Brazil has a huge potential to develop a sustainable hydrogen industry that could boost its economy, contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and comply with global climate agreements.
Hydrogen is a widely used element that can be obtained from various sources. In the energy sector, it can be produced from highly polluting fossil fuels, such as brown and gray hydrogen, or through renewable sources, such as green or sustainable hydrogen. The latter is seen as the fuel of the future and is attracting the attention of both the federal government and the business sector, as well as workers and specialists.
On May 11th, the Environment Commission of the Chamber of Deputies in Brazil hosted a debate on sustainable hydrogen, where the director of the Energy Transition Department of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Mariana Espécie, presented the perspectives pointed out by the Energy Research Company (EPE). Espécie revealed that Brazil has more than 20 billion dollars in projects announced for the hydrogen industry, with opportunities involving several technological routes. The National Hydrogen Program (PNH) is being structured to guide public policies and technological bias for the sector. This program is awaiting the appointment of the management committee and the end of the analysis of contributions received in the public consultation that ended in February. The next step, according to Mariana Espécie, will be the publication of the three-year work plan (2023/25).
According to Paulo Emílio de Miranda, the president of the Brazilian Hydrogen Association (ABH2), there is space and a market for all production and use options, and the fossil fuel industry could produce low-carbon hydrogen on a large scale in Brazil if it takes care of carbon sequestration. The Brazilian states have already announced hubs for the production and storage of hydrogen, and subsidies for the sector are needed, as is the case in the United States.
One of the challenges to overcome is the low supply of specialized workers, according to Alexandre Vaz Castro, from the Federal Council of Chemistry (CFQ). “It is a huge challenge, and time is short. We need to produce people with the conditions, competence, and capacity to develop and evolve this agenda,” he said. Meanwhile, the Environment Manager at the National Confederation of Industry (CNI), Davi Bomtempo, reinforced the relevance of sustainable hydrogen in the sector’s decarbonization strategies and in efforts for Brazil to comply with climate agreements and join the OECD, a select group of countries committed to the market economy. The CNI and the Brazilian Association of Photovoltaic Solar Energy (Absolar) demanded the regulation of hydrogen in Brazil.
The Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation has already launched initiatives to support sustainable hydrogen, such as the Brazilian Hydrogen Initiative (IBH2), focused on technological development and the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship; and the Brazilian System of Hydrogen Laboratories (SisH2), which already has 13 candidate research centers, some of them linked to universities, such as the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN).
In summary, Brazil has a huge potential to develop a sustainable hydrogen industry. However, to make it happen, the country needs to invest in public policies, technological development, and the training of specialized workers. Furthermore, regulatory frameworks are essential to guarantee a national strategy, sectors for final use, investments in infrastructure, incentive measures, requirements, and standards for use.