Kamwendo: Innovative waste-to-energy plants have been launched by two of South Africa’s biggest cities in as many months.
Creamer: When we go past these waste dumps, when you pass Linbro Park you see these things getting higher and higher. Cities all over the world have got no place to put all this waste, but cities are generating more and more waste. So, what do you do with it?
This week launched in Cape Town, instead of that waste going on to the waste dumps, 10% of it is going to go to a new plant and hopefully more and more. They are starting with this 10% and they are converting that into methane gas and CO2, which Afrox is buying.
This is interesting, because it is a private sector activity, but it is backed by the State-owned Industrial Development Corporation, which has put 60% of the funds in. Then you come back to Joburg where last month Robinson Deep went live with its electricity into the grid. So, it is taking that methane that used to be burnt on this waste dump at Robinson Deep and converting it into electricity, 3 MW of which is going now in to the Eskom grid.
By March there will be another one, another 3 MW, and ultimately five in all that will be done here in Joburg to get the gas working from all that muck. This I am sure is going to be a trend and could go all the way through South Africa and Africa. I think it is going to be a big thing.
You see some of the partners that are working with the local companies like the one working in Johannesburg here is part of a global group and has already got 150 MW going throughout the world. Money from muck and energy from muck as well.
Kamwendo: France this week formally declared its intention to respond to Eskom’s nuclear overture of December 20.
Creamer: Nuclear overture was made by Eskom but called for a request for information or as they call it RFIs on December 20. We saw the Russians come forward, Rosatom.
Now the French have formally declared that they are also intent to respond to this request for information. It is a fairly early stage, you are still putting your toe in the water and the deadline that people have to say whether or not they are coming forward has to be done by Tuesday. We see the French now coming forward, the Russians are there. We have got inter-government arrangements with a lot of other countries so we could still hear from the likes of South Korea, Canada, China and the United States.
In the meantime then the RFIs have to be in by April 28 and that is the first stage of this nuclear new build programme. It is at a very early stage and not the financing stage. Then you go in to the requests for proposals, which is far more formal and involving far more guarantees of the financial kind.
We see that the French are in a very good position, because, of course, there is only one nuclear plant in Africa and that is Koeberg in South Africa in Cape Town. We see just about all the equipment is French. We also note these plants need to be close to water. Koeberg gets all its cooling from the sea.
It is interesting that it had to be put there in those days, because they said it was uneconomical to transport the coal down there. It has been a very good plant, its been economic and supplied Western Cape and got away from this idea of sending coal down there and also too much electricity down the electricity lines. Heaven knows what will happen with the nuclear programme. There is some controversy around it, but you can see the wheels of motion are turning.
Kamwendo: South Africa’s first fuel cell plant is to be launched in Cape Town next month.
Creamer: We have waited so long for this. Decades people have been talking about fuel cells and how South Africa should be involved because of our platinum endowment. We have got so much platinum in South Africa. Now, this is going to be announced. We saw Davos, the mining companies used Davos to announce the advantages of having a hydrogen economy.
Next month we will see the launch of a fuel cell plant. Last year at the Mining Indaba they said they were going to go ahead with a fuel cell study and that was Isando Precious Metals.
They have been studying this intensely on how to do this economically. They work hand in glove with SGB Securities, which is Standard Bank, and also the government through the Department of Trade and Industry. They get backing from the government on this and they are looking to putting this fuel cell plant.
Exactly what it will be, they still have got to spell it out. It could be components in what they call a special economic zone (SEZ). They are looking for activity within a SEZ. This will be a highly assisted approach in getting fuel cells going, but with good long-term prospects against the background of South Africa having 80% of platinum and fuel cells using that platinum to generate electricity and heat.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.