What is green hydrogen?
Hydrogen is obtained at the industrial scale through a process known as electrolysis, where electricity is applied to water to divide the H2O molecule into hydrogen and oxygen. Currently, 95% of the hydrogen produced in the world is generated using natural gas, oil, or coal as an energy source, with the consequential emission of high levels of CO2. That is why it is called “gray hydrogen.”
However, when using renewable energy to carry out the electrolysis process, the result is known as “green hydrogen,” since there are no CO2 emissions during its generation. This is the same final product, with the difference lying in is how it is obtained.
Why is this potential market so important for Chile?
Nearly 70% of the production cost of green hydrogen is related to the value of the energy used. Therefore, Chile's potential for generating renewable energy plays a strategic role. For example, the Atacama desert has the highest solar radiation levels in the world and can generate large amounts of solar energy, while the Magallanes region has stable and powerful wind currents over land -as opposed to other parts of the world where these are over the ocean-, giving it a high potential for generating wind power at a very competitive price. Our country can achieve the production of renewable energy at a very low cost and, as a consequence, generate hydrogen at the lowest cost in the world.
According to a study by McKinsey & Co performed this year, the green hydrogen industry in Chile is expected to be 33 times larger by 2050, leveraged by short-term domestic use and then expanded by the export of green hydrogen and some related byproducts, such as green ammonia.
What are Enel’s plans for the generation of green hydrogen?
At the industrial level, direct electrification based on renewable energy is the easiest and most affordable way to reduce CO2 emissions. However, there are areas where direct electrification is not technically and/or economically feasible. It is here where the use of green hydrogen enters as an extension of electrification with renewable energies, an extension of green electrons in green molecules, to reach highly contaminating sectors such as steel manufacturing, cement production, heavy transport, etc. Currently, the Enel Group is looking to develop a portfolio with a 2 GW electrolysis capacity by 2030, focusing on four key countries: Italy, Spain, United States, and Chile.
How Enel Green Power is developing a project to generate green hydrogen?
Enel Green Power Chile is currently collaborating with HIF and other companies to develop the first industrial-scale green hydrogen project in the country. This project, already under construction, is called “Haru Oni” and is located in the Magallanes Region, in the Chilean Patagonia. Its goal is to use the region’s excellent wind resources to produce hydrogen. After this, a chemical plant will capture CO2 from the atmosphere and combine it with green hydrogen to produce synthetic fuels, which will finally be exported to Germany for testing by Porsche.
But Enel Green Power Chile already has prior experience in the generation of green hydrogen. The Cerro Pabellón geothermal plant, built 4,500 meters above sea level in the Antofagasta Region in a Joint Venture with ENAP, was where the production of green hydrogen began using the sun as an energy source. This hydrogen is then stored and used to cover part of the worksite’s energy needs. By replacing diesel, Cerro Pabellón, in addition to being the first plant of its kind in South America, has become one with the first experience of this type in the region.
Haru Oni Project
- It will be located in Cabo Negro, north of Punta Arenas, in the Magallanes region
- It will use energy from a 3.4 MW wind turbine owned by Enel Green Power
- It will have a 1.25 MW electrolyzer
- The pilot phase expects to yield an initial production of 350 tons a year of methanol and 130,000 liters a year of synthetic gasoline.
- It also considers the possible development of later phases of the project, of larger size and greater commercial scale.
This is how green hydrogen is generated!
The energy produced by a wind turbine is used to activate an electrolyzer that divides the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.