Tile industry reluctant over green hydrogen

The current government anti-crisis package included millions of dollars, and one of the recipients was the tile industry. The Executive on Tuesday approved 950 million euros in aid for gas-intensive businesses, including the ceramic industry, 450 million euros in gas price compensation, and 500 million euros in ICO loans. A green hydrogen is an option.

They want to answer to the demands of a sector that has been complaining about the suffocation that the skyrocketing price of gas has caused for months with the initiative, which is directed not just at tile firms but at all industries that require gas to operate, such as paper, glass, iron, or steel.

In the instance of the ceramic industry, they assert that rising energy costs would endanger business viability, a point they conveyed to Sánchez in a meeting in November. The employer, Ascer, highlighted how they had recorded a dip in exports of 11%, a decrease in output of 15%, and the loss of 400 jobs in the balance of the year that was given a few days ago.

Vicente Nomdedeu, the president of Ascer, also cautioned attendees that the situation was severe and that if it persisted for another two years, there would be “irreparable ramifications.” They ask the government to permit the breaking of gas contracts without penalty or to work on the purchase of gas at the source, among other measures. According to the sector, “looking for inexpensive gas should be an obligation and a duty for the entire Spanish gas-intensive business,” he said.

Greener options

The ceramic industry uses 8% of all industrial gas in Spain, and according to the association, this year’s energy costs will be 2,150 million euros greater than they would be in 2020. They cautioned attendees that there are now no alternatives, not even green hydrogen, which Sanchez lists as one of the future’s energy answers. The sector reminds LM that their companies require “a considerable thermal intensity” during the cooking stage of their industrial processes, and “at this time, we can do it only through the use of natural gas.”

They note that “although most companies are clear about how to obtain 100% renewable electricity, the same does not happen with thermal energy generation,” adding that “we do not have short-term options that allow us to replace it and considerably reduce emissions.”

Renewable gases like green hydrogen and biomethane, which are promoted as future substitutes, “are still in an embryonic phase and are not practical in the short-medium term” for use in the ceramic industry, they claim. “We do not have the technology today that allows us to make the switch from gas to alternative energy sources,” the industry admits, despite working on pilot projects like a hydrogen plant to determine its economic viability and conducting testing with electric furnaces.

Thus, natural gas would be their only option for the tile industry, and the future would be dismal. They also bring up the issue of cost when it comes to green hydrogen: even though the gap between it and gas is closing due to skyrocketing prices, hydrogen still needs “the necessary investment in generation, processing, storage, and distribution” in addition to “the replacement of all the machinery we use in our processes.”

Regarding a different potential option, biogas, they stress that its usage might be quicker because it wouldn’t require technological adaption, but keep in mind that output right now is obviously insufficient: “The Biogas Roadmap’s target of producing 10.4 TWh by 2030 falls short of meeting even 3% of Spain’s 2021 annual natural gas demand. Only our industry uses 17TWh every year.”