Sunday, September 24

«Half a liter of sea water has the same energy as a liter of oil»

Thierry Lepercq. / HyDeal Ambition

HyDeal Ambition President Thierry Lepercq unveils plans for its hydrogen platform in Spain

Jose A. Gonzalez

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused the European energy market to blow up. Russian oil and gas is no longer the power source for industry and transport in Europe. The decarbonisation roadmap for the community economy is built on renewables and on the increasingly named hydrogen. This energy vector is the hope of many European countries, including Spain. Precisely, the industrial plans in the Old Continent involve establishing the world’s largest hydrogen project, HyDeal Ambition, on Spanish land. This project will allow Arcelormittal and Fertiberia, two of its first clients, to acquire 6.6 million tons of renewable hydrogen over the next 20 years, which would mean avoiding 4% of Spain’s current CO2 emissions. “Spain has a treasure ahead with hydrogen,” says Thierry Lepercq, president of the platform and spokesperson for HyDeal Ambition.

Four months have passed since the announcement, how is the HyDeal Ambition project at the moment?

We are in a profitability study phase that will end in an investment decision that will be made in July. We have secured almost 5,000 hectares in Spain for this project, almost half of what we need, in Castilla y León and Aragón. In addition, we have commented on the environmental studies to see the collection of water and solar energy that we need for the entire development. Recently, specifically two weeks ago, we have received seven offers from European and Asian companies for solar collection and we hope to close the contracts with suppliers in July. We must remember that we are the largest hydrogen project in the world and we need the credibility of suppliers to achieve supplies.

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Another of the legs in which we are working is in the transport of energy, especially solar energy. The plant will be in Asturias, but the solar resources there are less. We are going to produce it about 200 kilometers to the south and we need a large network of pipes and Enagás is working on that, which will build almost 1,000 kilometers of these pipes.

But is HyDeal Ambition an idea or is it going to come true?

It will be real, it is not a vision, it is a project. At the moment we are discussing the financing of billions of euros that will be closed in July. It is an attractive product for international investors, because they are obtaining energy at a quarter of the current market price and with great resources.

We also have large clients such as Arcelormittal and Fertiberia, who own 50% of the company and need this product. We live in a time when natural gas prices have increased tenfold and there is a problem of energy security for the Spanish economy, for the European economy and also for companies. HyDeal Ambition six months ago was a decarbonisation project, now it is energy security.

We are experiencing an energy war and this is only the beginning, because it will not end in two months. We have to know where we are going to get natural gas or coal to produce, for example, steel for our factories or fertilizer. Right now, everything is imported and at very high prices. Hydrogen is an incredible opportunity to replace fossil and imported energy, we are talking about a national energy, it is the energy of freedom.

«HyDeal Ambition six months ago was a decarbonisation project, now it is energy security»

So, can Spain achieve energy independence?

Yes, Spain has a great opportunity ahead. HyDeal Ambition could represent 50% of natural gas imports in Spain in 2050. Spain and Portugal have a historic opportunity to build their energy independence. Natural gas prices are high and we can generate it at a quarter of imported natural gas. Spain has to open its eyes, Spain has a treasure of gold and that it has to use, it is the only country that has this opportunity, because it has the sun, a unique financial, industrial and engineering system for this ecosystem.

When do you plan to lay the first stone of this project?

Construction will be in the summer of 2024.

With the current energy situation, can a preview of this roadmap for the arrival of hydrogen be produced?

A few weeks ago, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, announced a plan for a very rapid development of nuclear energy. He advanced that the construction of these plants will last 15 years, we are going to build it in three years. Sadly, solving the problem of importing Russian gas in twelve months by hydrogen cannot be. Before 2025 it would be very difficult, but we need a big mobilization to make this change. It is a historic opportunity for Spain and Europe, especially for Spain.

Spain bets on green hydrogen, other countries on nuclear, do they fear the advance of the latter?

Europe must decide what it wants. The French nuclear project is 10 GW and ours is 9.5 GW. As I said, a construction of a nuclear plant takes 15 years, now the capacity in France is old; we will be ready in three or four years. They are long years, but with 15 it is impossible to reach the European objectives of 2030.

However, the fastest is solar, in 12 months, it is modular and large installations can be built in a short time, but we only produce during the day and we need to transform those electrons into a molecule that can be stored for months and that is the hydrogen. We are talking about the new oil, because almost everything can be done and, in addition, a stable supply of energy can be achieved.

“Hydrogen is a historic opportunity for Spain and Europe, especially for Spain”

When do you expect it to be a viable economic alternative?

In 2025, the price will be 1.5 euros per kilogram and will be cheaper than diesel. For transport companies, the price of fuel is very important and if this trend occurs, the logical thing is that they change. In the case of private cars it is different, because the electrification is very advanced, but not that much. For buses and trucks it can be immediate.

At first, he spoke of sun and water to feed his energy proposal. This last natural resource is scarce in Spain, how do you intend to solve this problem?

Initially we worked in the north of Spain, and although it has not received much rain in recent months, there are more resources than in the south. The truth is that we work with the different hydrographic conferences to analyze the water situation in each place. We are only going to need 0.1% of the water used by agriculture in the country. The impact on consumption is not very great in the north, but in the south there are more problems. If we are going to use hydrogen to displace the consumption of fossil fuels, then more water will be needed and if it is in the south, for example, we will need desalination plants. If Spain has a big ambition, we need the installation of these factories. It must be said that half a liter of sea water has the same energy as a liter of oil.

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