May 18, 2022 7:23 am

Ads about green hydrogen

On the occasion of his trip to Glasgow to participate in the meeting of the COP26, the President announced, together with representatives of the Australian company Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), the development of a green hydrogen production project in Río Negro. This company is a subsidiary of Fortescue Metals Group, the fourth largest iron producer in the world, and was created to venture into future activities that respect the environment, including the production of clean energy. The final object is the production by electrolysis of water, of hydrogen, a non-polluting fuel. It is a technology free of CO2 emissions and fully compatible with the conditions agreed on global warming. FFI has started prospecting work in Black river with the purpose of advancing in the study, which would include, in addition to the plant, three wind farms with a total power of 2000 MW. The investment could reach 8.4 billion dollars. We must say that FFI has not yet finalized the construction of any of the projects it is analyzing. And the reality is that what was presented to the Government is a plan in an embryonic state. However, Fernández presented it as a concrete investment offer.

Hydrogen production today is carried out mainly chemically, from hydrocarbons. The product obtained from coal or oil is referred to as “black hydrogen”. The one obtained from natural gas, “gray hydrogen”. Only 5% is achieved by electrolysis of water, separating oxygen and hydrogen and, because it does not pollute, it is called “green hydrogen”, which has nothing to do with its real color. Hydrogen is not used today as fuel, but in the chemical industry, which is the one that can bear higher costs and prices of this input. Its use as a fuel would have enormous ecological advantages. Its combustion leaves only water vapor as a residue, while that of fossil fuels releases carbon with a greenhouse effect. But green hydrogen cannot yet be produced cost-competitively against the use of natural gas.

The term in which hydrogen replaces other fuels will be determined by the evolution of the reduction in the costs of obtaining it by electrolysis of water, using clean, non-polluting electrical energy. Today these costs are still very high and require investments in the millions of dollars.

There is no doubt that hydrogen will replace fossil fuels. Argentina has ample possibilities to generate clean electricity from wind, solar or hydraulic sources. Water is abundant, including that of the sea. The advancement of technology will have to do the rest to make it economically feasible to produce and use it. Prudence in announcing investments must overcome the presidential need to show a fact as immediately concrete without clarifying what is still missing. This project, like many others, needs time to become technologically competitive. In addition, it requires a framework of economic and institutional conditions that do not inhibit investment. How attractive can an investment in energy be if a large part of the sector’s prices are frozen and producers depend on subsidies from a bankrupt government? Who will finance investments in a country governed by those who consider it fair and patriotic not to pay debts? To promote and favor announcements of potential investments, our president should seriously work to create the conditions that they demand.

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