Mohammed Al-Bouawad

Employee portrait

'Energy is everywhere'

Mohammed Al-Bouawad is an energy systems engineer at Witteveen+Bos specialising in hydrogen. He knows as well as anyone that the optimal energy system depends on the situation.

Converting energy

‘Energy is such an interesting phenomenon. The first law of thermodynamics is that you can neither create nor destroy energy: it’s always there. But it can take a different form – for example, changing from wind to electricity or from molecule to heat. Fossil fuel energy is a highly concentrated form and is therefore practical, but converting it results in considerable damage to the climate and environment. To stop being dependent on fossil fuels, all we theoretically need to do is cover a small piece of the Sahara in solar panels. ‘Then do it,’ you’re probably thinking! Unfortunately, it’s not just feasible logistically. In the energy transition, it’s important to find the best solution for each situation. In warm, sunny countries, energy is obtained from the sun; in areas where it’s frequently very windy – like Flevoland, where I live – we tend to build wind turbines. The Dutch energy system of the future will consist of different sources of energy, including wind, solar, heat from the ground, biomass, and hydrogen.’

Green hydrogen

‘Because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, we look for ways to store energy – in electrons, like in batteries; or in molecules, like in hydrogen. Hydrogen is extremely flexible when it comes to conversion: from green electricity, we can make green hydrogen, and from green hydrogen, we can make heat. The advantage of hydrogen is that you can reach high temperatures with it. This is especially interesting for energy-intensive industries. Gasunie is currently developing a hydrogen network which connects the north of the Netherlands, the North Sea Canal area, Rotterdam, Zeeland, and Limburg – the five industrial clusters. To make this system sustainable, the hydrogen needs to be produced as much as possible using green electricity.’

Interesting projects

‘During a holiday in Dubai, I popped into our Witteveen+Bos office there out of curiosity. I discovered that, although there’s a lot of expertise at the location, the energy field is not necessarily well represented. Back in the Netherlands, I asked my manager if it would be a good idea to establish the discipline in Dubai. ‘Give it a shot,’ said Raphaël van der Velde, my PMC leader. I visited Dubai four times last year, on each occasion for about a month. A couple of interesting projects emerged as a result. My roots are in Iraq; I speak Arabic. It feels good to be able to do something close to my home country. My dream is, in the future, to also be able to help Iraq in the energy transition field.’

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