In November 2021, during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the Government scored a key victory: it announced with great fanfare that the Australian company Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) would invest US$ 8.4 billion in Argentina to produce green hydrogen. This would be accompanied by the creation of 15 thousand direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs.
A year and a half later, the company is waiting for the Government to send to Congress the law for the creation of the Hydrogen Promotion Regime, which will allow to start developing this activity and its logistics, unprecedented in the country.
The initiative has been ready and waiting for months in the office of the Economy Minister, Sergio Massa. In fact, its development was in the hands of the former Minister of Production, Matias Kulfas. It was announced by Massa himself on more than one occasion and even by Alberto Fernández at the opening of the ordinary sessions. There is an opposition agreement to support the measure, although the context of paralysis of the Congress does not help either.
Meanwhile, the company is moving forward with an environmental, social and engineering impact study for the Pampas Project in Río Negro, which will be completed in September of this year. But if this regulation does not come out, it will be impossible for them to continue advancing: they need a regulatory framework that provides stability and allows, among other things, access to credit from international organizations such as the CAF or the IDB.
Green hydrogen is a type of energy obtained through a process in which hydrogen is separated from water (hydrolysis) by means of renewable energies. In the case of Fortescue it will be through wind energy due to the good wind conditions in the south of the country.
In a context of climate urgency, with growing demand for clean energies, green hydrogen is of strategic importance. According to estimates by the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN), the demand for this fuel could grow 7 times by 2050.
"In Argentina there is a need to generate green energy, infrastructure, ports, hydrogen processing plants. The potential is very strong and worthwhile but we need the regulatory framework to enable this type of investment. At this point we would have liked to have another speed," explained to TN one of the directors of Fortescue in the Buenos Aires offices.
"We need the law, but not just any law, but the one needed by all those who want to develop this activity in Argentina. Competitive access to the dollar market, tax exemption, the possibility of superimposing free zone benefits and promotion law, 30-year fiscal stability, that hydrogen exports are not prohibited," he added.
In response to rumors that Fortescue would abandon its operations in Argentina in order to strengthen the project in Brazil, the company denied these versions. However, they did point out that the scenario in the neighboring country is much more favorable. "Brazil already has a green hydrogen law and a much larger renewable energy market. We are not going to have to develop our own energy as we do here, they have a port, there are other companies. Lula is in it head first.
This Thursday and Friday will be held in Rio Negro the Global Green Hydrogen Forum. An international sectorial meeting where companies and national experts will participate, but also officials such as the Secretary of Energy, Flavia Royón and the Secretary of Climate Change, Cecilia Nicolini.
Beyond the importance of the forum being organized in the country for the positioning of Argentina in hydrogen matters, there are expectations for announcements that could be made by the Government to accelerate operations.