DOE Signs Clean Energy Cooperation MOU with Mauritania

DUBAI, UAE — Today at COP28, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Deputy Secretary of Energy, David Turk, and Mauritania’s Minister of Petroleum, Mines, and Energy (MPME), Nani Ould Chrougha, signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on clean energy cooperation. This MOU will facilitate cooperation for deploying clean energy technologies in Mauritania that could simultaneously reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and catalyze economic development. The initial focus will be on creating the capacity for Mauritania to hold their iron ore – which is primarily exported to source carbon-intensive steel in other countries – and instead produce their own “green,” or decarbonized steel production in Mauritania, moving up the value chain from iron ore exporter to steel producer. 

Mauritania has world-class, co-located, wind and solar resources in unpopulated lands near the Atlantic coast that have the potential for very low-cost, renewable electricity generation.  Delivering that power to international markets in the form of energy-intensive commodities, such as steel or ammonia, could contribute to reducing global GHG emissions in some of the hardest to clean up sectors, while driving transformative domestic economic development, reducing energy poverty in country.

“The rapid deployment of clean energy expertise internationally is essential for tackling the climate crisis and Mauritania has enormous potential for low-cost, zero-emissions electricity production with its world-class wind and solar resources,” said Deputy Secretary Turk in his remarks at the MOU signing at COP28. 

Mauritania’s #1 export is iron ore, which is presently shipped to China and other markets where it is converted to pig iron—later refined into steel—in blast furnaces using coking coal, annually releasing roughly 25 million tons of CO2 in the process. The initial cooperation under the MOU will commit the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory and partnering companies to assess the technical and economic potential for decarbonized steel production in Mauritania. 

NREL’s analysis will focus on the potential for converting Mauritania’s iron ore into steel using a novel molten oxide electrolysis technology developed with the support of DOE.  Powered with electricity generated by a planned project tapping Mauritania’s excellent wind and solar resources, potentially all the CO2 emissions from converting Mauritania’s iron ore into steel could be eliminated. 

“Mauritania is determined to move its iron industry towards transformation, drawing on the technology of the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the long and rich experience of SNIM, whose CEO is here with us today,” said the minister Nani Chrougha in his remarks at the MOU signing.

DOE is pleased to kick off its clean energy cooperation with MPME under the MOU with this project and sees abundant potential for future cooperation on other projects.

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