Pilot project in Chile: With rough winds to eFuels

Status: 11.09.2021 3:50 p.m.

A pilot plant is being launched in southern Chile to produce climate-neutral fuel with the help of wind energy and hydrogen. Porsche, Siemens and the federal government want to promote climate neutrality far away from Germany.

By Matthias Ebert, ARD Studio Rio de Janeiro

In the province of Magallanes in southern Chile, where countless islands are off the coast, a strong wind blows all year round. For years hardly anyone was interested – after all, Magallanes is remote from the rest of Chile and the rest of the world. But in the course of ambitious climate protection goals, Germany has its eye on the rough coastal region and hopes to be able to implement part of its strategy of climate neutrality there.

Funding of millions by the federal government

There are still a few wind turbines turning on the coast there. But soon it should be 700 and generate a lot of electricity. The German project is called “Haru Oni”. According to the operators, it is the world’s first commercial production facility for synthetic, CO2-neutral fuels.

Siemens and Porsche played a key role in driving the project forward and celebrated the groundbreaking yesterday. The federal government is also adding funds so that “green hydrogen and its secondary products can be sustainably produced using technologies Made in Germany,” as Economics Minister Peter Altmaier put it. Of the investment costs of the first phase of 35 million euros, 8.2 million euros come from the federal government.

Siemens is building the wind turbines in Chile that supply the electricity to split water into its components oxygen and hydrogen by electrolysis. The hydrogen obtained in this way is then used to produce climate-neutral fuel. In 2022, 130,000 liters of the so-called “eFuels” are to be produced in this way. After that, the plant is to grow gradually.

Capacity is expected to grow strongly by 2026

The operators do not expect to make money with green hydrogen before 2025. The capacity is to be expanded to 550 million liters by 2026. From 2030, a Porsche could be powered by a climate-neutral combustion engine if it doesn’t drive electrically.

The problem with eFuels is energy efficiency. So far, this has lagged behind the efficiency of battery-powered vehicles many times over. The hope is that the energy balance will improve if more eFuels are produced in places around the world where renewable energies are in abundance – such as in Chile’s stormy south.

But it will take some time until that happens. To start with, the carbon-neutral fuel produced by Germany in the southern hemisphere is to be used primarily in motorsport or in Porsche’s customer centers. Because there is still a lack of efficient international supply chains so that later, for example, heavy goods vehicles can be supplied with eFuels on a large scale. At least you can already rely on the constant winds in the rough coastal region of Magallanes.

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