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Just transition energy projects needed now – Shell Foundation

Creamer Media screenshot during GlobeScan webinar

Shell Foundation chairperson Gail Klintworth

Photo by Creamer Media

8th December 2021

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Real projects on the ground, that can transition developing countries to renewable solutions justly, are what is needed now, along with the correct use of blended finance to create sustainable entrepreneurship as asset bases are repurposed, a global webinar has heard.

Without a just energy transition, the world will likely end up with far hotter social temperatures within the socioeconomic fabric even if the earth's actual heat level is down, it was suggested.

Renewable energy solutions that can simultaneously help emerging markets to grow are what is urgently needed, the GlobeScan climate event, covered by Mining Weekly, emphasised.

“The great thing is that big companies will be able to have projects and will be able to attract capital to have them. However, we need more than that. We need local entrepreneurs in local markets who are able to drive some solutions,” Shell Foundation chairperson Gail Klintworth told the webinar in which United Nations special envoy on climate change action and finance Mark Carney and Anglo American CE Mark Cutifani also took part.

Klintworth, whose Shell Foundation is a social investment initiative that works with external partners to promote sustainable development, reported that blended finance was increasingly enabling local entrepreneurs to deliver some return, and if allowed to play its supposed role, would do so to an even greater extent.

“My experience in the last couple of years is that there’s so much risk aversion in those who should be derisking,” said Klintworth.

But what had to be top of mind was that it was not going to be “the big guys only that can solve this. We need more entrepreneurs, and we need to put some faith in them”, she added.

In response to GlobeScan CEO Chris Coulter on the potential for the negative climate populism being displayed in many the countries of the world to delay progress, Klintworth described as great youth excitement about the combatting of climate change. In addition, the awareness level of climate impact was high.

But she questioned whether governments had done enough to inculcate in their citizens the great potential socioeconomic benefit of the energy transition, and that just transition structures were envisaged for especially coal mining towns faced with the need of the globe to decarbonise.

Carney reported that $4-trillion to $5-trillion a year would be needed for the transition which made the $130-trillion available sufficient to arrive at net zero by 2050 at the latest.

Cutifani’s blueprint for mines in the decarbonisation process is to introduce renewable energy to reduce carbon emission and to generate green hydrogen, and then to deploy the green hydrogen to replace the diesel that the mines use to power haul trucks. That plan is at an advanced stage of implementation at Anglo American Platinum’s platinum group metals (PGMs) mine at Mogalakwena, Limpopo.

This green hydrogen produced by proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyses is catalysed by platinum and iridium PGMs. PEM fuel cells, in turn, convert the green hydrogen into clean electricity, catalysed by platinum and ruthenium PGMs.

The Hydrogen Council reports that electrolyser markets could grow to one-quarter of a terawatt by 2030, and over three terawatts by 2050, to meet the demand for fossil-fuel-free green hydrogen,

The electrolysis of water – when an electric current is used to separate water into its component elements of hydrogen and oxygen – is a well-established way of producing hydrogen, the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC) has reported.

When the electric current is derived from a renewable source – solar photovoltaic panels or a wind turbine, for example – the hydrogen made is ‘green’.

PEM electrolysers and alkaline electrolysers, South African versions of which are also PGM catalysed, are the two leading electrolysis technologies commercially available. PEM electrolysis creates a reaction using an ionically conductive solid polymer, rather than a liquid, as in an alkaline electrolyser.  

PEM electrolysers, which contain a platinum catalyst, were first developed during the 1950s for the space programme; currently, they have moved from the niche to the mainstream as the case for green hydrogen has strengthed. Currently, WPIC has reported, they are being driven by the need to find solutions for decarbonisation; the improving business case for green hydrogen, based on growing renewable generation capacity and falling renewable electricity costs; and innovation in PEM technology.

For example, Johnson Matthey is working with newly-established Norwegian company Hystar AS on its next-generation PEM electrolyser system to improve performance by 10%, enabling greater hydrogen production or lower power consumption, ultimately reducing the costs associated with green hydrogen production. 

Earlier this year, Europe’s largest PEM electrolyser was installed at Shell’s Energy and Chemicals Park Rheinland, near Cologne, Germany. The electrolyser can produce up to 1 300 t of green hydrogen a year, which will initially be used to produce fuels with lower carbon intensity. The green hydrogen will also be used to help decarbonise other industries. Plans are already under way to expand the electrolyser’s capacity from 10 MW to 100 MW. 

PEM electrolysers were used at the Rheinland site as they are more compact than a conventional alkaline electrolyser. In addition, they are suited to working with renewable energy sources because they can operate dynamically using varying loads of electricity, allowing them to operate when wind and solar energy generation are cheapest.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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