Princeton Researcher Works With Central UAI To Encourage the Production of Green Hydrogen in Chile

Apr 24 2023
By Alex Giannattasio

Public policy student and researcher at the Andlinger Center for Energy & Environment in Princeton, Alex Giannattasio, analyzes, along with academics from the Center for Energy Transition (CENTRA) of the UAI, the main weaknesses and strengths of the “National Energy Strategy Green Hydrogen.”, published by the Ministry of Energy of our country. The objective of the project is to propose for regulation and public policy that facilitate the development of the value chain of said fuel in Chile.

The study is jointly led by the CENTRA UA1 academic and senior research associate of the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the University of Bristol (UK), Dr. Francisca Jalil and the associate director of Research at CENTRA and academic of the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences of the UAI, Dr. Felipe Larrain.

In this regard, researcher Francisca Jalil assures that “this project allowed us to bring Alex, CENTRA’S first international student, who collaborates directly with the team.” And she adds: “personally, I really like working with female students at the UAI Faculty of Engineering and Sciences. It is extremely important that the energy transition is just and fair, and we hope that many more will join our initiatives. "

The authors of the study consider it key to represent the opinion and proposals of various sectors of civil society. For this reason, the work includes the main decision makers in the energy industry, academic public institutions – including government – ​​and trade union organizations. In this sense, Larraín highlights that “the UAI has established and maintains virtuous relationships with industry, the government, and various local and international academic partners. This constitutes a key asset, very attractive to foreign students, and which, without a doubt, facilitates the development of projects like this one”.

Following the results, Giannattasio will prepare —together with academics from CENTRA UAI and the Andlinger Center in Princeton—, a White Paper, which will be available to the public through the CENTRA website. The results will then be presented at a seminar, as part of a series of workshops organized by the research center.

For the purposes of this research, the Princeton student traveled to Chile to conduct interviews and learn first-hand about the guidelines to produce green hydrogen in the country.

We spoke with Alex to tell us about her experience and why she decided to investigate with the UAI.

Why did you decide to carry out this research in Chile?

In the context of growing global concern about climate change, Chile joins the list of countries committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. As part of the "nationally determined contributions", its leaders have established that the nation reach carbon neutrality by the year 2050. This objective can be achieved by combining an increase in installed capacity in renewable energies -such as solar and wind- with various technologies of energy storage, one of which is green hydrogen.

Chile is endowed with vast solar and wind renewable energy potential, particularly in the Atacama and Magallanes regions, which would make it possible to manufacture green hydrogen on an industrial scale and in a cost-effective manner. In this sense, this fuel could become one of the pillars of the decarbonization process of its energy matrix. However, the scope is even greater. Surpassing local demand, green hydrogen could be traded abroad to facilitate the energy transition of other countries.

Chile's “National Green Hydrogen Strategy” seeks to capitalize on the indicated potential, outlining plans for the development of its value chain. However, the document does not stipulate specific regulations or policies leading to the implementation of the sector on an industrial scale. For this reason, our project intends to evaluate it in the context of the current Chilean energy market, identifying the political and social conditions and the required regulatory frameworks. Through interviews with interested parties, technical visits, and literary reviews, we hope to identify regulatory barriers and propose, from a political and regulatory perspective, various measures to facilitate the realization of the strategy.

How has your research experience been in Chile?

 I really loved my time in Chile! I stayed in Santiago to facilitate the interviews, which took place throughout the city. Also, I was lucky enough to travel to Punta Arenas, where I visited the Haru Oni ​​pilot project, owned by ENEL and HIF. The project intends to demonstrate the industrial production of clean fuels from the combination of green hydrogen with CO 2 captured from the air. My visit to Punta Arenas was undoubtedly the highlight of my stay in Chile, and both Felipe and Francisca were incredibly helpful in coordinating the trip and most of the interviews. Outside of my research, I loved exploring Santiago and its surroundings. In fact, I took advantage of a weekend to visit and enjoy the Valle Nevado facilities.

What are the next steps in the development of the project?

Now I am summarizing the material obtained through interviews and that obtained through the review of the state of the art. Although the interviewees indicated various barriers and opportunities for the development of green hydrogen in Chile, I plan to evaluate these findings and their relevance for the design of public policies and regulation as I continue to develop my thesis. While I found most of the responses to my interview questions to be consistent, others differed from each other and even differed from the literature on the subject. These differences in perspective demonstrate the importance of gathering opinions and visions both from those who formulate public policies, and from those who are affected by their implementation.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our students?

Having access to the visions on how to promote the green hydrogen value chain in Chile has been a privilege, particularly since the interviewees are or have been directly involved in the process that the country is experiencing in this regard. For this reason, I invite you to be attentive to the publication of the results of this study. Furthermore, I would like to invite all UAI students to join initiatives like this, since the energy sector in Chile and the world is undergoing transformations towards sustainability that require the effort and dedication of many people.

Lastly, I would like to thank all those interviewed, the CENTRA academics and the workers of the Haru Oni ​​project: SALFA, Siemens Energy, ENEL, HIF, and many other companies. They all gave us a warm welcome in the Magallanes and taught us about the technical challenges they have had to face both in the production of green hydrogen, and in the capture of CO2, to make zero-emission synthetic fuel.