Germany Wants to Buy Green Hydrogen From Colombia, but There Are Several Challenges

By April 2, 2024 6   min read  (1188 words)

April 2, 2024 |

Germany wants to buy green hydrogen from Colombia but there are several challenges

In the Caribbean, especially in La Guajira, there is great potential to produce hydrogen from solar and wind energy. Germany wants to boost that industry to buy that fuel from the country. The initiative, which is just beginning, depends on resolving problems in environmental licensing and consultations with communities.

On March 6, Colombia and Germany created the Steering Committee of the High Level Group on Green Hydrogen to promote renewable energy projects. This was the third diplomatic meeting seeking to create commercial cooperation to form a hydrogen industry that supplies demand nationally and exports to the European country.

The delegations had already met in December 2022, in Colombia, and in June 2023, in Germany, when the then Minister of Mines and Energy, Irene Vélez, and the Minister of Trade, Germán Umaña, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Energy Institute of the Fraunhofer Society, one of the largest scientific associations in Europe and headquartered in Berlin, to evaluate the transport chains of this element in the country.

All these meetings discussed the potential of Colombia, and specifically the Caribbean region, to become “an important hydrogen industrial zone and deliver significant volumes to local and international markets at competitive prices,” as the Ministry of Mines and Energy said in a statement after the June 2023 meeting.

But what is green hydrogen and why is Germany interested in cooperating for the development of this industry in Colombia? In El Espectador we spoke to Christopher Hebling, international director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy, and Carsten Rolle, director of energy and climate at the Federation of German Industry (BDI) to find out about the progress of this initiative.

What is green hydrogen?

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and is composed of the molecule H2. Finding it in that state, however, is a rather complex task, as it is usually mixed with other elements. For example, in water (H2O), it is with oxygen.

When hydrogen is separated from its accompanying molecules, it is a gas that can be used as a fuel in various processes, especially in industry. The challenge, however, is that their insulation requires energy-intensive methods that are color-coded according to their environmental impact.

So, when the H2 molecule is isolated using carbon or methane gas, the process is known as black or gray hydrogen, due to the high pollution it generates; In contrast, when used, renewable energies, such as solar or wind, are known as green hydrogen, as it is one of the least harmful to the environment. The latter is the one that they want to promote in Colombia.

The first stage of the cooperation, says Hebling, consisted of conducting a study to find out the country’s potential to produce green hydrogen. “We also did very robust simulation models to estimate the cost of producing these molecules in Colombia,” he adds. With this information, the next phase, says the director of the Fraunhofer Energy Institute, will be to work on investment instruments with German industry to promote projects in Colombia.

The interest in promoting this industry in the country, adds BDI’s Rolle, is to be able to import this product and its derivatives to Germany. They also seek to connect companies that produce, for example, steel blades for wind farms, with renewable energy projects in Colombia, in a relationship that would benefit industries in both countries.

“Germany has always been an energy importer. The biggest opportunity presented by the start of this dialogue is that the competencies of both sides complement each other in a very timely manner. We have the suppliers of the technology and they want to integrate this into a supply chain in which Colombia also has a stake,” says Rolle.

The doubts surrounding hydrogen production

While the commitment to green hydrogen production projects has many advantages, it also harbors some doubts. The Global Hydrogen Review, published by the International Energy Agency in 2023, found that, although this is a fuel that is increasingly in demand in the world, its use continues to be concentrated in industries such as the exploitation of hydrocarbons, while its application in cargo transport or aviation, which would contribute to sustainable mobility, it’s still minimal.

In addition, a review of scientific evidence published in 2021, conducted by the British renewable energy consultancy Liebreich, found that, so far, the technology to use hydrogen only makes it efficient in some sectors, such as fertilizer production, while in others it is cheaper to use electric batteries or biogas. The question of in which situations or sectors of the economy this gas can be used efficiently as a fuel is crucial, as it can determine the sustainability of its production.

“In Germany, this discussion is also taking place, because we know that we can’t use hydrogen for everything,” Hebling acknowledges. As in fertilisers, he assures that their efficiency in the production of hydrocarbons is also proven, and their use has a lower environmental impact compared to grey hydrogen, which is the one usually used in these industries.

For Rolle, the discussion between using electricity or hydrogen for sustainable mobility is not over yet, because it is not only an efficiency issue. “There, the criterion is, basically, the quality of the networks. If there is a strong and sustainable electricity system, the transport sector can very easily be electrified. But, when not, hydrogen can be evaluated as an alternative. Efficiency is one of the parameters, but it is one of many others that must be taken into account,” he explains.

Another doubt surrounding the production of green hydrogen in Colombia is that it depends on the advancement of renewable energies. In La Guajira, which is the region with the greatest wind and solar potential in the country, several projects have presented delays in their execution due to delays in environmental licenses, in prior consultation processes and due to lack of financing, as we have reported in El Espectador in past articles.

One of the solutions proposed by the German delegation is to “explain very well to the population what the energy transition is all about. Because communities have to appropriate all these new technologies. That is why dialogue with civil society, communication and education must be joint objectives,” says Rolle.

The implementation of renewable energies, Hebling points out, also requires improvements in “port infrastructure, transmission networks, energy production and incentives to make that energy sustainable. In Germany, many things are going slower than planned. There are also problems in project financing.” Solving this, he says, requires a long-term plan, but with staged objectives that allow you to evaluate your progress.

According to Minminas, 10 green hydrogen production pilots have already been carried out in the country focused on “residential, transport and industry” uses. The Steering Committee of the High Level Group on Green Hydrogen is currently reviewing several proposals and it is expected that the feasibility of the first projects will be discussed at the next meeting, which has not yet been set.


Original Article in Spanish:



Read the most up to date Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Industry news at FuelCellsWorks


Author FuelCellsWorks

More posts by FuelCellsWorks
error: Alert: Content is protected !!