South America Hydrogen

South America is the fourth largest continent in size and the fifth largest in population. It is located primarily in the southern hemisphere. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The geography of South America is dominated by the Andes Mountain Range and the Amazon River.

Prior to European colonization, the Incan Civilization was a dominant force in South America. In the 1500's, Spain and Portugal colonized much of South America. The colonies gained independence in the 1800's with the help of leaders such as Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin. Much of South America still speaks Spanish or Portuguese as their primary language.

Latin America’s hydrogen opportunity: from national strategies to regional cooperation

The use of hydrogen as a low-carbon fuel is taking an increasingly prominent role in global energy discussions. At the Osaka Summit in 2019, G20 leaders emphasised that hydrogen technologies are critical to enable clean energy transitions as highlighted in the IEA report The Future of Hydrogen. Since Japan published its Basic Hydrogen Strategy in 2017, several other governments – including most recently Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as the European Commission – have put forward hydrogen strategies and roadmaps, and more are expected in coming months. Industry has responded with significant announcements. Water electrolysis projects accounting for around 3 GW of capacity are expected to be deployed by 2023, dwarfing current installed capacity of less than 200 MW.

Latin America could become a key contributor to the global push towards low‑carbon hydrogen. In line with global developments, governments in the region are taking decisive steps to foster hydrogen’s potential as a key component of their clean energy transitions and a source of export revenues. At the recent IEA-OLADE Latin America Ministerial Roundtable, many ministers pointed to hydrogen as a promising energy carrier for the region’s longer-term energy transitions.

A collaborative regional approach to hydrogen could complement national initiatives, allowing countries to capture complementarities in demand and production patterns, and unlock synergies in infrastructure use and development. Such an approach would be aligned with developments in other parts of the world, for example among countries around the North Sea. For this to happen, regional dialogue and collaboration are key to ensure that regulations are harmonised and that energy markets converge.

Currently, hydrogen production and use in Latin America is limited to a few countries, where it is used mainly as a feedstock for refineries and the chemical industry, as in other parts of the world. Many countries are moving forward with strategies and pilot projects to foster its use as an energy carrier, however. This momentum is complemented by major private sector initiatives, such as Argentina’s H2ar consortium and Chile’s H2Chile, which group relevant private and public sector players with the goal of identifying opportunities and promoting the development of relevant partnerships and value chains.

While initial efforts could focus on reducing emissions linked to existing hydrogen uses, several countries are eyeing the potential for hydrogen to decarbonise transport, especially heavy-duty and public transport fleets, as well as opportunities to export low-carbon hydrogen to markets outside the region.

Railroads South-America: The train was a boxy grey express that had seen better days, but it pulled out of Oruro on time. I boarded late and breathless, having lost track of the hour in town. Breathlessness was nothing new to me in Bolivia - it being a country where altitudes of 3,500m are routine - but this time it was self-induced. I unshouldered my backpack and collapsed into my seat, clutching paper bags full of half-squashed saltenas (pastries), and looked out of the window. Within minutes the show began.

The train was making its way by bridge across Lake Uru-Uru, a broad expanse of water just outside town. A belt of low grey hills rumpled the horizon. On the water, meanwhile, an unexpected sight: hundreds of flamingos feeding in the shallows. And as we moved, so, too, did the birds. It was gradual at first, with one or two stick-thin flyers flapping above the lake, then great flocks emerged, as a pale blizzard of pink peeled off from the water and followed the train south. I watched the silhouettes of the birds disappear into the distance as the train nosed its way onto the vast emptiness of the altiplano.

South America isn't veined with extensive train routes in the same way as Europe or India, but the continent still offers some hugely memorable rail experiences. They range from the no-frills to the luxurious, and from the staggeringly scenic to the boldly ambitious. Here are eight of the best.

Does Hydrogen Fuel Have a Bright Future in Latin America?

Latin America and The Caribbean

Low-emission initiatives in Asia, Europe and California have started to make way for the deployment of hydrogen vehicle fuel stations alongside fossil fuel pumps, Cecilia Aguillón writes below.  U.S. Department of Energy.Low-emission initiatives in Asia, Europe and California have started to make way for the deployment of hydrogen vehicle fuel stations alongside fossil fuel pumps, Cecilia Aguillón writes below. 

The debate around the global energy transition away from fossil fuels has shifted from when it will happen to what it will look like, according to a report by S&P Global Platts released last month. Among the alternatives, hydrogen could achieve emission reductions in industrial settings, as well as in residential and commercial heating and long-haul trucking, the report said. In what ways is hydrogen being developed as a clean energy carrier globally and in Latin America and the Caribbean in particular? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a potential shift toward hydrogen-based fuel, and how does it compare to other clean energy alternatives, such as biofuel? How disruptive will the energy transition be for traditional fuel refining in the region, and how can refiners prepare for it?

Ana Ángel, Latin America manager at Hinicio: “Green hydrogen (produced via electrolysis of water from renewable energies) is positioning itself as key piece of the puzzle to decarbonize sectors of the economy in which electrification has limitations, such as the chemical or steel industries and certain transport sectors. Several developed economies, including the European Union, Japan, South Korea, California and Australia, have understood this. Latin America has pilot projects in Costa Rica and Argentina, projects in an advanced state of development in Chile and Uruguay, as well as great interest from energy and hydrocarbon companies in Colombia. Green hydrogen is a molecule free of carbon emissions that can supply existing energy infrastructure, be transported in pipelines, and even by boat, as is currently done with liquefied natural gas (LNG). It allows for the storage of surplus intermittent renewables in greater capacities for much longer than batteries allow, and it can supply cars in just four to five minutes with power for more than 700 kilometers, become a solution for zero-emissions transport for long distances, heavy segments and high-intensity operations. Hydrogen is a great opportunity for the diversification toward clean-fuel production and the decarbonization of oil and gas companies. Injected into pipelines to mix to a certain percentage with natural gas, or used to supply refineries’ demand, clean hydrogen can drastically diminish carbon footprints. Although this technology has reached technological maturity, as have other innovative technologies, its initial costs remain high, so fiscal and financial policies are required to encourage its adoption. Latin America has exceptional conditions for the production of green hydrogen at highly competitive prices, such as an electricity matrix with a low emission factor, a high potential for renewable energy production, as well as a large availability of space and water sources.”

Cecilia Aguillón, director of the energy transition initiative at the Institute of the Americas: “In the near term, electrification of transportation is likely to continue, but hydrogen-based energy can also accelerate the pace of emission reductions. Several global energy companies are already investing in research-and-development and demonstration projects of hydrogen fuels around the world, including in Latin America, where hydroelectricity, solar and wind resources are abundant and cost-effective. Hydrogen production is mostly fueled with non-renewable sources, but in the race to reduce emissions, natural gas is viewed as the bridge in the transition to zero-carbon energy until the cost of producing fuel with renewables through electrolysis can be competitive. According to a report published by the IEA last June, fuel costs add up to 75 percent of the cost of hydrogen production. Policies that spur market growth will be required to reduce costs and replace diesel and gasoline for hydrogen in densely populated urban regions. Evolving policies and regulations that encourage low emission standards in electricity and transportation across the Americas are likely to compel retrofitting fuel infrastructure. Indeed, conventional fueling station infrastructure can be retrofitted and used to provide cleaner fuels to heavy duty vehicles, mass transit fleets, ships and even airplanes. In Asia, Europe and California, low emission standards and mandates have started to make way for the deployment of hydrogen vehicle fuel stations right alongside fossil fuel pumps.”

Jose Antonio Castro Nieto, chief scientist at Ad Astra Rocket in Costa Rica: “In Costa Rica, there is a strong push toward the maturation of a green hydrogen economy (hydrogen produced by water electrolysis powered by renewables). This is initially geared toward the transportation sector, but there are plans to grow it into a stationary power and back-up power generation solution as well. The Costa Rican Hydrogen Alliance, a group of mostly private companies that represent all the actors present in the green hydrogen value chain (renewable energy, hydrogen infrastructure, gas distributors, vehicle companies, etc.), are leading this initiative. Green hydrogen has the advantage of decarbonizing the light-to-heavy duty transportation sector while enabling Latin American countries to pursue a path toward energy independence. Our region profits from ample renewable energy resources and water, both key ingredients in the production of green hydrogen. If we are able to harness this potential, it could direct the region toward energy independence. Compared to batteries, hydrogen is better suited for the light-to-heavy-duty transportation sector due to its much better energy-to-weight ratio. In this sector, weight and volume are at a premium. Any clean energy alternatives directed toward this sector must not limit their cargo capacity. Hydrogen is poised to perform this task better than batteries. To compare it to biofuel, there should be a thorough analysis of what production would entail in terms of land use. Solutions with hydrogen do not put at risk the disposition of arable land that could be used for generating food. Traditional fuel refining companies already have the expertise of handling flammable fluids and handling combustion gases at high pressures. These same skill sets could be redirected toward hydrogen, given that hydrogen poses a similar level of risk, albeit with slightly different considerations.”

Hans Kulenkampff, president of the Chilean Hydrogen Association: “Hydrogen is being developed globally to accelerate the energy transition and decarbonize hard-to-electrify applications. LAC is no exception. Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Costa Rica, French Guiana and Chile are already developing projects. Chile is speeding up in all private, public and academic sectors. The private sector, led by H2 Chile, in January launched ‘Misión Cavendish,’ an initiative to accelerate green hydrogen projects through four workshops. The event is fully booked, with around 180 attendees per workshop. The public sector, led by the Ministry of Energy and CORFO-Solar and Energy Innovation Committee, is working on different initiatives to launch the National Hydrogen Strategy in June. The academic sector is preparing the ‘Instituto de Tecnologías Limpias,’ a R&D institution with public support of $190 million for 10 years that will pilot and scale up renewables technologies in the Antofagasta desert. I wouldn’t be surprised to see, in a couple of years, a ‘Welcome to CH2ILE’ sign upon arrival at the Santiago Airport. The energy transition can’t be stopped. Hydrogen is been accepted everywhere as part of the solution, and refiners have the know-how to embrace this technology and participate in the coming low-carbon economy. Nevertheless, I do not see the region’s refining sector moving at the required speed. Today, it is the losing sector, as its clients will all look to electrification; big utility companies are getting ready for that. It has 10 years to shift from refining crude oil to solar or wind energies and embrace Power-to-X technologies. Perhaps it should look more closely at the 2050 vision of FuelsEurope, an association of 40 companies operating refineries in the European Union.”

Johannah Christensen, managing director and head of projects & programmes at the Global Maritime Forum: “Maritime shipping is emerging as a leading sector in the world’s transition to a low-carbon economy. This will happen through a fundamental shift toward zero-carbon energy sources within the next decade. International shipping must reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050. This represents a trillion-dollar market opportunity for suppliers of zero-emission fuels. The total bunker fuel consumption for shipping is estimated to be around 250-300 million tons of fuel annually. While it is often assumed that there are numerous options for marine bunker fuels, many of these can be eliminated from consideration as they are unsuitable for deep sea shipping due to technical specifications and storage constraints. Green hydrogen could play an important role in decarbonizing the international shipping sector. It can be further processed to produce green ammonia or methanol, which have the advantage of requiring minimal adaptation to use with existing ship engines. With its vast renewable resources and significant commercial maritime activity, Chile is ideally placed to become a hub for the supply of hydrogen for the maritime industry. An Environmental Defense Fund study finds that Chile has among the world’s best potential for renewable energy generation with over 1,200 GW of solar potential alone. Supplying hydrogen for all ships departing Chile’s ports could unlock around $65-$90 billion worth of investment in clean energy infrastructure.”

Population: 387,489,196 (Source: 2010 United Nations)Map ofSouth America

Area: 6,890,000 square miles

Ranking: It is the fourth largest and fifth most populous continent

Major Biomes: rainforest, savanna, grassland

Major cities:

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Santiago, Chile
Brasilia, Brazil
Lima, Peru
Bogota, Colombia
Caracas, Venezuela
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Medellin, Colombia

Bordering Bodies of Water: Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea

Major Rivers and Lakes: Amazon River, Parana River, Orinoco River, Tocantins River, Strait of Magellan, Lake Titicaca, Lake Maracaibo

Major Geographical Features: Andes Mountains, Amazon Basin and Rainforest, Brazilian Highlands, Pampas plain, Patagonia, Guiana Highlands, Pantanal wetlands

Fun Facts about South America:

The highest point in South America is Cerro Aconcagua in the Andes Mountains in the country of Argentina.

The largest South American country in both size and population is Brazil. The largest city is Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is also one of the ten largest cities in the world.

North and South America were named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.

The highest waterfall in the world is Santo del Angel (also called Angel Falls). It is almost 1000 meters high!

The Atacama Desert in Chile is considered to be one of the driest places on Earth.

South America Hydrogen Future

  • Chile aims to become major hydrogen producer by 2030
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  • Columbia Country
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  • Paraguay Country
    Paraguay Railroad - The Rail system in Paraguay consisted primarily of a 376 km main…
  • Bolivia Country
    Bolivia Railroad - The Bolivian rail network has had a peculiar development throughout its history;…
  • Guyana Country
    Railroad Guyana - Commercial railway services for both passengers and cargo were operated until 1974.…
  • Uruguay Country
    The Uruguayan railway network has about 2900 km (1802 mi) of lines, all of 1,435…
  • Brazil Country
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  • Venezuela Country
    The Venezuelan network includes 682 km (424 mi) of rail in standard gauge. The network…
  • Argentina Country
    Argentina Railroads - The Argentine railway network consisted of a 47,000 km network at the…
  • Ecuador Country
    Ecuador Railroad - The Ferrocarriles del Ecuador Empresa Publica (FE EP) (Ecuadorian Railways Company) is…
  • Suriname Country
    Suriname is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is bordered…
  • Chile Country
    Chile's railways are operated by the state owned company Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado…
  • Hydrogen - current state of hydrogen projects in Chile
    Hydrogen Innovations Chile - Hydrogen is expected to have a substantial role over the coming…

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