Saudi renewables developer ACWA Power has started construction on its 3,000-tonnes-per-year green hydrogen project in Chirchiq, the first in Uzbekistan and Central Asia more widely.

Stay ahead on hydrogen with our free newsletter
Keep up with the latest developments in the international hydrogen industry with the free Accelerate Hydrogen newsletter. Sign up now for an unbiased, clear-sighted view of the fast-growing hydrogen sector.

The first phase of the Chirchiq plant is being developed on an “accelerated development timeline”, the Saudi firm had announced at the beginning of the year, with commissioning scheduled for the end of 2024.

This project includes the construction of a new 52MW wind farm to power renewable H2 production and reportedly uses electrolyser technology supplied by Chinese company Longi.

The developer— which is 50%-owned by Saudi sovereign wealth fund PIF — had in May signed a $88m, 15-year offtake contract for volumes from the Chirchiq plant with Uzbek state chemicals company Uzkimyosanoat.

This offtake will see ACWA’s green hydrogen displace grey H2 produced from fossil gas in the production of ammonia feedstock for mineral fertilisers. The Saudi firm estimated in May that its project will save Uzbekistan up to 20.4 million cubic meters of natural gas annually.

The developer has also floated investing another $4bn into scaling up the Chirchiq project’s annual hydrogen production capacity in a second phase to 120,000 tonnes of H2 as a feedstock for around half a million tonnes of green ammonia — saving 830 million cubic meters of gas.

Uzbekistan is currently one of the world’s largest gas producers, with the International Energy Agency estimating an output of 60 billion cubic meters every year. More than half of this is consumed domestically, with 85% of the country’s electricity generated from gas-fired power plants.

In recent years, a spate of extremely cold winters have led Uzbekistan to rely on imports of gas from Turkmenistan and most recently Russia, while cutting down on its exports to China.

And amid a potential depletion of gas reserves over the next 20 years, the Uzbek government plans to completely halt exports by 2025 and instead direct its gas toward petrochemicals and domestic power generation.

ACWA is also building a 1.5GW gas-fired thermal power plant in Uzbekistan worth $1.1bn.