Energy transition has become essential and in efforts to reach net-zero emissions globally – Green Hydrogen presents the opportunity as the fuel for the future.Green hydrogen is created through the use of renewable power to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen electrolysis. It also can be transformed into ammonia, synthetic fuels or it can be stored in hydrogen fuel cells – offering an option to decarbonise heavy industries such as petrochemical and mining, haulage, and shipping. According to Jonathan Debasc, MD: thermal, hydrogen, desalination, and battery storage for Africa at Engie using hydrogen – particularly green hydrogen – as an energy carrier could potentially reduce South Africa’s dependence on fossil fuels that cause global warming and reduce the country’s reliance on imported oil. South Africa’s potential “Some of the best renewable energy load factors in the world and vast available land resources in the country mean that just one percent of South Africa’s land area would be sufficient to produce 10 megatonnes (Mts) of green hydrogen,” said Debasc. Green Hydrogen also requires less water for production than the current coal production – only using up 31% of current power sector use. With the ability to desalinate in coastal areas – hydrogen production could potentially aid water security in the country.
According to the National Business Initiative (NBI), Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Decarbonising South Africa’s Power Systems report, South Africa is able to offer a highly competitive production cost of hydrogen – below 1.60 $/kg by 2030 – which has the potential to make South Africa one of the largest global exporters of green hydrogen and green fuels if the country is able to effectively harness these capabilities.In turn, this will create employment opportunities and drive broader economic growth. Creating a hydrogen economy could add between $3.9-billion and $8.8-billion to South Africa’s gross domestic product by 2050 and create between 14 000 and 30 000 jobs each year, according to the Hydrogen Valley Feasibility Study Report released in October by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), Anglo American Platinum, clean energy solutions provider Bambili Energy, and ENGIE. Ongoing technological innovations and advancements will assist with accessing more affordable sources of green hydrogen production and create opportunities for growth at scare such as the ability to ability to create demand for metals – especially Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) such as platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium, and ruthenium – and support the sustainable extraction, processing, and recycling of PGMs. “South Africa hosts approximately three-quarters of the global reserves of PGMs in its Bushveld Igneous Complex, and these metals are not only critical in industrial and medical applications but also form a key input into proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technologies. These technologies mean that the chemical energy of fuels can be directly converted to electricity in a highly efficient way and with low greenhouse gas emissions” said Debasc. “There is a good reason that green hydrogen is increasingly regarded as the fuel of the future: it brings a wealth of opportunities to act as a catalyst for South Africa’s economic growth and recovery as well as the country’s ability to transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient, and inclusive future,” Debasc concludes.