Colombian energy giant Ecopetrol (NYSE: EC) (BVC: ECOPETROL) today announced the launch of its first green hydrogen production pilot plant. The 50-kilowatt plant is built around PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) technology with an electrolyzer powered by 270 solar panels. It is located at the company’s Cartagena Refinery.
The pilot, which will run over the next three months, uses industrial water from the refinery to produce 20 kg of high-purity green hydrogen (99.999%) daily. This pilot will allow Ecopetrol to collect information on the operation, maintenance, reliability and scalability of the technologies used.
The main objective of the pilot is to evaluate the technical and environmental feasibility, as well as the performance of the generation of green hydrogen at the Cartagena Refinery. The impact on the use of inputs such as water and electrical power will also be studied. The green hydrogen produced in the pilot will serve to improve the quality of the fuels produced in the refinery, for which gray hydrogen is currently used.
Ecopetrol says it is advancing in the acquisition of two electrolytic hydrogen generation systems with charging stations for bus and vehicle mobility applications. These initiatives are expected to be underway by early next year.
“Today we are the largest producer of hydrogen in Colombia. We use it to produce cleaner gasoline and diesel. However, we want to go further in our commitment to “SosTECnibility” and that is why we are announcing a robust portfolio of initiatives that seek the development of the industry of this energy in the country, while we advance in reducing the carbon footprint to meet the goal of being a company with net zero emissions by 2050, a fundamental step in our path towards the energy transition,” said Felipe Bayón, president of the Ecopetrol Group.
Low Carbon Hydrogen Plan
With an average annual investment close to $140 million USD by 2040, the Ecopetrol Group claims robust plans for the production of green, blue and white hydrogen for energy that will contribute between 9% and 11% to the target of reducing Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 50% by 2050.
To execute this plan, the company has mapped out a route that will be developed over three horizons. The first, between 2022 and 2030, focused on the expansion of hydrogen in its own operations with industrial-scale projects and the start of applications in sustainable mobility with cars and buses.
The second, from 2030 to 2040, seeks to obtain meaningful results in the decarbonization of operations, diversify in maritime and aviation mobility with hydrogen and new opportunities commercial in the markets of Europe and Asia.
The third horizon, from 2040 onwards, is focused on the mass commercialization of the use of hydrogen and the expansion of the portfolio.
This year, Ecopetrol has budgeted $6 million USD for the development of the pilot at the Cartagena Refinery; the mobility of a bus of 50 passengers with hydrogen cell of mass transport in alliance with Fanalca; the feasibility development of new green/blue hydrogen plants in refineries of between 40 and 60 MW each, and the evaluation of white hydrogen sites in different regions of the country.
The hydrogen produced will have four applications: use in own operations, sustainable mobility, hydrogen blending with gas for thermal use and new low-carbon products for the market domestic and export.
“In September last year we presented the zero and low emission hydrogen sheet, and just 6 months later we are already putting into operation the first pilot projects of green hydrogen in the country. Today marks a historic milestone in the energy transition with the first green hydrogen molecules, the one energy called to decarbonize energy-intensive industries, and the first vehicle with hydrogen cells in Colombia. But this Ecopetrol project is just the beginning, our goal is to develop between 2 and 3 GW of electrolysis for the production of zero and low emission hydrogen in the next 10 years, with investments close to US$5.5 billion and the creation of between 7,000 and 15,000 jobs,” said Mines and Energy Minister Diego Mesa.