News Release from GE Renewable Energy


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Spotlight Tomorrow: A GE Summit At Expo 2020 Dubai Talks The Future Of Energy, Healthcare, Aviation

As chief operating officer of Etihad Airways, Mohammad Al Bulooki is paying close attention to what his customers are saying. That includes his 10-year-old son. “I asked him, ‘What’s the biggest problem in the world?’” Al Bulooki said. “He said, ‘The environment.’ That was his answer.

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If you asked me when I was his age, I would tell you Ninja Turtles.” Al Bulooki wasn’t trying to be funny. He was making a point. Sustainability and protecting the environment isn’t just good for the planet. It’s a smart way of doing business. “We believe that commercial customers are way more aware now than they ever were before” of what companies are doing to reduce their carbon footprint, he said.

Ahmed Safa, chief engineer at Emirates, one of the world’s largest airlines, agreed with the sentiment. “There’s a lot of appetite to travel, but don’t forget, a lot of the travelers are young and want to travel responsibly,” Safa said. “And we owe it to them to give them that option. Sustainability will be one of those options that we can bring to the arena so the traveling public can make responsible choices.”

Al Bulooki and Safa made their comments in November at the U.S. pavilion on the grounds of Expo 2020 Dubai. They were both speakers at the Spotlight Tomorrow summit, organized by GE and focusing on the future of energy, aviation and health.

The Expo brought together 192 countries around the theme of “connecting minds and creating the future” through sustainability, mobility and opportunity. The show has been a huge draw — it attracted more than a million visitors in the first few weeks after it opened on October 1 and the organizers expect 9 million people to show up before the Expo’s end, next March.

But it’s not just countries who are at the Expo to display their contributions to sustainability and their vision of the future. Companies and businesses are present as well. Besides Etihad and Emirates, the GE event included speakers from the UAE’s Medcare Hospitals and Medical Centers, Emirates Global Aluminum and PricewaterhouseCoopers and a host of senior GE executives.

Roger Martella, GE’s chief sustainability officer, arrived in Dubai directly from the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. He said that while COP26 was focused on what can we do in terms of setting targets and taking actions to address climate change, the Dubai Expo is focused on how innovation and technology must be part of the solution. Martella added that countries should focus on lifting quality of life for people while at the same time solving some of the world’s biggest challenges.

The Future of Energy

At the GE summit, Martella was speaking on an energy panel that included Joseph Anis, GE Gas Power’s president and CEO for Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Ivano Iannelli, senior adviser for sustainability at Emirates Global Aluminum (EGA), the world’s largest “premium aluminum” producer and the largest industrial company in the UAE. Iannelli said companies like EGA are producers of CO2 emissions, but he also pointed out that its product — aluminum — is infinitely recyclable. “When we look at aluminum, in the future the possibilities are endless; already today we produce aluminum by harvesting the power of the desert sun and hope to achieve new benchmarks in the future to meet global expectations.”

The panel discussed the benefits of partnerships between companies pursuing their decarbonization goals — like GE and EGA — and the role of governments, with their own long-term decarbonization visions, and NGOs. “GE shares those goals of innovation and technology, we share the sense of optimism,” Martella said. Having seen COP26 and the Expo back-to-back, “it gives me a lot of confidence that we’re going to be able to bring solutions, innovation and technology to these issues.”

Anis addressed the role of gas power, a source of baseload electricity that is much less carbon-intensive than coal, and grid stability as more renewables come online. “You will need to have flexible power available to balance” the variability of renewable sources like wind and solar, he said. “I was just traveling, meeting with customers, meeting with government utilities, and that’s really what’s top of mind for them as they’re adding more renewables into their grids.”

Anis also talked about the use of hydrogen as fuel in GE gas turbines to help decarbonize the energy industry further. “There are over a hundred GE-built gas turbines with more than 8 million operating hours that have operated on varying percentages of hydrogen blends,” he said. “So the ability to burn hydrogen with no carbon emissions is obviously a great incentive. It’s something that we have the capability to do.”

While hydrogen combustion does not produce carbon emissions, the making of hydrogen usually does at present. More than 95% of the hydrogen produced for industry comes from hydrocarbons, through steam methane reforming (“SMR”). Most of the carbon dioxide produced is not sequestered, resulting in “gray” hydrogen. To keep the carbon footprint low, the industry is now looking at low-carbon hydrogen such as so-called green hydrogen, made with renewable energy, and gray-turned-“blue” hydrogen, made with carbon capture solutions. GE, for example, has been participating in a green hydrogen project in New York State. GE gas turbines can burn any color of hydrogen, and GE has a pathway to burn up to 100% hydrogen in most of its gas turbines by the end of this decade. It is worth noting that the company’s most advanced HA (high-efficiency, air-cooled) gas turbine technology is currently capable of burning up to 50% of hydrogen by volume, which is the highest in its class globally. There are also already GE B- and E-class gas turbines that can burn 100% hydrogen by volume.

Tomas Kellner
GE, Dubai, future, energy, wind energy, wind power, emirates

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