The technology to produce green hydrogen in South Africa, which is produced by electrolysing water using renewable energy, is becoming cost effective enough to develop the capacity to sell the product in local and international industrial markets, says technical advisory services firm Kambuku Consulting founding director Justin Wimbush.
The available technology is viable for South African-produced green hydrogen to be supplied to European transport markets. This is supported by the fact that countries such as Japan are putting in place arrangements to buy hydrogen generated in locations as distant as Chile, he highlights.
“Putting in place a supply chain to export hydrogen to, for example, Europe, will require the installation of wind and solar farms to generate the electricity to produce the hydrogen, and ports infrastructure capable of accommodating hydrogen tankers, whether carrying the hydrogen cryogenically or as ammonia.”
There will also need to be infrastructure, such as pipelines, to get the hydrogen to the ports from where it is generated. The Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces have the best combination of wind and solar resources, and access to seawater. There will also need to be finance available to fund infrastructure and government guarantees to protect the investments.
South Africa’s bountiful renewable-energy resources, existing ports infrastructure and political stability provide a significant edge over the geographical advantage of the North African countries. None of the challenges to establishing a hydrogen export industry are insurmountable.
Hydrogen is seen as one of the panaceas for defeating climate change, as it can also be used as a clean or zero-carbon vehicle fuel and as a means of storing excess energy generated using renewable generation technologies such as wind and solar PV.
Recent technology developments have resulted in hydrogen vehicles and hydrogen electricity generation becoming much more affordable. In addition, increasing national carbon emission targets have increased incentives to develop alternative low- or zero-carbon solutions.