Sustainable Industry

Brazil poised to be a key player in the production and export of green hydrogen

Brazil’s potential for renewable energy generation could make the country become a key supplier of this new sustainable fuel, which is a strategic driver for the decarbonization of the industrial sector

The urgent need to reduce carbon emissions at the global level and contain climate change has prompted countries to seek new energy solutions. This is further compounded by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has catalyzed national transition plans towards energy generation from renewable sources.

The most promising potential alternative is green hydrogen, which is obtained from electrolysis, i.e., from the breakdown of hydrogen and oxygen bonds in water molecules (H2O) through electricity, using renewable energy sources, which is why it is described as “green”. Adoption of this technological solution has grown as it does not generate emissions and can be stored and transported over long distances.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that 60% of the world’s total hydrogen production will come from green hydrogen sources by 2050. In addition, the Hydrogen Council – a global initiative by CEOs of leading energy, transportation and industrial companies – estimates that climate neutrality by 2050 could create a US$2.5 trillion market for hydrogen and fuel cell equipment, which would generate jobs for more than 30 million people and avoid 6 Gt of CO2 emissions.

“The disruptive nature of this technology, combined with the almost 60% reduction in costs expected by 2030, make green hydrogen a strategic driver for the decarbonization of the industrial sector,” said the Executive Manager for Environment and Sustainability at the National Confederation of Industry (CNI), Davi Bomtempo.

“For the first time ever this year, Brazil’s Ten-Year Energy Plan 2031 devoted a chapter to hydrogen. This goes to show that policies, programs and initiatives are aligned so that green hydrogen is incorporated in this new low carbon economy, becomes competitive and integrates national plans to fulfill the commitments undertaken at international fora,” he added.

Future global hub –Brazil is a world leader in the use of renewable sources – hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass – to generate electricity. We therefore have the potential to become a key player in the production of this new fuel.

“Brazil has a potential for renewable energy that could meet global demand. It has a gigantic potential for hydroelectric, biomass, and in particular wind and solar energy. For wind and solar energy, the most promising areas are in the Brazilian Northeast, which places the country in a great position to produce green hydrogen and export it to Europe through ports such as Pecém and Suape,” said Jurandir Picanço Jr., an energy consultant with the Ceará State Federation of Industries (FIEC).

In view of this potential role, Brazil has already started to invest in green hydrogen. The projects currently total around US$20 billion and are located in the states of Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte and Pernambuco. The primary focus of all these projects is the export market.

“Green hydrogen generates no emissions. Clean energy and carbon emissions reduction are now trending topics, and green hydrogen is poised to be incorporated into this new economy and to become part of the countries’ strategy to fulfill the commitments made at environmental fora,” said the Executive Manager for Environment and Sustainability at the CNI, Davi Bomtempo.

Complex – The Suape Port-Industrial Complex is located along the southern coast of the state of Pernambuco, which brings together the concepts of port and industry. The site is soon expected to house a company that will produce green hydrogen.

The Complex was established in 1978 to manage the implementation of the industrial district, conduction of works and development of port activities. It is considered to be one of the largest economic development projects in the country, and it offers opportunities in multiple sectors. So far six partnerships have been established for research and production of green hydrogen, according to Carlos Cavalcanti, Director for Environment and Sustainability at the Port of Suape.

These include a partnership between the Port, Neo Energia and the National Service for Industrial Learning (SENAI) to develop a hydrogen molecule intended for small light vehicles in 2023. A public call for bids will soon be launched for the construction of a green hydrogen production plant in the Complex.

“It is a brand-new project that has been in demand all over the world. The very situation involving Russia and Ukraine has further catalyzed this process in recent months with the aim of reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Furthermore, the commitments made under the decarbonization pacts at the Conferences of the Parties (COPs) make hydrogen part of a strategy to shift from highly polluting sources to a low emission source. This is under consideration and several actions are already underway,” said Carlos.

The Complex will provide an area covering 72 hectares, in addition to access capabilities and access to the canal in order to transport the materials. Once the contract has been signed, the company in charge of producing the hydrogen will be responsible for setting up the production site, obtaining the environmental licenses required, and developing the economic/financial and technical feasibility studies.

Labor – The demand for green hydrogen comes along with the need for skilled professionals capable of supporting the production of this fuel. With this in mind, SENAI is taking early action and has launched projects for personnel training.

“There is still no immediate demand for workers in this regard, but this will happen during the production stage and SENAI is taking early actions to train workers at all levels, from energy integrators to developers. We already collaborate on projects with the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) – the German international cooperation agency that operates in Brazil to promote sustainable development –, with the Chinese CTG – a clean energy group with a focus on the development and operation of large hydroelectric plants – and with an oil company that is interested in producing the fuel,” said Jefferson Gomes, Innovation and Technology Superintendent at SENAI Nacional.

In the city of Natal, in Rio Grande do Norte, SENAI, in collaboration with GIZ and with the support of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, agreed on a BRL 12.5 million partnership for the construction of regional education and training hubs to support expansion of green hydrogen in the country.

According to Rodrigo Mello, Director of the SENAI Institute for Innovation in Renewable Energies (ISI-ER) and the Center for Gas and Renewable Energy Technologies (CTGAS-ER) in Rio Grande do Norte, a few years ago, when gas operations began, SENAI set up the necessary facilities to produce the fuel. This included the model to be used, the size and specifications of educational laboratories, discussing the professional profiles for the gas production chain and worker training.

This was repeated in 2009 with the development of renewable energies, and now the challenge is to replicate this project to train workers for the green hydrogen supply chain.

“The idea is for this center to develop the whole range of training programs – from basic operator, electrician and instrumentation programs, to postgraduate programs for factory operators, researchers and professors,” said Rodrigo. The project is expected to go beyond Rio Grande do Norte. “The idea is to expand it to the entire SENAI Nacional and other public and private institutions that have expressed an interest,” he said.