German sports car maker Porsche, Siemens Energy and Italian renewables giant Enel together with a unit of Chilean power company AME and oil firm ENAP plan to produce green hydrogen via an electrolyser from wind energy in one of the world’s windiest regions.

The pilot plant in Cabo Negro, north of Punta Arenas in the Magellan Strait on the southernmost tip of South America is expected to be commissioned in 2022, making it the first green hydrogen production plant in Chile and one of the largest in Latin America, Enel said.

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“Green hydrogen can truly play a major role in the energy transition by supporting decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors where electrification of end uses is not an easy solution,” said Salvatore Bernabei, head of Enel’s global power generation business.

“A project like this can allow us to analyse the best technological solutions to efficiently produce hydrogen by leveraging on the Magallanes region’s wealth of resources and robust infrastructure.”

Windy Patagonia

Patagonia with the Magallanes region at its southern tip has a historic oil and gas footprint, but the region also stands out for having some of the best on-land wind conditions in the world due to its proximity to Antarctica, according to a wind resource study carried out by Enel Green Power Chile over the past two years.

The region has already met the interest of the German government, which has identified it as a possible centre of large-scale production of green hydrogen for export as Germany itself has too little space to produce the massive amounts of green hydrogen it will need. Germany’s economics and energy ministry earlier this year published an analysis of Chile’s high potential for the production of green hydrogen from low-cost renewable energies.

Germany is also looking into the possibility of green hydrogen imports from African countries and Australia.

According to Chile’s energy ministry, up to 20% of the country’s cumulated CO2 reduction by 2050 will be made possible through cost-effective green hydrogen, Enel said, adding that the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that Chile is able to produce 160 million tons of green hydrogen per year, doubling the current demand for hydrogen.

“Thanks to green hydrogen, we have a historic opportunity,” Chile’s energy minister Juan Carlos Jobet said at the virtual presentation of the Punto Arenas project.

“We can be world leaders in the production and export of this new energy source, and this way contribute to progress of Chileans and the fight against climate change.”

According to AME subsidiary HIF, the pilot plant will have a capacity to produce 350 tons of methanol and 250 tons of gasoline per year. Using CO2 filtered from the atmosphere would be added to the green hydrogen to produce methanol as a basis of green gasoline, the company said.

Siemens Energy and Porsche

Siemens Energy is increasingly involved in Germany’s nascent green hydrogen sector, and produces electrolysers for the production of green hydrogen from renewable power.

The Siemens spin-off in recent months has announced a deal with China Power International, a unit of renewables giant State Power Investment Corp (SPIC), to provide a green hydrogen production system on a megawatt scale for a H2 fuelling station near Beijing, and plans for a pilot plant using CO2 and hydrogen to produce low-carbon chemicals through a process called ‘artificial photosynthesis.’ Siemens’ smart energy unit also participates in plans for one of the world’s largest green hydrogen plants in southern Germany.

Siemens Energy told Recharge the implementation of the Chilean hydrogen project is still pending permits by local authorities as well as a final investment decision.

Porsche saidit is looking for partners that can build pilot plants and at the same time prove that their entire supply chain for the production of regenerative e-fuels works and can be scaled up to an industrial scale.

"HIF's project in Chile in this context is an interesting option for us," a Porsche press official told Recharge.

The German car maker last year had launched its first all-electric sports car, the Taycan, and is interested in synthetic fuels produced from green hydrogen and CO2, as in the Punto Arenas pilot plant, as well as hybrid-electric cars.