian, Indian, German, French and British investors.

Morocco is throwing itself into the fray with the advantage of having already bet heavily over the last 15 years on clean energies, which provide 38% of the electricity currently produced, and aims to reach 52% by 2030.

The goal is not to exceed a production cost of one to two dollars per kilo of green hydrogen, Ahmed Reda Chami, president of the Economic Council (a public body) told the weekly "La Vie Eco".

For Samir Rachidi of Iresen, it is also necessary to establish "an industrial value chain that starts with seawater desalination plants (for electrolysis), electricity storage, up to the transport and marketing of hydrogen".

Morocco has planned to add 7 desalination plants to its fleet of 12 plants, in order to simultaneously face the water stress that threatens its agriculture, another key sector.

Algeria and Tunisia in the race

For Rabat, green hydrogen is also crucial because this energy can be used to produce ammonia, the basis of nitrogen agricultural fertilizers, a sector in which the country is one of the world leaders thanks to its immense phosphate reserves.

Surfing on a strong global demand that has caused the price to soar to 1,000 euros per tonne since Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, the Cherifian Phosphate Office (public monopoly) plans to produce in 2027 one million tons of "green ammonia" (from green hydrogen), and triple in 2032.

The rest of the Maghreb is also positioning itself on green hydrogen.

According to a Deloitte report published this summer, North Africa will be the world's leading exporter of green hydrogen in 2050, reshuffling the cards of global energy.

Algeria "aims to become a major player" by capitalizing on "one of the most important potential in the world" in terms of solar and wind energy and "on its transport infrastructure (gas pipelines)," Rabah Sellami, director of the Renewable Energy Commission (CEREFE), told AFP.

A wind farm in Tarfaya, May 14, 2013 in Morocco © FADEL SENNA / AFP/Archives

Currently, the oil and gas country produces only 3% of its electricity from renewables but is investing heavily to reach an installed capacity of 4 GW by 2024. Algeria has many desalination plants whose capacity will more than double to 2 billion m3/year of purified water in 2030.

Its roadmap for green hydrogen provides for "an annual production of one million tons in 2040, intended for export to the European market" and 250,000 tons for internal consumption, according to Sellami.

As for Tunisia, it will be "able to export between 5.5 and 6 million tons of green hydrogen to Europe by 2050," Belhassen Chiboub, director general at the Ministry of Energy, said recently. On condition of raising its production of clean electricity from 3% currently to 35% promised for 2030.

© 2023 AFP