US electrolyser manufacturer Plug Power has been dropped as the supplier for a 100MW green hydrogen and ammonia project in Egypt that was last year billed as the world’s largest.

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In November 2021, the development consortium said the project, now called Egypt Green, would be completed before COP27 began in Sharm El-Sheikh, with all 100MW of PEM electrolysers supplied by Plug.

But the project — which was due to produce 90,000 tonnes of green ammonia per year at an existing ammonia plant in Ain Sokhna on the Gulf of Suez — has been severely delayed, with the first 5MW phase still in the process of being commissioned, and first production not expected until early next year. A final investment decision (FID) has not even been taken for the remaining megawatts.

However, these setbacks did not stop Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and the Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre from proudly announcing the commissioning of the project at COP27 on Tuesday, highlighting the fact that it is the first and largest PEM electrolyser on the African continent.

A spokesperson for the consortium — consisting of Norwegian renewable energy producer Scatec, Abu Dhabi-based fertiliser producer Fertiglobe, the Sovereign Fund of Egypt, Cairo-based engineering and construction contractor Orascom, and the Dutch fertiliser producer OCI — told Hydrogen Insight that Plug has supplied the 5MW electrolyser, but that “the consortium will be tendering for a Phase 2 supplier in due course”.

The spokesperson declined to comment on why Plug Power was no longer the selected supplier for the full project — as announced last year.

A spokesperson for Scatec also confirmed that Plug was no longer supplying Phase 2, saying “the supplier has not yet been chosen”.

However, a spokesperson for Plug told Hydrogen Insight: “Plug is still working with Fertiglobe on the second phase of the project. In fact, Plug’s CEO, Andy Marsh, spoke with their senior leadership just days ago in regards to the current and second phase project details.”

When announced last year, OCI executive chairman Nassef Sawiris, had said: “At start-up, this will be the largest green hydrogen and largest green ammonia application globally.”

However, the largest completed green hydrogen plant in the world is believed to be a 150MW facility in Ningxia, central China, and a 260MW project is also under construction in Xinjiang, northwest China, but there are question marks over how green that will truly be.

Despite its challenges and delays, Egypt Green is still a “unique project”, according to Scatec.

“We have now initiated the test phase of the project, with a 5MW pilot, and are making the necessary preparations for the whole project to make an investment decision. This is a unique project in a new industry,” the Scatec spokesperson said.

The developers are planning to power 100MW of electrolysers by 260MW of wind and solar power, delivering 15,000 tonnes of green hydrogen as feedstock for production of up to 90,000 tonnes of green ammonia per year.

“The FID for the 100MW concept is planned for 2023, and work towards this is ongoing, including technology selection, while significant engineering work has already taken place, including the completion of hydrogen piping connections to allow for 100MW worth of electrolysis,” said the consortium spokesperson, adding: “The timeline for the full-scale 100MW project is still be developed, but 2024 remains the target”.

The project location, Ain Sokhna, is a “strategic position close to the Suez Canal Economic Zone with the possibility of using renewable electricity to develop an industrial hub near global shipping lanes”, according to a press release issued by the consortium.

The area boasts both high wind speeds and strong solar irradiation levels that are able to produce cheap wind and solar electricity — which makes up 60-70% of the costs of green hydrogen.

.An analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency published earlier this year suggested that green hydrogen can be produced in Egypt at below $1/kg as a result of abundant wind and solar and plenty of space to build utility-scale renewables.

Egypt is fast emerging as a hotspot for green hydrogen development, with developers pledging to spend $42bn on a number of projects, the largest of which is a 9.2GW facility planned by Australia’s Fortescue Future Industries and its charismatic billionaire boss Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.