"H2: so simple, so powerful"
Much attention has been paid to hydrogen and its potential role in combating climate change. Taking advantage of favorable weather conditions, South America countries are developing long-term strategies for competitive green hydrogen production to meet the global growing demand for the simplest molecule
CLEANTECH HAVE BEEN in the spotlight since the turn of the century, with growing investments around the world. Recently, they gained momentum, especially with the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016, endorsing the emergence of a carbon-neutral society. Since then, developed and in development countries pledged to take steps to address the climate crisis from 2020, moving towards a low-carbon economy.
Physical laws are not negotiable. Environmental impacts of current global economic order, including heat waves, long warm seasons, desertification, intense rain fall and assotiated flooding can be seen in every corner. Climate change will affect the basic elements of life for poor and rich people: access to water, food production, and health. In fact, investments in carbon-eased technologies are bread for today, but hunger for tomorrow.
To save the planet, it’s important to turn the page and focus in cleantech, such as solar PV, wind power, and newer generations of biofuels. Among now available non-conventional dispersed energy resources, we highlight hydrogen (H2) as a key vector for the energy transition, in particular the one produced from renewable energy sources, the green hydrogen (GH2).
Following the global effort to avert the climate crisis and its penalties, South America is also preparing its strategy to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors by taking advantage of its locational attributes. The continent has much higher renewable energy production potential than its demand, and GH2 presents itself with all the features to value the surplus of energy from renewable energy resources. GH2 can also be exported to regions with lower renewable generation potential such as European Union, Japan, and South Korea.
The first step towards decarbonization is to build a national strategy. Nevertheless, each country has to find its own unique resources and approaches, adapted to its geography. Moreover, efficient and effective entry into export markets first requires building local knowledge, scale, and infrastructure. In the sequence, some of the best-positioned South American countries regarding to GH2 are presented.
Chile, which contributes 0.3% of total GHG emissions, has already its National Green Hydrogen Strategy (since Nov 2020). The strategy is based on the highest rates of PV solar irradiation in the world, to the north (Atacama Desert), and on the strongest winds of the world, to the south (Chilean Patagonia). The country aims to be the South American leader in GH2 exportation of liquid H2 (LH2), green ammonia (2x energy density of LH2) and, e-fuels (e.g., e-diesel) by 2030.
Chile plans to accelerate investments in domestic applications to become a relevant player in GH2 export markets in 2030. With outstanding geographical attributes, the country has renewable energy potential to install 70x its current electricity generation capacity, which can make it the world's lowest-cost GH2 productor.
The national strategy, which comprises of industry, academia, civil society, and the public sectors, is an essential part of Chile's carbon neutrality plan and commitment to sustainable development, allowing the country to export commodities produced using zero carbon fuels. The strategy, which focus on mobility in mining (fuel cell and dual fuel), green ammonia plant (for explosives), and cargo transportation, has as main objectives to have 5 GW of electrolysis capacity in development by 2025, to produce the cheapest GH2 on the planet by 2030, and to be among the top three GH2 exporters by 2040.
Uruguay has a very clean energy matrix, in which H2 can be easily integrated. The country, whose renewable electricity mix is higher than that of Brazil (98% vs 82%), will generate GH2 based mainly on surplus (18% of the total generated), during peak production hours, targeting to the decarbonization of the transport sector, a national priority. Solar PV plants and dedicated wind farms will also be used.
The country is currently developing a pilot project for the use of H2 in fuel-cell heavy duty vehicles. Cargo vehicles (light and heavy duty), around 19% of the total fleet, are accountable for 56% of total carbon dioxide emissions of the transport sector. The idea is promoting a proving ground for fuel-cell heavy-duty vehicles (mainly buses and trucks), and also freight trains.
Some other highlights of the hydrogen strategy are a H2 recharging station in Montevideo, a MOU with Japanese Bank for interaction cooperation, and the participation of ANCAP, MIEN, and UTE in a Pilot project of 10 heavy vehicles with up to 500 Km of autonomy.
Paraguay has almost 100% renewable with surpluses of up to 71% of the total generation coming entirely from hydroelectric power plants.
The government study proposal “Hacia la Ruta del Hidrógeno Verde en Paraguay” (Towards the Green Hydrogen Route in Paraguay) responds to the National Energy Agenda (AEN) endorsing GH2 as an energy vector that can contribute to the development of the country's energy sector, mainly the transport system. The innovative view of the energy use of H2 is mentioned in a significant number of objectives and goals of the AEN, highlighting the advantages of the energy use of green H2 taking advantage of the large surpluses of hydroelectricity, mainly from Itaipu and Yacyreta binational hydropower plants.
Paraguay has already taken its commercial steps towards GH2 using the surplus of hydroelectric plants through the Omega Green project, a biofuel production initiative with a 310 MW electrolyzing plant. On the other hand, the Embassy of Paraguay in Israel formally received the investment project by the Israeli company Seven Seas Energy Limited, for the installation of a H2 production plant in the country.
Argentina still has more than 80% of its energy matrix concentrated in oil and gas. The Argentina National Hydrogen Strategy 2030, still in preparation, targets to a fair and renewable energy transition using wind, solar energy resources, and H2, which may be green, blue or pink (H2 from nuclear plant).
High winds to the south (Argentine Patagonia) could generate enough wind power to more than meet the countries’ energy demand. An already operational project located in this region is “HyChico”. Operating since 2008 at capacity of 120 Nm3/h, it produces hydrogen through electrolysis from a wind plant in Patagonia, region with an estimated potential of 2,000 GW of wind power. In this project, H2 is injected into natural gas fields and recovered for use in repowering units.
Colombia is one of the leading nations in the energy transition in Latin America. During the last two years, the installed capacity of non-conventional renewable energies has increased sevenfold. By 2022, there will be approximately to 2,400 MW of installed capacity in different renewable energies.
The country also has an advantage of favorable climate conditions. In northern Colombia, high winds could generate enough wind power to more than meet the countries’ energy demand. Wind speed is twice the global average and solar radiation is more than 60% of the world average in La Guajira, a Colombian department on the Caribbean Sea.
National H2 strategy includes green and blue H2 that can be transported through the current gas pipeline infrastructure. The country bets on the exporting vocation of H2 for the next 30 years (30 Years Roadmap), with support from the Inter-American Development Bank and in association between industry, energy, and mining stakeholders.
Brazil leads wind and solar power growth in Latin America, adding 1.76 GW of wind and 3.27 GW of solar in 2020 alone, for a total of 17.20 GW and 7.88 GW respectively. The country has a total electricity capacity of around 170 GW, of which 100 GW comes from hydropower. The country has a target of meeting around 48% of its energy demand from wind and solar by 2027.
Brazil is about to conclude its hydrogen strategy with the “Programa Nacional de Hidrogênio-PNH2" (National Hydrogen Program). According to the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), it´s necessary to develop an infrastructure of production, storage, transport, and distribution of hydrogen, on the supply side, as well as for the insertion of hydrogen in the consumption mix in sectors such as transport, steel and fertilizers.
The continental nation is well placed to become a major exporter of green hydrogen to Europe, particularly Germany. It is not only the largest GH2 producer for German industry outside Germany but is also ideally positioned, thanks to its climatic conditions, logistics infrastructure and strong trade relations with Germany.
PNH2 is structured with six axes: Axis 1: Strengthening of Technological Bases; Axis 2: Training and Human Resources; Axis 3: Energy Planning; Axis 4: Legal-Regulatory Framework; Axis 5: Market Growth and Competitiveness; and Axis 6: International Cooperation, having as main goals to assist the formulation and implementation of energy policies, the direction of investments and the execution of demonstration projects, and to incentive the development of business plans related to the country's energy transition opportunities.
Find out more about this topic here (Portuguese)
02, July, 2021
* Professor at School of Electrical, Mechanical and Computer Engineering (EMC) of Federal University of Goiás (UFG)
 “National Green Hydrogen Strategy”, Ministry of Energy, Government of Chile, 2020
 “Uruguay, The Ideal Partner for Green Hydrogen Demonstration Projects”, Ministerio de Industria, Energía y Minería, ANCAP, UTE, Nov. 2020
 “Towards the Green Hydrogen in Paraguay: Conceptual Framework”, Vice Ministerio de Minas y Energía, 2021
 “Hacia la Ruta del Hidrógeno Verde en Paraguay”, Vice Ministerio de Minas y Energía, 2021
 "El Hidrógeno como Política de Estado en la Matriz Energética Argentina"
 “Hydrogen Perspectives in Colombia”, Pró-Colombia, 2020
 "Renewable Energy in Latin America”, https://ratedpower.com/blog/renewable-energy-latin-america/
 “Energy Storage Technologies – the key to the energy transition in Brazil”, GIZ, 2021
 “Diretrizes para o Programa Nacional do Hidrogênio - Reunião com o Setor Privado”, 2021, MME