Energy challenges

The oil and gas industry’s long-term targets will be drastically shaped by their capacity of adapting to the challenges related to environmental sustainability. In the long term, the oil industry will need to cope with strong Governmental and Institutional push towards Decarbonisation and Energy Transition, and an increasingly larger share of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) will become dominant in the global energy mix. Players in the sector will have to develop new strategies and invest in new capabilities to adapt, and to find long-term alternatives to oil. In Europe and Japan, hydrogen has become the poster child of sustainability and epitomizes the best alternative to fossil fuels, not only powering up cars, airplanes, and ships in the future but also the national grid.

The Green Deal, backed by the European Commission, will offer major financial benefits to companies with large footprints in Europe, helping the energy transition towards a carbon-free and sustainable society. Europe’s new financial investments in the hydrogen sector will be the bellwether of the overall European energetic transition strategy[1] which aims at lowering overall CO2 emissions of 78% by 2050[2].

Saras is committed to establishing an ecologically and socially responsible energetic system, and it has been working to expand its wind and solar energies generation capacity, as well as planning the development of green hydrogen production capabilities.

Furthermore, at the end of April 2021, Saras acquired two wind farms located in Macchiareddu (Cagliari), for a total installed capacity of 45MW with an average annual output of approx. 58 GWh/year. These cover the needs of around 20,000 families and avoid the emissions of 38,000 tonnes/year of CO2. Saras Group’s mid-term renewable expansion plan foresees the construction of 50 to 100 MW of photovoltaic and 200 to 250MW of wind capacity by 2024. These targets will be achieved through the development of greenfield projects located in Sardinia, with the goal of reaching up to 500MW of total installed capacity.

Important European players like Saras, believe in the building of a social and economic capacity capable of facing an incumbent and future threats together with local communities. The commitment towards this goal is demonstrated by investments in new technologies, more efficient types of machinery, and also by its dedication to ensuring the wellbeing of the local communities.

During the toughest period of the pandemic crisis, Saras decided to donate the fuels used by Sardinia’s ambulances and medical staff fighting against the Covid-19 virus. The group‘s responsible pledge of a greener future means also protecting the community and the people living within.

Long term

EU has set its eyes on the widespread use of hydrogen across Europe, in view of powering European households, Industries, and transports with this medium. Green hydrogen is a 100% greenhouse gasses free energy source as it is produced using electrolyzers powered with renewable energy. One significant advantage of green hydrogen is that surplus renewable energies can be used in converting water to long-term storable hydrogen. In many countries, renewable sources have to be curtailed as their peak generation time coincides with the least power consumption. This gives birth to two main phenomena: first, energy generation and consumption, instead of being one flat line, where supply and demand integrate perfectly, take a duck-shaped curve where production falls when the demand rises and vice versa. Second, to prevent a grid surcharge, electric providers have to curtail renewable energy generators effectively wasting this energy.

Green hydrogen represents a solution to these two issues as it can be stored for long periods of time. For these reasons, many have set their eyes on developing more efficient electrolyzers and renewable energy production systems. Green hydrogen has become a hot financial topic making Europe a catalyst for this sector. Big offshore wind farms built off the coasts of Belgium and the Netherlands, are set to become the main driver of new electrolysis plants in Northern Europe. Total and Engie have joined efforts in Southern France in building Europe’s biggest green hydrogen plant, that when fully operational will have a production capacity of up to 15 tonnes per day of H2.

Southern Sardinia is also entering the game thanks to the optimal meteorological condition and forward looking industry players. The island is blessed by sun and wind all year round, making it the ideal spot for producing renewable energy to be used in powering green hydrogen plants.

As a matter of fact, the company’s commitment towards the production of sustainable energy started at the end of 2005, with the construction of a wind park comprising 42 aerogenerators with an installed capacity of 72MW in Ulassai, Sardinia. The site has been subsequently expanded over the years, reaching in 2019 a total of 15 additional units making Ulassai the second-largest wind park in Italy, with an electric production of 225 GWh/year, which covers the annual electricity needs of around 165,000 people, and avoids emissions of CO2 of approx. 145,000 tonnes/year. In 2020, the original 48 aerogenerators in Ulassai started a reading program aimed at replacing the original blades with newer, longer, and more efficient ones, which by the end of 2021, will improve the production output by 33 GWh/year, a 14.6% improvement.

The Future of RES

Along with the developments in RES technologies, Saras Group is also studying the development of Green Hydrogen production. For this reason, In February 2021 Saras and Enel Greenpower signed an agreement to study and evaluate the construction of a 20MW electrolyzer plant at Saras’ refinery in Sarroch, to produce green hydrogen. Enel Green Power will supply the renewable electricity needed to power the plant, which will produce about 4 kNcm/hour of H2 and 2 kNcm/hour of O2.

Saras refinery plant in Sarroch has over 60 years of experience and capabilities in hydrogen production and handling. As of today, Saras already produces grey hydrogen at Sarroch refinery, from the IGCC plant and the Reforming units, generating around 120 kNcm/hour. This technological expertise can be very valuable in the development of further green hydrogen production, which will propel future cars and trucks, as well as households and industries in a sustainable manner.

Hydrogen as well as LNG and other types of gasses are better moved at sea. Not only is much more convenient from an economic perspective but also from a security standpoint. The first liquid hydrogen (LH2) carrier was christened just a few days before Christmas 2019 in Japan and will serve on the Kobe to Port of Hastings route, transporting blue LH2 produced in Australia to its homeport in Japan. This marks a new era of highly advanced tankers moving back and forth from a handful of producing hubs to the rest of the world. These ships will have to face many operational challenges and security concerns in particular during the loading and unloading phases.

Saras has developed over the year a remarkable track record of operational safety at its plant, capable of accommodating up to 300,000DTW tankers. This is proof of its capacity of enabling complex operations in complete safety for the personnel involved and the environment. LH2 tankers will probably be on the next page of the tanking shipping book and Saras tick all the boxes to be a relevant actor in this sector.

New security requirements will call for even more specialized and qualified land-based tankers services, opening up new business opportunities for tankers service agencies. Star Sardinia, will surely be there too, having evolved from offering its services to the relatively small oil tankers of 30 years ago to the modern spaceships like LPG carriers, focused on offering quality and efficiency to its clients, as its 40 years in business confirms. The professionality and experience of its staff have made Star Sardinia an important actor in the ship service sector, oriented to solving problems and efficiency. The agency’s knowledge of the regulations and the legislative frameworks has helped many ships calling port in Sardinia, also supporting the change towards the respect of the environment, promoting the respect of the environment.

Conclusion

Saras’ innovative push towards the reduction of CO2 emissions and in the production of cleaner energy sources set the right conditions in ensuring a sustainable future for the Sardinian environment and economic vitality. As oil and gas will be increasingly phased out in the long term, it is important to start integrating, as Saras is doing, the production of fossil fuels, biofuels, renewable energies, and green hydrogen. The local Sardinian tanker shipping sector will thrive from these challenges if they will be able to adapt to the new environment. Sardinia’s future will be increasingly green and Star Sardinia is there nurturing young skilled professionals, providing its precious knowledge to its customers like Saras, ship owners, charterers as well as other local industries.

[1] https://www.fch.europa.eu/sites/default/files/Hydrogen%20Roadmap%20Europe_Report.pdf

[2] https://www.fch.europa.eu/sites/default/files/Hydrogen%20Roadmap%20Europe_Report.pdf