If we don’t produce Renobal’s energy, we won’t be able to produce

In Colombia, hydrogen production is progressing, but not at the desired pace. This is one of the great conclusions reached by the Third International Hydrogen Conference, which is being held these days in Bogotá. Organized and managed by the Colombian Hydrogen Association and the World Energy Council, the meeting brings together leaders from the public, financial, academic and business sectors from around the world to explore the latest developments in hydrogen.

The event, taking place from April 9 to 11, 2024 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Bogotá, includes extensive programming with panel discussions on the production, demand and development of the global hydrogen ecosystem, as well as conferences with energy and technology experts, commercial spaces and networking opportunities to network with industry leaders.

During the Third International Hydrogen Conference, Colombia’s potential as a hydrogen producer was highlighted, especially the centers in Barranquilla, Cartagena and La Guajira.

picture:Colombian Hydrogen Association

This year’s participating experts include Luis Miguel Diazgranados, COO of Hennesseo, a strategic consulting firm founded in 2006, specializing in energy and sustainable mobility. Diazgranados has been working for more than 11 years on hydrogen projects, fuel cells, sustainable mobility, renewable energy and green construction.

In his opinion, Colombia has great opportunities in this fuel, since there is already demand for it but it must be promoted more internally first to be able to take the necessary steps to export.

How do you at Henseo see the prospects for Colombia becoming a major player in the world’s hydrogen space?

Colombia’s potential is very interesting. There are great opportunities, but at the same time there are important challenges and obstacles to overcome. In terms of capabilities, some of the advantages that Colombia has are: a very important renewable capacity, let’s say, particularly focused on the Caribbean; With, let’s call it that, Zoom in The strongest is undoubtedly in La Guajira, where very high vegetation factors from both solar and wind energy can be found. Wild like Navy. This is the first point.

The second very interesting point is the geographical location that puts Colombia in a position to access international markets in both hemispheres. We can reach Europe via the Caribbean, but we can also reach via the Buenaventura and Pacific sides to Asia, especially Japan and Korea. So we are in a unique position where we can access two markets easily.

The third point is that we have an industry oil and gasA highly developed electrical industry. Many of the companies that have emerged in Colombia are companies that have become multi-Latin in some way, and have very high technical capabilities, impressive compared to some other countries, which have become deeply interested in these issues. So all that capacity, that human capital that today maybe doesn’t know this topic as much, is there to learn quickly and be able to apply itself to drive the hydrogen market forward.

Finally, in relation to that, there is already demand, which is demand in a specific place and that is the demand for Ecopetrol, in terms of refineries that produce about 130-140 kilotons of hydrogen per year, but there it also has a very interesting potential to generate demand for fertilisers. In other words, producing hydrogen to produce green fertilizers. Since most of Colombia’s fertilizers are imported, there is another very interesting potential.

The Third International Hydrogen Conference, organized by the Colombian Hydrogen Association and the World Energy Council.

picture:Colombian Hydrogen Association

Speaking of geography, is the country’s current infrastructure a constraint in terms of the ability to produce that hydrogen and transport that energy?

There we then go to the checkpoints. It depends exactly what you need. For example, if we are talking about production in La Guajira and you want to export to Europe, the issue of infrastructure, for example electricity, is not a problem because you produce energy, hydrogen and their derivatives in the same region.

Moreover, today there are two ports in La Guajira, although they do not have the current capabilities to export hydrogen or its derivatives, they are working in this direction and the port already exists, the capabilities are already there, it is simply the development of that infrastructure. So, for this specific export use in La Guajira, the issue of lack of infrastructure is a constraint, but it is not the main constraint.

But electrolysis plants are also missing…

Of course, everything has to be built. But this is like any new business, because this is a new industry, so we have to bring in and build projects. But when we talk about more infrastructure, it is all the infrastructure that enables the development of these projects. Pipes and electrical components, since they are all in the same area, would not be needed with such robust characteristics.

However, there would be a bigger obstacle if I were talking, for example, about producing this hydrogen in La Guajira and taking it for consumption in Medellin or Bogotá, it would become a problem. Or even if you want to produce it in La Guajira and export it to Asia, in case you want to transport it via pipeline.

Now then, hWe have to see what is better, whether moving by ship or by pipeline, depending on the characteristics. Therefore, the issue of infrastructure is an obstacle, but it is not the main obstacle. I think there are other major barriers to development.

Luis Miguel Diazgranados during the 3rd International Hydrogen Conference.


What are those barriers to hydrogen in Colombia today?

One of the most important is closely related to energy. To produce low-emission hydrogen or green hydrogen, we need renewable energy to produce the quantities of hydrogen and its derivatives that I need to export, and therefore, to achieve low production costs due to economies of scale, I must have large quantities of renewable energy sources. Much more than what is needed and expected to supply the Colombian electrical matrix.

So we’re back to the same problem, and the same bottleneck. If we see that renewable energy sources are not being developed due to a series of barriers in La Guajira that are closely related to environmental and social issues subject to prior consultations and we are not able to produce these renewable energy sources, we will not be able to develop hydrogen projects. You have to go step by step, and the first step is to make sure that renewable energy sources can be developed. This, for me, is a very important obstacle.

The second obstacle that exists is the issue of regulation. Here we are making good progress in regulation and in fact I would say that Colombia may be one of the countries that has the most advanced regulation in terms of incentives at the level of Latin America, but there are still things that can be improved and there are also some aspects of clarity and coordination on how to get to these Incentives can still be improved, but we are on the right track in that sense.

Green hydrogen is the most sustainable of all.


The third point, apart from the environmental and social issue, is that the main constraint we see today is that we need to create domestic demand before creating projects to meet international demand. Why do I say that? You have to learn to crawl before you walk, and to walk before you run. So you have to be able to do small projects to learn, so that if you make a mistake, the cost of the mistake is relatively low before you start doing huge projects where the mistakes will cost you 100 times more.

It is therefore necessary to first move forward with creating a domestic market for green and low-emission hydrogen. This is why you need a lawsuit. Currently the demand is not very clear, except for Ecopetrol. We must find the reasons why there is interest in developing this green hydrogen for national consumption and, having already learned there, enter into the largest projects.

Are there reasons for the national industry to be interested in this?

Yes there could be. A good example of this is the issue of fertilizers, but again it will take some government support to boost this demand. Regarding the issue of fertilizers, there is a lot of talk in the current government about food self-sufficiency, and for this we need fertilizers produced in Colombia. One excellent way to do this is to use green hydrogen for green fertilizer.

So there’s interest there, there’s incentive. But there are other uses for hydrogen that may not be so clear, for example mobility uses, because hydrogen today is still expensive compared to traditional solutions. If there is no incentive to say, “We need to cut emissions, we need to transition to a low-emissions economy,” no one will want to pay more.

Edwin Caicedo | Environment editor


(Tags for translation)Hydrogen

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