Jan 27, 2012
Engineering|Washington|Africa|Energy|Engineering News|Flow|Gas|Highveld Steel|Mining Weekly|Platinum|Renewable Energy|Renewable-Energy|Vanadium|Waste|Water|Africa|America|Americas|China|Japan|Namibia|South Africa|United States|USD|Barrack Obama|Electricity|Energy|Flow|Mining|Renewable Energy|Shale Gas|Steel|Waste Electricity|Environmental|Martin Creamer|Waste|Water|Engineering News
© Reuse this
Gwala: South Africa is set to benefit from its strong position in vanadium, which is being developed to store electricity. Tell us about that.
Creamer: South Africa at one stage was the biggest miners of vanadium. We do that out at Highveld Steel and Vanadium. The good news now coming out of China is that China wants to develop vanadium flow batteries. It wants to do that to store electricity.
Now, we notoriously waste electricity, we don’t do much storing of electricity that is why at night we have been trying to have the Drakensberg Water Scheme so that when no one is using electricity, we use it to pump the water up the mountain and then when the demand comes, we let it go down the mountain and generate the electricity. So, batteries have been looked at for a long time, but those hydro-schemes are few and far between and they are expensive.
At the moment, I think our storage in the world is about 1 000 MW or something like that. China is looking and this is a phenomenal number. Initially China gave the impression that they would look to store renewable energy, in other words, when the wind didn’t blow, they’d have energy, because they would have stored it while the wind was blowing.
When the sun was shining, they would have stored it so that they can have it when its not shining. People were working on a storage type of business that would have been related to renewal, but the Chinese have shaken their heads with this new test facility they just put in in December.
They are testing three types of storage facilities and saying that they are looking at storing 10% of all the electricity that China generates. The total picture which people are now saying if this happens in the next seven years as the Chinese are planning it gives birth to a trillion dollar plus industry.
People are having to move fast now to try and see how they can add to this. We know that the Americas are also looking at a lot of storage of electricity. Even last year this time Barrack Obama, when he was introduced to this vanadium flow battery, said that it is one of the coolest things his every looked at.
So, everybody is starting to consider the storage of energy and South Africa is very well placed. We have already got the platinum as we have been discussing here that can work on fuel-cells. This is also a type of fuel-cell, vanadium also a type of catalyst.
Perhaps this park that the government wants to establish, they are looking at some sort of Silicon Valley of platinum. Perhaps they could include other metals and minerals like vanadium, because after all Silicon Valley doesn’t really apply to silicon, it’s all high-tech stuff.
Gwala: Staying with matters surrounding energy, the US government is now offering South Africa’s free insights into the money-making shale-gas business.
Creamer: This is the second part of the dialogue with the US. It began in Washington last year, when the energy bodies of South Africa and US had a dialogue and now its continued this month in South Africa. The Americans are saying are saying that they have gone through the whole know-how process of shale-gas, they are a developed economy and they know the sort of environmental safeguards that are needed, the health standard etc.
We have got shale gas in the Karoo and they understand that the environmentalists are upset and they are stopping the process at the moment. The US Department of Energy, they have got a whole lot of know-how and recommendations how to overcome these environmental issues and they are prepared to share those with us.
This is something that South Africa should take up, because a developed world country like America has gone from zero to hero in shale gas in 12 years. At the turn of the century there was hardly any shale gas, because there wasn’t the technology to do it.
With the technological breakthrough, the fracking, of course, America has now 30% of its natural gas coming from shale gas. We can see a tremendous potential. We are sitting in the Karoo here they are talking about one of the biggest deposits of shale gas possibly 485-trillion cubic feet.
That has to be firmed up. Now we have got this helping hand saying let us give you a start on this, because we have gone through the process already and we know how valuable this. It is a miracle story, could make a lot of money for South Africa, and, of course, we also have to satisfy the environmental imperatives and hopefully with the help of the Department of Energy of the United States we can do so painlessly.
Gwala: Now, for a bit of a sad story really, after less then two years, South Africa’s one and only orbiting satellite has been declared dead and the space mission is now being wound up.
Creamer: It was a short-lived SumbandilaSat. It was smacked by a burst of solar radiation in mid-year last year. Of course, they have been trying to make contact with it, but fruitlessly. Now they have decided that they must just give up on that space mission.
So that space mission is being wound up. People are starting to ask how much did it cost? Initially we were told that the satellite was very cheap, R11-million.
It came out of the private sector. We have had SunSat, which was a private sector satellite that went up in the 90s and that was developed by Stellenbosch University. When it came to this new SunSat business being set-up they also developed and designed this satellite very cheaply.
Initially the figure of R11-million was raised then R26-million, but they have now calculated everything and they are saying that it cost about R100-million. When they look to the next satellite, which they will launch in a few years time, the budget is going to be much higher. They are now talking about R400-million for the next one. So, we can see a big step up on this. They claim that they had 1 000 or so images from the previous one that where usable.
They gave the images of the floods in Namibia and the tsunami in Japan. There was this earth observation imaging that we benefitted from. It is not all a loss situation, but still the transparency around how much these things cost will need to be far greater in future.
Gwala: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Updated 3 minutes ago Thailand Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association (Tapma) president Achana Limpaitoon has expressed interest in partnering and forming joint ventures (JVs) with the organisation’s South African counterparts to grow the automotive manufacturing industries of both...
Updated 1 hour 10 minutes ago Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies has issued, for public comment, the application for the designation of an industrial development zone (IDZ) at Tshiame, in Harrismith, in the Free State, as well as the granting of an operator’s permit for an IDZ. The...
Updated 1 hour 53 minutes ago Tullow Oil drifted into the red after writing off more than $400-million in exploration costs but the Africa-focused explorer remained confident that its strategy will pay off. A disappointing run of oil wells exploration in Mauritania, Ethiopia and Norway over the...
Recent Research Reports
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Road and Rail 2014 (PDF Report)
This six-page brief covers key developments in the road and rail industries over the past 12 months, including details of South Africa’s road and rail network and prospects for both sectors.
Real Economy Insight: Steel 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the steel industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the global and South African steel and stainless steel markets, South Africa’s major steel producers and events that have shaped these markets.
This Week's Magazine
Multinational semiconductor chipmaker corporation Intel announced its national campaign to further acquire partners to drive its She Will Connect programme, an initiative that aims to expand digital literacy skills to young women in developing countries, further into...
South Africa's MeerKAT radio telescope array programme should get back on schedule within a few months. This assurance has been given by SKA South Africa (SKA SA) associate director: science and technology Prof Justin Jonas. Early last month, Science and Technology...
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA’s) Metrorail service will remain a subsidised service following its current multibillion-rand rolling stock, station, depot and signalling upgrade programme. PRASA group CEO Lucky Montana has allayed fears that...
The uncertainties around the remediation of affected areas as addressed in the Contaminated Land Provisions in the National Environmental Management: Waste Act No 59 of 2008 will possibly spark litigation and disputes between landowners and businesses, contractors...
South Africa is currently the largest component of the African Development Bank’s (AfDB’s) active portfolio in Southern Africa, comprising 62.5% of the bank’s $7.9-billion exposure to the 12-country region – the second largest beneficiary is Mauritius, which...