SAfm Update At Noon radio anchor John Gericke speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Gericke: South Africa’s deep-level mines that don’t switch to renewable energy are facing huge carbon tax bills.
Creamer: This came out very clearly this week when Harmony Gold gave a presentation on what they call ESG, which harps on the environment. They said that they want to move strongly into renewable energy.
They welcomed President Ramphosa allowing 100 MW and they said they needed to move swiftly, because the tax boogeyman is there to get them and that is carbon tax. Now, from 2023 it was estimated that they would be required pay up to R80-million in carbon tax, but going to 2030 that it would be up to R250-million. They want to make sure that that carbon tax is avoided and the way to do that is to generate their own electricity. They have tried to do that since 2017. They put their first applications in to Nersa in 2017 for several 10 MW plants. They still haven’t got approval for that. It will be a total of 30 MW in the Welkom area. Of course, they have got many deep-level mines.
They have got nine underground mines. They are going to need a lot more than that. They are talking about also not only using the sun, but the wind. They say that they need to wheel, which means that they need to get permission from Eskom to put their excess power generated back on to the grid and to sell that to whoever wants to buy it or to send it to other parts of their group. We see now these energy-intensive underground mines are looking to make sure that they don’t use Eskom’s coal-fired power stations energy to excess, because that would mean having to pay carbon tax.
Gericke: South Africa’s scientists are being funded by Europe to help make hydrogen cheaper and easier to produce.
Creamer: We have a reputation around knowing a lot about hydrogen. We have been working on hydrogen generation since 2012. The North-West University has been producing green hydrogen, as we call it, from solar power since 2012.
This has now been recognised by the European Union, which wants to hasten research into lowering the cost of hydrogen and also making it more zippy and able to do a bigger job at lower prices. That will mean that its entry into the world is speeded up and they have got this project called SherLOHCk. The lock part of it is spelled LOHC, which stands for liquid organic hydrogen carrier. Hydrogen is a dangerous gas so you don't want to carry it as a gas, so you link it to oil and you are able to change it with the LOHC. The North-West University is also very familiar with it through the HySA, which is Hydrogen South Africa. Hydrogen South Africa was created by the Department of Science and Innovation.
That is now bearing a lot of fruit and getting a lot of recognition. Some of the researchers have already come up with a metallic solution that will make the catalytic side of the whole process more effective. So, it is going to be good for us we can go ahead with that, because hydrogen economy is an important one for us. Again, it means that we don’t use coal to fire our power generation.
Gericke: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.