Colombia's Ecopetrol starts green hydrogen project in Cartagena

The logo of Ecopetrol is pictured at its headquarters in Bogota, Colombia August 11, 2017. Picture taken August 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

BOGOTA, March 18 (Reuters) - Colombia's majority state-owned oil producer and energy company Ecopetrol (ECO.CN) on Friday launched its first green-hydrogen pilot project at its refinery in the Caribbean city of Cartagena, it said in a statement.

Using a 50-kilowatt Proton Exchange Membrane electrolyzer, 270 solar panels, and water used by the refinery, Ecopetrol will produce 20 kg (44 lb) of high-purity green hydrogen -- which is made by splitting water -- each day during the three-month pilot project, it said.

"We are announcing a robust portfolio of initiatives that seek to develop (the hydrogen) industry in this country," Ecopetrol Chief Executive Felipe Bayon said in the statement.

The company will invest around $140 million each year through 2040 -- taking total investment to some $2.5 billion -- to produce zero- and low-emission hydrogen, it said, adding that hydrogen it produces will be used for its own operations, in low-carbon products for sale in Colombia and abroad, as well as other uses.

Last June, Colombia's Minister of Mines and Energy Diego Mesa told Reuters the country would develop the production and use of hydrogen as a long-term clean energy source, including tax deductions to encourage participation by private sector businesses.

"Today marks a historic milestone in the energetic transition," Mesa said in the statement, adding that the country hoped to develop between two and three gigawatts of electrolysis for hydrogen production over the next 10 years.

Reporting by Oliver Griffin; editing by Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.