Enabling Hydrogen Development in Uruguay: What Does it Mean for Transport?

The study, commissioned by the Uruguay Chamber of Construction and carried about by the Catholic University of Uruguay, focusses its attention on three major areas in order to help facilitate the integration of hydrogen into the country’s energy strategy by 2040: infrastructure; water resources; and regulatory frameworks.

It comes after Uruguay successfully began sourcing over 97% of its national energy from renewable sources, which has allowed the nation to ‘become independent of [international] geopolitical events’, according to Director of Energy Ramón Méndez Galain.

A study released in April could have far-reaching consequences for hydrogen transportation

In a meeting organised by the Chamber of Construction last Thursday, its president – Alejandro Ruibal – explained that Uruguay was currently facing what he described as ‘a second energy transition’ as the nation looks beyond traditional renewables and into the hydrogen market.

“In this market, where hydrogen is a nascent industry, Uruguay has the potential to position itself as energy-independent in the future with this new fuel,” he said.

The conclusions of the research spell out an optimistic future

The conclusions of the research spell out an optimistic future for the further adoption of hydrogen into the country’s energy sources, and include:

  • The current preexisting infrastructure is considered adequate for the development of green hydrogen projects until 2030, with only small investments needed for towns and electricity networks.
  • After 2030, significant investments are needed in towns, electrical networks, and ducts, which will depend on technological advancements and the evolution of the market.
  • It is recommended to revise some regulations seen within the current electrical market, particularly the criteria to connect power sources to the grid (tolls).
  • It is recommended to integrate ‘flexible demand’ into the regulations.
  • It is necessary to continue the implementation of the current regulatory framework and strengthen regulatory capacities.
Uruguay has already expressed a strong interest in the development of public hydrogen transport

Uruguay has already expressed a strong interest in the development of public hydrogen transport networks within the country. In late February, the Minister of Industry, Energy, and Mining – Elisa Facio – and the Minister of Transport and Public Works – José Luis Falero – signed a memorandum of understanding with the representatives of the French consortium Setec, to put in place a twelve-month feasibility study for a potentially hydrogen-powered train.

Regarding domestic transportation, as the role of hydrogen in the nation’s power supply increases, Uruguay is optimistic to introduce heavy-duty hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, declaring in its 2050 roadmap that it expects a penetration of 3% by 2030, and of 35% by 2040.

Further investment into green hydrogen projects within the country could potentially see not only more future hydrogen-based transport infrastructure for domestic use, but could also see Uruguay play a major role in international trade: demand for shipping fuels, such as ammonia and e-methanol, is projected to grow following both the announcements of international stakeholders and the decarbonisation targets of the International Maritime Organisation.

The fact that Uruguay has already been found to have the adequate infrastructure for hydrogen projects, and that it has an already-established renewable energy grid, could see it become a potential green corridor for the sustainable maritime transport of goods, while at the same time giving the space and motivation for other nations to focus on decarbonisation efforts.

In an interview with Agencia EFE last Thursday, one of the report’s authors – Alejandro Perroni – said there was still ‘much to do’ for Uruguay to become a competitive member of the international market, but that the country is ‘very well positioned, has a very valuable starting point, and an outstanding development of renewable energies’ already.

Byline: Leslie Kerwin