Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: Power stations the world over are switching from coal to hydrogen to combat climate change.
Creamer: The Covid-19 pandemic is focusing the mind around health, and climate change is seen as another threat to health, and people are moving fast to combat both. We saw reports coming out of Europe and the Americas this week about new programmes to replace coal-fired power stations with hydrogen-fired power stations.
That is going to take place in Holland and also in California, from a coal-fired power station in the US state of Utah. That Intermountain coal-fired power station in Utah supplies a lot of power to Los Angeles, and the government of California has set up new legislation to have 100% renewable energy in California by 2045. So, what the power station is doing in Utah is taking steps to produce hydrogen with the help of sun energy. It will store that hydrogen underground and use it to power its power station.
The hydrogen will replace the coal and produce, for Los Angeles, electricity that is green and clean, because the hydrogen is renewable hydrogen, produced with the renewable energy. The same thing is being done in Holland and, interestingly, the company key to providing all this in California and Holland is Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, which, incidentally, also has strong South African connections through its involvement at South Africa’s new Medupi and Kusili coal-fired power stations.
Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems is now saying that it wants to swing heavily into Africa with its technology that allows coal-fired power stations to be turned into hydrogen-fired power stations, with the help of renewable energy. If Eskom opted for this in South Africa, it could really reduce our carbon footprint significantly. South Africa has very many coal-fired power stations and these, we know, can now be converted to use hydrogen as a fuel. We saw Sasol this week going out to enquiry for 600 MW of clean power. Sasol wants wind and sun power to provide 600 MW so that it can lower its high carbon footprint.
Kamwendo: Twenty seven of the world’s top mining companies have signed a pledge to combat climate change.
Creamer: Again, people are looking at climate change as a future threat to health. We are right in the teeth of Covid-19, what happens when we get out of that and find ourselves in a worse situation, brought about by climate change? So, the big mining companies are pledging to fight climate change and they are doing so through their membership of an organisation called the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).
Their membership of the ICMM is conditional on them undertaking to combat the scourge of climate change. Mining companies sign a document when they join, which commits them to agree to combat climate change. If they fail to honour what is instructed on the ICMM’s climate change positioning paper, then their membership ceases. We’re talking about South African companies like African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American, Glencore, we’re talking about the biggest mining companies in the world deciding that climate change is a priority. We see that Glencore has really reduced its emissions.
They put out a statement this week on how they beat their target on the emission front. People are becoming proud of doing this and they want to make sure the world is cleaner and healthier.
Kamwendo: The 100-year-old Anglo American will be moving out of its historic corporate office in downturn Johannesburg next year, after being there for the last 80 years.
Creamer: Anglo American has got a fantastic set of historic buildings in the inner city of Johannesburg. They are determined that they want to keep that inner city vibrant.
So, although they are going to move out of the inner city north to Rosebank, to consolidate in one building, and be close to the Gautrain and thus within quick train distance of the airport as well, they don’t want the development of the inner city of Joburg to suffer when they move north, so they are prepared to back whichever organisation comes in to occupy these magnificent historical buildings in Anderson Street and Marshall Street. They will support that area by continuing to maintain and secure it. They want the organisation that moves in to contribute meaningfully when they occupy these premises.
They are on the lookout for a contributing organisation that can continue to support of the development of the inner city. They are thinking of education institutions, research institutions, government institutions, or a combination of all of those. Some very worthy group of companies or an individual organisation that can occupy the premises and continue to contribute to the inner city’s wellbeing. Anglo will undertake to keep the buildings up to speed so that the new selected organisation can continue to contribute towards the development of the inner city of Johannesburg – vibrantly.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.