Porto do Açu changes management to accelerate energy transition – offshore wind

(Valor) Prumo Logística wants to attract low-carbon businesses to Porto do Açu, in São João da Barra, in the north of the state of Rio de Janeiro. With the energy transition, the company will take advantage of its experience in supporting the exploration and production of oil and gas to support the development of offshore wind power generation, an incipient industry in Brazil. To this end, starting this month, the oil sector executive Tadeu Fraga leaves the presidency of Prumo, a position that will be assumed by Rogério Zampronha, with experience in renewables.

Given its location close to the Campos and Santos basins, responsible for most of the volume produced in Brazil, Açu currently concentrates activities in the oil and gas sector. In addition to having suppliers and service providers for exploration and production, the port was responsible for exporting 125 million barrels of oil in 2021, about 30% of the volume exported by the country.

According to Fraga, the first phase of development of Açu, which foresaw the attraction of oil and gas businesses, is advanced. Now, the company wants to attract other sources of energy, in addition to developing industries in the port area, which has 90,000 square kilometers available. Prumo’s bet on offshore wind is related to synergies with the oil sector. “The logistics hub for the oil and gas sector fits the logic of what will be needed for offshore wind. It’s a matter of replicating the model”, says Fraga, who is now on Prumo’s board of directors.

Zampronha, recently left the presidency of Omega Desenvolvimento, a wind, solar and small hydroelectric power company. Zampronha explains that one of the objectives he will have in his post will be to establish a renewable energy hub in Açu. “We want to attract manufacturers and act as a logistical base for offshore wind projects that are within a radius of 250 kilometers from the port. There are about 12 GW [gigawatts] of offshore wind projects under licensing that are within this radius and that need a logistical base to operate,” says Zampronha.

In addition to acting as a logistical support point for projects on the Brazilian coast, Açu also has the potential to develop offshore generation within the port area. Prumo has started licensing to develop offshore wind projects that add up to 2.1 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in the maritime area of ​​the port, in addition to 220 megawatts (MW) of onshore solar generation. Zampronha explains that, despite the wind potential in the region being below the Northeast, the projects would have competitiveness due to their proximity to the center of consumption, the Southeast, which would avoid the construction of large transmission lines to drain energy.

According to him, the cost of construction, operation and maintenance of offshore wind farms in Açu may be lower than in the Northeast, due to the proximity to the infrastructure of the oil sector and to manufacturers of turbines for onshore wind farms installed in the country.

There is still no offshore wind power generation in Latin America. The source is mainly present in the United States, North Sea and Asia. In Brazil, the government is discussing specific regulation for the sector. Zampronha highlights that Prumo’s operations at the source will take place through partnerships and will depend on the regulatory framework defined in the country. For him, given the current stage of regulatory discussions, the projects should take at least six years to start operating in the country.

Since the American fund EIG took control of Prumo, in 2013, the company has established a strategy of working in partnerships to attract activities to the Port of Açu. The gas thermoelectric generation park, for example, was built and operated by Gás Natural Açu (GNA), a partnership between Prumo, BP, Siemens and SPIC Brasil. In 2021, the companies inaugurated the first thermoelectric plant of the project, with a capacity of 1.3 gigawatts (GW). After the start-up of the second plant, already under construction, the complex will be the largest in Latin America in terms of thermal generation, with an installed capacity of 3 GW.

Zampronha recalls that the availability of natural gas, through the regasification vessel that feeds the plants, should help attract new industries to Açu. He points out that there is also potential for receiving gas at the port of the pre-salt fields.

For him, another source that can gain space in Açu is hydrogen, considered as a substitute for liquid fossil fuels in the energy transition. Hydrogen demands a large volume of energy in manufacturing, so the proximity to generation sources, as well as natural gas, facilitates development. “The hydrogen market is moving at a good speed, which should be accelerated due to the dependence of European countries on gas from Russia. Producing hydrogen is not that complex, but using it and transporting it on a large scale is,” he explains.

There is also the prospect of taking biomass projects to Açu, for the cogeneration of energy with sugarcane bagasse, in addition to the export of wooden pallets, given the proximity to the production of sugarcane and wood. The greater logistical integration of Açu with the rest of the country can facilitate the attraction of projects, points out the new president. At the beginning of 2022, Prumo delivered studies for the expansion of access roads to the port, in addition to having signed the public-private partnership contract for the construction of the railroad that will connect Açu to the national network.

For the time being, the IPO, a possibility suggested in recent years, is put aside. Zampronha says that Prumo is waiting for a favorable moment in the market, which should not happen this year. “Going public is not an obsession,” he says.

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