Philip Julien

Philip Julien, left, the founder of NewGen, the hydrogen start-up to be based on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, with Richard Dyson, the CEO of io consulting, the company that is doing the Front-End Engineering Design for the project, shortly after the signing of the contract for the job.

WHILE hydrogen is being positioned as the next phase of T&T’s energy transition, the man behind the Point Lisas-based project says it may take until mid-2024 to start construction on the plant.

That means T&T can’t realistically expect hydrogen production to begin until about 2025.

NewGen, the hydrogen start-up to be based on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, was granted outline planning approval by the Ministry of Planning and Development last December, according to its managing director of the hydrogen start-up, Philip Julien.

“And, as a result of that approval, we are uploading our Certificate of Environmental Compliance (CEC) Application. Our Environmental Approvals Journey has now begun,” said Julien.

In an interview with Express Business, Julien spoke about bringing the project to fruition and how it dovetails with the country’s own commitment to COP26 goals.

New Gen is a subsidiary of Kenesjay Green Limited (KGL).

Julien described KGL as “an energy revolution company dedicated to developing a pipeline of green decarbonising projects within the Caribbean region”.

Its flagship project is the US$300 million NewGen Hydrogen Project, being designed to provide approximately 27,000 metric tonnes per year (mtpy) of carbon-neutral hydrogen for the ultimate benefit of the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.

“The NewGen Project is one of the much needed additional sources of hydrogen that can help compensate for the growing deficit of natural gas, along with the other possibilities such as cross-border and deepwater gas supply. In fact, the NewGen supply can be considered as an upstream source – of cleaner feedstock for our petrochemical plants. It will also be commercially competitive on a global scale, and it’s not rocket science to figure out why. In this instance, the electrolysis of the NewGen facility will be powered primarily from electricity to be generated from existing waste heat, and the resulting hydrogen would be fed directly to the Tringen ammonia plant which is physically adjacent to the proposed NewGen site, thereby eliminating the logistics associated with the transport and sale of hydrogen,” he said.

“When you compare that against most of the rest of the world, who will have to lay down millions of dollars of renewable energy generation and infrastructure to monetise and export the hydrogen itself, well, from a fundamental level, one should be able to ascertain that NewGen has a competitive advantage on the global scale, and is destined to be one of the lowest carbon-neutral hydrogen cost producers in the world,” said Julien.

For now, NewGen has io consulting performing preliminary FEED (Front-End Engineering Design)services to continue to move project development along.

Julien explained that this includes their assistance in helping the company evaluate the optimal electrolysis technology provider from the number of bids that it has received.

He observed that international and local investor interest remain high and actively engaged. But in his view, the NewGen Project needs to be accelerated.

How?

There is no hydrogen policy in place as yet.

“We are optimistic that the Government will continue to work on ways to do so, through for example, an accelerated completion of T&T’s Hydrogen Policy. We believe that that will unlock many avenues to accelerate this project’s development,” he said.

He noted that there is a tremendous governmental, commercial and technical thrust to birth the New Hydrogen frontier - hydrogen that is generated with no or low carbon footprint.

“And locally, in T&T, there is also a growing urgency from an economic perspective – and that is in relation to the business reality that T&T’s petrochemical industry has been operating in a below nameplate capacity for some time now, due to gas supply constraints, with no immediate or guaranteed remedies in the near future,” he said.

Julien believes that not only will T&T be served by a thrust into hydrogen, but the region as well.

He said for quite some time, Caricom has been sitting on an unrealised potential Renewable Energy (RE) supply of 24 Giga Watt (GW).

“That’s 24,000 Mega Watt (MW), which is the same consumption as roughly 17 Trinidad and Tobagos. And many of us know that the reason why so much remains untapped, is that there has not been a market sufficiently commercially robust and large enough on each island, to justify the substantial investment associated with the harnessing of this renewable energy,” he observed.

“All of this is about to change. Enter, demand—more specifically, T&T’s demand. By that I mean, approximately 175MW is the NewGen Project electricity consumption capacity, which will allow us to generate 27,000 mtpy of carbon-neutral hydrogen. And while that sounds like a lot—and it is—the reality is that today, Point Lisas has a 400,000 mtpy gap of hydrogen generation through the natural gas curtailment challenge.

“So, if you do the math, it doesn’t take long to recognise that, if we were to fill that gap with purely carbon-neutral and green hydrogen, it would take at least 2.5GW of non-intermittent renewable energy, that T&T could never hope to fill on its own. And if we’re trying to fill that gap with intermittent RE supply such as solar and wind, plus RE storage, we’re talking an installed capacity of over 10GW! So, on one hand, you have a potential supply of 24GW; on the other hand, you have an existing demand of 2.5 GW, at least from one island (Trinidad) – and that island isn’t buying the electricity for home consumers—its buying it for international green commodity sales, whether it be ammonia or methanol—all of which will attract a greater premium than domestic consumers, thanks in part to initiatives such as COP26,” he said.

Government policy on hydrogen

In a speech last month at the Energy Chamber’s sustainable energy conference, Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis outlined the Government’s position on hydrogen:

It is common knowledge that the European Green Deal is poised to implement Carbon Border Adjustment Measures or CBAM, which would be a tax on imports of goods depending on the carbon content of its raw materials and manufacturing processes. As the fourth largest exporter of fertilizers to the European Union, and a prolific user of so-called grey hydrogen extracted from natural gas -a fossil fuel, to manufacture ammonia, Trinidad and Tobago is therefore likely to attract a border carbon tax. Generating green hydrogen from water using renewable energy will not only reduce or exempt our products from such taxes but actually increase the prospects of fetching premium international prices.

Utilising this method not only preserves some of our petrochemical industries, but also can open up other areas of business such as hydrogen as a shipping fuel for export. Additional manufacturing opportunities lie in renewable energy components such as solar panels or wind turbines, high-efficiency light emitting diode or LED bulbs as other examples. Trinidad and Tobago is already well placed in this regard with already advanced infrastructure and workforce.

- Saudi Arabia, which can single handedly control the price of oil, recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Germany to supply them with Green Hydrogen. They therefore understand the potential and this should be instructive for Trinidad and Tobago.

- Provides opportunity for filling the natural gas shortfall and also additional potential to be exported as tomorrow’s fuel;

- Trinidad and Tobago already has the infrastructure and expertise and therefore a strong head start;

- With proper planning Trinidad and Tobago can become the Green Hydrogen hub in the Americas;

- All the necessary factors have largely been satisfied for this: water for hydrogen sourxe (we are an island after all!) And with experience in desalination; sunlight and wind as renewable energy source; and infrastructure;

- All that is required is bold, innovative and transformative thinking and action, and political will;

- Government, whose main role is facilitator, is prepared to provide the necessary investment climate to create a perpetual booming economy given the future demand for green fuel.

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU