The Ecopetrol Group initiated green hydrogen production in Colombia

Mar 18, 2022

  • The pilot for the production of this energy source begins with an electrolyzer and 270 solar panels installed in the Cartagena Refinery.
  • The Ecopetrol Group presented its Low-Carbon Hydrogen Strategic Plan, which includes projects worth USD $2.5 billion by 2040.
  • C-Emprende will have an innovation and technology center in the Caribbean, with hydrogen at its forefront.

With the entry into operation of a 50-kilowatt PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) electrolyzer and 270 solar panels located in the Cartagena Refinery, the Ecopetrol Group initiated its first green hydrogen production pilot project in Colombia.

The pilot, which will run during the next three months, uses industrial water from the refinery to produce daily 20 kg of high purity green hydrogen (99.999%). This test will provide information on the operation, maintenance, reliability and scalability of the technologies used. Once this pilot has concluded, other pilot tests will be performed at various operations of the Ecopetrol Group.

The pilot’s main objective is to assess the technical and environmental feasibility as well as the performance of green hydrogen generation at the Cartagena Refinery. It will also help to determine the impact on the use of inputs such as water and electricity in the process. The green hydrogen produced in the pilot will be employed to improve the quality of the fuels produced in the refinery, a process which currently utilizes gray hydrogen.

The Ecopetrol Group is proceeding with the acquisition of two electrolytic hydrogen generation systems with recharging stations for bus and vehicle mobility applications. These initiatives are expected to begin in early 2023.

"Today we are the largest hydrogen producer in Colombia, which we employ to produce cleaner gasoline and diesel. Nevertheless, we want to go further in our commitment to sustainability, which is why we have announced a robust portfolio of initiatives that seek to further develop the production capabilities of this energy resource in the country, while accelerating our carbon footprint reduction to achieve our goal to be a net-zero emissions company by 2050. This is a fundamental step on our path towards energy transition," said Felipe Bayón, President of the Ecopetrol Group.

Low-Carbon Hydrogen Plan

With an average annual investment of close to USD $140 million by 2040, the Ecopetrol Group is executing a dynamic plan for green, blue and white hydrogen production, an energy source that will provide between 9% to 11% of the decreases in its 50% emission reduction goal by 2050 of scopes 1, 2 and 3.

For the execution of this plan, the Company has outlined a path it will carry out within three time horizons. The first, between 2022 and 2030, focuses on intensifying hydrogen within its own operations through industrial scale projects and starting applications in sustainable mobility with cars and buses.

The second, from 2030 to 2040, seeks to capture and attain significant results in the decarbonization of operations, diversifying with hydrogen into maritime and aviation mobility, and realizing new business opportunities in the European and Asian markets.

The third horizon, from the 2040 onwards, is focused on promoting widespread adoption of hydrogen and expanding the portfolio.

By 2022, the plan anticipates an investment of USD $6 million towards developing the green hydrogen pilot at the Cartagena Refinery; advancing in mass transportation mobility in partnerships with Fanalca through a 50-passenger hydrogen fuel-cell bus; establishing the feasibility of developing new green/blue hydrogen plants of between 40 and 60 MW each in the refineries; and measuring white hydrogen concentrations in various regions nationwide.

The hydrogen produced will have four applications: use in its own operations, sustainable mobility, blending hydrogen with gas for thermal use, and new low-carbon products for the domestic and export markets.

The plan was presented with a demonstration of the use of hydrogen to power vehicles, an application that provides sustainable mobility without CO2 atmospheric emissions. The Ecopetrol Group intends for the growth of this demand to be part of the country's energy transition.

“In September of last year we presented the zero and low-carbon hydrogen plan, and only six months later the first green hydrogen pilot projects in the country are becoming operational. Today we mark a historic milestone in the energy transition with the first green hydrogen molecules - the energy source that has been summoned to decarbonize energy-intensive industries – and with the first hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle with in Colombia. But this Ecopetrol project is only the beginning. Our goal is to develop between 2 and 3 GW of electrolysis capacity to produce zero and low-carbon hydrogen in the next 10 years, with investments of close to USD $5.5 billion and the creation of between 7,000 and 15,000 jobs,” noted the Minister of Mines and Energy, Diego Mesa.

Laboratory for energy transition

In line with its innovation, science and technology strategy, the Ecopetrol Group has joined forces with the Inter-American Development Bank, the national business association ANDI, the incubator iNNpulsa Colombia, the Cartagena Chamber of Commerce, the national training center SENA and its Technoparks model, as well as leading universities and other organizations, to create the first Innovation and Technology Center in the Caribbean, which will be part of the country's entrepreneurial C-Emprende network. This laboratory will offer solutions to the challenges facing the energy and petrochemical transition, with hydrogen taking a lead role.

At this space, which will be located at kilometer 7 of the Mamonal industrial Zone, with an electrolyzer at its disposal, work will be carried out to strengthen an ecosystem linking organizations and entrepreneurs, focusing on devising low-carbon products.

Moreover, it will encourage the development of knowledge-based regional capacities with the unveiling of C-Emprende Jr., which will focus on providing children and teens instructional opportunities on innovation and cybersecurity topics, enhancing their employment prospects for when they leave school.

Cartagena, March 18, 2022

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