More than $8.5 billion (R135bn) is pledged for development of South Africa’s hydrogen gas programme with the sector having potential to create 1.8 million jobs, a virtual gathering of the 5th Green Hydrogen webinar for Southern Africa heard yesterday.
The European Union and countries, including the US, Germany, France and the UK are keen to help South Africa develop its hydrogen potential. Ready markets for the gas were already in place in Japan, which required 300 000 tons, and Germany, which has demand for 3 millions tons of hydrogen, both offering feasible rates for the off take from South Africa's ports of Saldanha Bay and Ngqura.
South Africa, with its natural resources, logistics assets and research capabilities, is reported to be well placed for the boost in development of a hydrogen sector to help the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy.
EU Ambassador to South Africa Riina Kionka said the EU and its member states had more than just a passive commitment to help South Africa in the Just Transition programme and had actually committed the funds because of the potential for growth and supply to the world markets.
Speakers said hydrogen could be generated in the country at a lower cost using a large scale of up to 20 megawatts (MW) and renewable energy power utilising wind and a mix of other scientific elements.
“South African hydrogen can meet Japan’s cost target of $3 per kilogramme before 2030,” the conference heard.
South Africa, especially the Saldanha Bay and Ngqura ports were encouraged to join the Global Ports Coalition (GPC) to meet the global logistical challenges.
The most glaring challenges facing development of the sector were policy decisions in the country and regulatory hurdles outside of South Africa's sphere, for example the transportation of hydrogen faced considerable debate on what form, pure or as ammonia or even methanol. Among the consideration in the EU for transportation were tailpipe emissions and the question of whether legislators would accept the non-zero tailpipe emissions from methanol.
“EU carbon border adjustment mechanisms are under negotiation. The issue is that carbon-based fuel entering the EU waters or airspace are subject to taxation,” said Thomas Roos, a senior research engineer with the CSIR.
Local potential users of hydrogen included steelmaker ArcelorMittal while options were being considered by the City of Cape Town to use hydrogen in its fleet of public transportation buses.
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