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South Africa well placed to benefit from huge green hydrogen outlook, attendees hear

Hydrogen Economy Discussion covered by Mining Weekly's Martin Creamer. Video: Darlene Creamer.

11th April 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Green hydrogen has a massive potential future and South Africa is very well positioned to produce it, attendees of the Hydrogen Economy Discussion heard on Thursday.

Most of the 90-million tonnes of hydrogen produced currently through the likes of South Africa’s Sasol and others is grey.

Not only must all of that become green, but it also needs to grow seven times bigger to allow green hydrogen to become an essential 7% of the energy mix to keep the globally agreed 1.5 oC of warming base case within reach.

South Africa will need to firm up a supply position in the next two to three years if it wants to be a global green hydrogen supply country to meet an exponentially growing demand outlook beyond 2030. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)

“From a South Africa perspective, we’re very well positioned through our energy resources in terms of both solar radiation and onshore wind, our lengthy coastline and ability to desalinate water for hydrogen production, our proximity to both the European and Asian markets, and having places like the Northern Cape, which are significant land masses,” South Africa’s Ministerial advisor and Presidency green hydrogen lead Masopha Moshoeshoe highlighted at the event covered by Mining Weekly.

The Northern Cape is roughly the size of Germany, but with a considerably fewer 1.3-million people, and no competition for land use with other uses, such as agriculture.

“These are all important when we start to talk about the massive amount of energy that is required. We know that Europe will not be able to meet its own green hydrogen or energy demand, and we know places like Japan, South Korea, and others won't be able to do so as well.

“But there are many parts of the world that are competing to be this new producer, this new source of green hydrogen to meet demand.

“From a South Africa perspective, we're competing with Chile, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Coast.

“The African case is slightly different, because we have different entry points into this market, such as North Africa, which can pipe green hydrogen into Europe because of its proximity, whereas South Africa needs to be able to produce hydrogen carriers and be able to produce value added products," Mosshoeshoe explained.

East Africa has geothermal energy, which South Africa does not have, which gives East Africans a different ability, and a potential to produce green fertilisers.

“There's a nuance in terms of this picture, but it's fundamentally around what we do in the next two or three years. Because the case for green hydrogen very much looks like a hockey stick beyond 2030,” added Moshoeshoe.

Emphasised at the event was that hydrogen holds the transformative power to combat climate change, reshape the world’s energy future and light the way towards a decarbonised planet.

Attendees also heard that achieving net zero by 2050, which the world is obliged to do to combat climate change, is impossible without green hydrogen, which is described as the leading vector in the sectors that are more difficult to decarbonise, which include the steel, cement, maritime and ammonia sectors, to name a few.

But the cost to decarbonise such industries is more than for those that can be decarbonised through renewable energy, and direct electrification.

CABINET-APPROVED COMMERCIALISATION

South Africa is among the overwhelming number of countries that have committed to a net zero target and aligned with the climate-crucial 1.5 oC of warming as the base case.

Moreover, the Cabinet-approved green hydrogen commercialisation country strategy of last year is a culmination of what green hydrogen represents.

“Our focus from a country perspective is very much on how we use this transition to a green energy vector to revitalise the economy, to reindustrialise elements that have deindustrialised,” Moshoeshoe highlighted at the event chaired by mining luminary Bernard Swanepoel, amid green hydrogen and South Africa’s platinum-group metals going hand-in-glove.

Green hydrogen carries a price premium with it in the short to medium term and its export to developed economies is envisaged owing to developed economies being best placed to absorb that price premium.

Business cases exist for green hydrogen domestic use in the short term and on the global front, the International Energy Agency has calculated that if the world is to keep 1.5 oC of warming within reach, then hydrogen production needs to expand seven-fold.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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