The Mogalakwena platinum group metals mine in Limpopo.
JOHANNESBURG (mining weekly.com) – Diversified mining and marketing company Anglo American on Wednesday announced a collaboration agreement to complete a feasibility study to develop a ‘hydrogen valley’ anchored in South Africa’s platinum group metals- (PGMs-) rich Bushveld geological area.
Spearheaded by South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the collaboration agreement also includes energy and services company Engie, the South African National Development Institute, and clean energy solutions provider Bambili Energy.
Mining Weekly can report that the proposed hydrogen valley will extend about 835 km from Anglo American’s Mogalakwena PGMs mine, near Mokopane, in Limpopo province, along the industrial and commercial corridor to Johannesburg and to the south coast at Durban.
The collaboration follows the launch in 2020 of the South African Hydrogen Society Roadmap, aimed at integrating hydrogen into the economy by capitalising on the country’s PGM resources and renewable energy potential to revitalise and decarbonise key industrial sectors. The study will be conducted by ENGIE Impact and will identify tangible opportunities to build hydrogen hubs and explore the potential for green hydrogen production and supply at scale.
Anglo American’s PGMs business CEO Natascha Viljoen described the transition to a low carbon world as an opportunity to drive the development of cleaner technologies, create new industries and employment, and improve people’s lives.
“Anglo American was an early supporter of the global potential for a hydrogen economy, recognising its role in enabling the shift to greener energy and cleaner transport. Our integrated approach includes investing in new technologies, supporting entrepreneurial projects and advocating for policy frameworks that enable a supportive long-term investment environment for hydrogen to deliver that potential,” Viljoen stated.
The regional PGMs industry will be central to such a hydrogen valley, with PGMs playing an important role both in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysis used to produce hydrogen at scale and in fuel cells themselves.
Anglo American is already investing in renewable hydrogen production technology at its Mogalakwena PGMs mine and in the development of hydrogen-powered fuel cell mine haul trucks – the world’s largest to run on hydrogen.
DSI director-general Dr Phil Mjwara described DSI’s hydrogen valley partnership with Anglo American, Bambili Energy and Engie as an example of leveraging investments made in the Hydrogen South Africa Programme to create mechanisms for the uptake of publicly financed intellectual property.
“The hydrogen valley is among the projects that will be implemented in partnership with the private sector to support the Platinum Valley Initiative, which is aimed at supporting small, medium-sized and microenterprises to take advantage of opportunities in the green economy in support of a just transition,” Mjwara stated.
The public-private partnership is aligned to the government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan for South Africa, with science, technology and innovation playing a key role in supporting the country’s plans to revitalise the economy.
Engie executive VP in charge of thermal generation and energy supply Sebastien Arbola expressed delight at being part of the hydrogen valley study. “We’re keen to share our knowledge and expertise encompassing the entire hydrogen value chain to accelerate hydrogen solutions’ deployment in South Africa and beyond. We already have a demonstration project under way to supply hydrogen for the world’s first hydrogen mining truck being developed by Anglo American at the Mogalakwena PGMs mine.
“We believe that renewable hydrogen is key to decarbonising hard-to-abate industries and will play a fundamental role in the global economy of tomorrow. We look forward to once again joining forces with Anglo American to contribute to South Africa’s energy transition and the country’s economic recovery plan,” Arbola said.
Bambili Energy CEO Zanele Mavuso Mbatha added: “The initiative to develop the South African hydrogen valley and the collaboration between Bambili, Anglo American, ENGIE and the South African government is significant as it will build material public awareness, confidence and support for the hydrogen economy. This collaboration is illustrative of Bambili’s view that a public-private partnership is critical in the development of this industry in the South African economy.”
Electric vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells offer many benefits to the transport sector, including comparable refuelling times to internal combustion engine vehicles, long ranges and space and weight efficiency.
Anglo American is leading initiatives to promote the adoption of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) for commercial uses in particular, facilitating the creation of consortia to promote the development of hydrogen freight corridors in a number of geographies, including the UK, South Africa and China. These projects aim to accelerate the uptake of heavy-duty FCEVs by aligning end-user demand locations and specifications with the supply of suitable vehicles and access to the requisite hydrogen infrastructure along key freight routes.
Anglo American takes an active role in several industry-led platforms established to facilitate the advancement of hydrogen solutions in key industry sectors. These include the Hydrogen Council, a global CEO-led initiative of 100-plus leading companies with a united and long-term vision to develop the hydrogen economy; the UK H2Mobility consortium, established to facilitate dialogue on hydrogen mobility in the UK; and the International Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association, created under the guidance of China’s Society of Automotive Engineers to advance fuel cell scalable applications.