Abdurahman Alsulaiman

OIES-Aramco Fellow

Abdurahman Alsulaiman began his research work at the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies (OIES) as a doctoral research fellow before commencing his OIES-Aramco Fellowship. At OIES, he researched the potential for hydrogen imports.

Abdurahman’s professional experience includes working at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna, Austria, as an Energy Research Analyst. There, he examined the trends and outlook for the hydrogen market from renewable and low-carbon-based technologies. In addition, he worked in Climate, Energy, Trade, and Economics at the European External Action Service in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, focusing on policy and cooperation for climate, energy, trade, and investment between the EU and Arab Gulf states. He also worked in consulting in Paris, France, and renewable energy engineering in Barcelona, Spain.

Abdurahman holds a Master’s degree in Energy Studies from Ecole Polytechnique in France and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Portsmouth in the UK. Currently, he is an EPFL Global Leaders PhD student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). His research focuses on evaluating the qualitative and quantitative gap between current political, economic, and technological factors and those required to establish feasible pathways for a hydrogen economy.

Abdurahman has been recognized with honours and awards from various organizations, including OPEC, the EU delegation in the GCC, the French Embassy in Saudi Arabia, Ecole Polytechnique, the University of Portsmouth, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and the Saudi embassies in Switzerland, France, and the UK.

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                    [post_content] => Despite consistent efficiency gains in aviation, the sector's rapid growth has led to a substantial increase in emissions, accounting for 2% of global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2022—roughly 80% of pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels.

In today's aviation landscape, the sector relies on conventional aviation fuels. To achieve meaningful decarbonization in aviation, the fundamental source of emissions—the fuel—must be addressed.

Two key methods come to the forefront for addressing the challenge of decarbonizing aviation. Firstly, decarbonizing the fuel itself offers a solution without requiring structural change in how aircraft operate and fly today. Secondly, innovation in the means of propulsion could pave the way for aviation to shift from carbon-based fuels to hydrogen combustion or even entirely non-combustion methods like electricity.

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Hydrogen-based propulsion can be utilized in aircraft through two distinct methods: firstly, via hydrogen combustion, and secondly, through the use of fuel cells. However, widespread adoption of these aircraft and the development of their necessary infrastructure will inevitably take time. Hydrogen-powered flight is unlikely to serve as the primary means to achieving carbon neutrality by the mid-21st century. This accomplishment is more likely to be attributed to Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) and further efficiency enhancements.

Given that 80+ per cent of life cycle emissions are released at the combustion phase of the aviation fuel. Lower Carbon Aviation Fuels (LCAFs) encompass a diverse array of innovative technologies and processes aimed at curbing GHG emissions in the production phase of aviation fuel, which translates to GHG emissions reductions comparable in effect to efficiency gains that were only seen in the 1970s when the Boeing 747 was introduced with its HBR turbofan engines.

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                    [post_title] => Navigating Turbulence: Hydrogen’s Role in the Decarbonization of the Aviation Sector
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                    [post_content] => Hydrogen’s production versatility, coupled with its potential as an energy vector, positions it as a potentially important fuel for the future. It can be sourced in many different ways, and has the ability to meet many applications, both in existing and future technology, and this means that hydrogen is in the forefront of the minds of investors and policymakers. Moreover, hydrogen is not subject to the same geographical limitations as, say, fossil fuels or pure battery-electric systems.

When looking at the latest announcements concerning hydrogen, the EU has set an ambitious target for hydrogen demand by 2030, specifically to import 10 MT of renewable hydrogen a year by that date. This target could kick-start the international trade of renewable hydrogen, and already more than fifty countries have announced, or are preparing, hydrogen strategies. Between them, these strategies add up to more than 45 Mt of hydrogen capacity by 2030, although at the time of publishing, only 2 Mt of this capacity is at FID or at a more advanced stage, for operation by or before 2030. This contrast between announcements and capacity currently considered likely to come into operation creates many challenges and opportunities for countries who are considering the export or import of hydrogen. The EU’s latest hydrogen announcement places it in a strong position to shape the future decarbonized hydrogen market, as it could galvanize exporting countries to initiate production.

The EU has indicated the possible regions it is considering for future supply of renewable hydrogen, regions which include more than seventy countries. Within this total, this paper identifies fourteen promising countries for future hydrogen imports to the EU, of which six are expected to be among the first to deliver hydrogen, in the form of shipped ammonia, to EU shores. This paper also recognizes that discussion on future imports and exports of hydrogen requires focus on infrastructure, joint scenario building, technology cooperation, standardization, investments and finance frameworks, market development and trading platforms, education and training, and the creation of coordination hubs.
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Two key methods come to the forefront for addressing the challenge of decarbonizing aviation. Firstly, decarbonizing the fuel itself offers a solution without requiring structural change in how aircraft operate and fly today. Secondly, innovation in the means of propulsion could pave the way for aviation to shift from carbon-based fuels to hydrogen combustion or even entirely non-combustion methods like electricity.

Battery electric propulsion provides higher system efficiencies. Yet, it also poses a multitude of issues for commercial aviation. The primary challenge lies in their relatively low specific energy. In the foreseeable future, this type of propulsion will likely be suitable for light-payload and limited-range aircraft.

Hydrogen-based propulsion can be utilized in aircraft through two distinct methods: firstly, via hydrogen combustion, and secondly, through the use of fuel cells. However, widespread adoption of these aircraft and the development of their necessary infrastructure will inevitably take time. Hydrogen-powered flight is unlikely to serve as the primary means to achieving carbon neutrality by the mid-21st century. This accomplishment is more likely to be attributed to Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) and further efficiency enhancements.

Given that 80+ per cent of life cycle emissions are released at the combustion phase of the aviation fuel. Lower Carbon Aviation Fuels (LCAFs) encompass a diverse array of innovative technologies and processes aimed at curbing GHG emissions in the production phase of aviation fuel, which translates to GHG emissions reductions comparable in effect to efficiency gains that were only seen in the 1970s when the Boeing 747 was introduced with its HBR turbofan engines.

Numerous stakeholders in the aviation sector share the belief that SAF will be the primary driver behind significant reductions in fossil-based emissions by the 2050-2060 waymark.

SAF can be generated through various pathways, with hydrogen expected to play a significant role in eSAF production. Nevertheless, hydrogen is vital in the processing and refining of most SAF pathways, and the expansion of the SAF value chain is anticipated to be intricately connected to the development of decarbonized and renewable hydrogen.
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Latest Publications by Abdurahman Alsulaiman

Ongoing research by Abdurahman Alsulaiman