For a year and a half, Colombia has had a road map to become a a large producer and exporter of green hydrogen in Colombia; however, 2030 is seven years away and to date there are more challenges that advance the objectives that were set.
«The roadmap has been very good because it positioned us as a strategic country in the region to produce green hydrogen», highlights Mónica Gasca, director of the Colombian Hydrogen Association (Hydrogen Colombia).
(Also read: In 2024, Ecopetrol will begin construction of 2 green hydrogen megaprojects)
In this document, the goal of having an installed capacity of between 1,000 and 3,000 megawatts of electrolysis was outlined, which means that 4,000 megawatts of non-conventional renewable energy will have to be installed. But currently, There are only 360 megawatts of solar and wind power in Colombiain addition to two small-scale green hydrogen pilots in Cartagena.
This is another critical point for the takeoff of green hydrogen, since, according to SER Colombia, of the 80 projects (3,330 megawatts) that are being developed in the country and that will probably come into operation this year and next, 52 (2,965 megawatts ) report delays and inconveniences with prior consultations, environmental licensing and procedures before Upme, Invías, ANI and mayors.
«It is key to enable the market for non-conventional renewables, because if they are not competitive in Colombia, we will not have competitive hydrogen,» added the union leader.
The roadmap also states that In seven years, 1,500 to 2,000 light vehicles will run on hydrogen, as well as between 1,000 and 1,500 heavy vehicles. Up to 100 public access hydrogeners will also have to be working.
Faced with this panorama of many goals, but few achievements, Mónica Gasca assures that these four years of the government of President Gustavo Petro are key to working on specific regulations that allow the development of this energy in various sectors; incentives to activate a local demand for hydrogen; infrastructure that makes exports viable and financing to make these projects a reality.
Sometimes we talk about regulations and incentives from Germany or Denmark and we forget that we are neither of these two countries
«It is necessary to make a regulation that is good, but light for the market to develop. It must be Colombianized because sometimes there is talk of regulations and incentives from Germany or Denmark and we forget that we are neither of these two countries, but rather that we are Colombia and we have some peculiarities,» asks the director of Hidrogeno Colombia.
Regarding financing, there is already progress and the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the European Union and the Colombian Hydrogen Association are structuring a program to finance green hydrogen projects in the country.
Other earrings have to do with the environmental licensing for hydrogen projects, especially those that use seawater, since desalination guidelines are required.
This is in addition to the lack of port infrastructure for the export of green hydrogen as has been raised, to potential regions such as Asia, the European Union and the United States. In the long term, the potential exporter would be comparable in income to its current foreign sales of coal (more than 5,000 million dollars), but without adequate ports this will not be achieved.
(Read also: Replace the oil industry with white hydrogen, Irene Vélez proposal)
It’s good to have optimistic goals because it makes things move easier.
For this reason, the port of departure must be defined (Cartagena or Puerto Brisa) to determine if adjustments are necessary or if new infrastructure must be built.
«We’re pretty tight on time. We believe that the production goal will be achieved (3,000 megawatts) by 2030, but we have to work hard on the issue of ports in order to activate the export market, I don’t think that will happen”, he points out.
While a consumption of 40 percent in the industrial sector would only be achieved if the refineries change the gray hydrogen for green, but the goal of the transport sector of have 3,500 light and heavy vehicles running on this energetic it would not be achieved in seven years and would have to be reviewed.
«It is good to have optimistic goals because it also makes things move easier, but that implies that there is a lot of work to be done and that it cannot be stopped, because if we stop and lose one or two years, our opportunities are gone«, insists Monica Gasca.
lack of incentives
One of the main challenges is that Colombia has no financial muscle that the countries of the European Union or the United States may have to offer great incentives. For this reason, Yeimy Báez, vice president of Low Emission Solutions at Ecopetrol, states that businessmen must be «very realistic» in what they ask of the Government.
The priorities of a government in this country will always, probably, go through other issues,
«If we are imagining very high financial incentives in colombiaThe truth is that the priorities of a government in this country will always, probably, go through other issues, before having incentives of this magnitude,» he says.
And more than financial incentives, it asks the Government to be able to have a regulation that applies to the entire value chain and that allows having a renewable energy that is competitive and transmission lines to be able to transport it to the centers of consumption.
«So far we have not seen that a specific regulation has been developed in any of the sectors. In the National Development Plan Some things were raised for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, but in other ministries we did not see anything specific on hydrogen issues,» says the director of Hidrogeno Colombia.
In addition, he says that, although there are currently tax incentives for hydrogen production equipment, this does not change the fact that green is substantially more expensive than grey. Another pending task would be in the incentives that can be offered to boost consumption beyond refining.
(Also read: Yamaha and Kawasaki team up to create hydrogen engines)
White hydrogen potential
A few weeks ago, the Minister of Mines and Energy, Irene Vélez, assured that white hydrogen could be an alternative for replacement of the hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation industry In colombia.
Likewise, the oil and gas pipelines that currently exist in the country could be optimized for the blue hydrogen production. Currently, many oil pipelines are operating at half their capacity and one could think about converting them to gas pipelines for the transportation of gas and to have a better interconnection in areas where there is potential for the production of this energy.
we are in a phase
very exploratory and general technical evaluation of what we have
Felipe González, Director of Hydrocarbons, explains that the subsoil has a «cooking recipe» that, under very specific subsoil conditions, there may be a potential for white hydrogen. The ministry has discovered that Colombia has great potential because that same «cooking recipe» is in the country.
«We are in a very exploratory phase and general technical evaluation of what we have, but that potential diversifies the energy matrix and it helps to have resources in situ to have an efficiency where today we do not have it”, corresponding.
However, González also said that, before thinking about the white hydrogen, the focus should be on the blue hydrogen potential. One could also think about the production of hydrogen on the high seas since there is significant wind energy potential.
Besides, the oil production in the eastern plains It can open the door to commercial-scale geothermal power generation for the production of green hydrogen, as there are currently several Parex Resources and Ecopetrol pilots. Likewise, the production of fertilizers or other types of products could be evaluated.