The BarMar gas pipeline opens the door to more investments in the Vall de l'Hidrogen
For the territory, the projected BarMar is better than the discarded MidCat. The announced pipeline that will link Barcelona with Marseille to transport green hydrogen is emerging as a new investment opportunity for Tarragona in the long term.
First, yes, it will be necessary to sustainably satisfy the extremely high clean energy demand of Tarragona's petrochemical estates. "The greater production will be for our consumption, for the decarbonisation of the estate, but the fact of having the pipeline nearby can attract additional investment," explains Jordi Cartanyà, professor at the URV and coordinator of the Vall de l'Hidrogen.
With the future BarMar so close –departing from the port of Barcelona– and producing clean hydrogen in Tarragona as planned, “a favorable environment is generated, a context for others to take advantage of,” says Cartanyà.
The promoters of this valley believe that the new green corridor, designed in the midst of a European energy emergency due to the war in Ukraine, opens the door to “having foreign investment to make hydrogen here, because we will be closer to the place from which it is exported and that it gives more possibilities”, indicates Cartanyà, who gives an example: “Anyone would like to have a motorway that passes through their territory, and even more so with such a strategic infrastructure. It must be taken into account that hydrogen structures that cross Europe are being planned by a multitude, in different countries, to feed the great need that the center of the continent will have in ten years.”
Or, to put it another way, whoever wants to be a hydrogen exporter will have it easier here than elsewhere. The deadlines may seem long but they are not. From 2030, in about seven years, there could be that scenario in which new companies want to produce hydrogen in this environment with a view to being driven towards a Europe that is racing to wean itself off Russia.
“Does not limit capacity”
But the green hydrogen should arrive in Tarragona a little earlier. “This does not change our planning. The MidCat was also strategic, with the difference that it was going to transport first gas and then hydrogen, and the new tube is already designed for hydrogen," says Cartanyà.
"The greatest production will be for our consumption, but having the pipeline nearby can attract investors," admits Jordi Cartanyà, coordinator of the Vall de l'Hidrogen
Professor Maria Llop, director of the Department of Economics of the URV, considers that "in the long term it is positive for the Vall, because it does not limit the consumption capacity to the demand that there will be in Tarragona and Catalonia, but rather the new connection opens possibilities of meeting demands abroad.
Llop explains that "channeling can generate an effect of attracting new businesses and associated activities." Another challenge is to break with part of Vall's own conception, as the professor points out: "Beyond petrochemicals, the hydrogen valleys are designed to be self-sufficient ecosystems of production and consumption, and not so much to supply other zones. But if you have a pipeline for transport nearby, you are already trespassing the scope of coverage and enabling production and consumption on a larger scale.”
Torrent: "A pole of production"
Although the technical details of the submarine connection that will link Catalonia with France are still unknown, the administration celebrates this commitment. The Minister of Business, Roger Torrent, has said that the new gas pipeline will allow Catalonia "to be a pole of energy production and distribution". Torrent, as did the President, Pere Aragonès, stressed that the region will be "a key energy vector".
There are already some 140 companies with projects around this fuel. The Vall de l'Hidrogen was publicly presented a year and a half ago. The philosophy of the project has not changed but the urgencies and rhythms have. "The energy crisis resulting from the war is accelerating the transition," admits Cartanyà. There are already more than 50 projects underway of varying magnitude, from hydrogen buses to self-consumption. Perhaps the most important and the one that has materialized the most so far is the largest green hydrogen plant that there will be in Spain.
Constantine and La Pobla
On land in Constantí and La Pobla de Mafumet, next to the refinery, an electrolyser will be built to supply renewable hydrogen to the entire petrochemical complex. From there, a collector will transport that gas to the southern area to offer it to different customers through an open network. The investment is estimated at around 230 million euros for a first phase and 80 more could be added for electricity storage facilities.
"The new connection opens up possibilities to also cover demands abroad," says Maria Llop, professor and director of the Department of Economics at the URV
The project must be ready in three years, in 2025, before thinking about an eventual export. Its construction will create some 2,000 direct and indirect jobs and will generate approximately 50% of the hydrogen consumed by the Tarragona industrial estates. But that will only be in a first stage, with that 150 MW electrolyser. In a second one, which would start from 2027, the renewable hydrogen production capacity would be increased to 1 GW. The investment, according to current values, would be around 1,000 million, but it is foreseeable that the advancement of technology will reduce costs, even by up to 50%. Behind the project there is a consortium led by Repsol and made up of Enagás Renovable, IQOXE and Messer.
Own supply in Tarragona will start in 2025 but from 2030 it could be exported
Tarragona, therefore, is in a strategic enclave in this race to reduce emissions that has accelerated in the last half year. This was said by Juan Abascal, Director of Industrial Transformation and Circular Economy at Repsol, who sent an optimistic message, despite "the turbulent times we are experiencing, with energy security at stake" in "complicated years of great uncertainty".
It is not only fighting, and against the clock, against climate change and global warming. "We are facing an opportunity, because we have the support of Europe in our project to decarbonize, and with our goal of zero net emissions in 2050," added Abascal in that recent presentation of the electrolyser.
This Repsol manager also highlighted the importance of "contributing to security of supply", something that had not worried the continent until now but that overnight has come to be on edge this 2022. "Somehow, after of what has happened with Russia, Europe wants to guarantee that the hydrogen of the future comes from democratic countries”, says Jordi Cartanyà. And in this the territory has a lot to say.
The pending challenge of some renewables that must come from abroad
"The amounts of green energy that are needed make it difficult for it to be local, so perhaps we have to bring it in from outside," assumes Jordi Cartanyà, professor at the URV and coordinator of the Vall de l'Hidrogen.
One of the most complex challenges will be this supply of renewables, as explained by Tomás Malango, director of hydrogen at Repsol, at the presentation of the green energy plant that was held at the Tarragona Chamber of Commerce just a month ago: "It is necessary enough renewable energy to power hydrogen. Two or three times the consumption of the electrolyser must be installed in renewable generation, and we believe that the area of the Ebro Corridor, which brings together Navarra, Aragon, the Basque Country and Catalonia, allows creating a space for hydrogen consumption and renewable generation and being able to couple the strenghts".
Malango stressed that “it is very difficult for the same territory to have hydrogen consumption, that is, industrial development and renewable generation capacity. Therefore, interterritorial collaboration is going to be important.”
from neighboring regions
The company's hydrogen manager acknowledges that "in the northern area of the estate we are working to find local renewables, those we can get", and added: "Those we cannot get, because land use in Catalonia is highly valued , we will get them through supply contracts with neighboring regions that are as close as possible ».
All this is linked to the controversial debate that Catalonia is not doing its homework in the installation of renewable energies, or not at the same rate as other communities.