Image: Hydrogen Central
The Hydrogen Valley feasibility Study Report was launched on October 9 during a webinar session hosted by South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). The report presents hydrogen as a significant opportunity for economic development and renewable energy generation in South Africa.
The report is a collaborative partnership between the DSI, Anglo-American Platinum, Bambili Energy and ENGIE; and outlines opportunities to transform the Bushveld Complex and larger region around Johannesburg, Mogalakwena and Durban into a Hydrogen Valley.
It further showcases how hydrogen presents a significant opportunity for economic development in South Africa, including the creation of jobs and the monetization of the platinum industry. The report also highlights hydrogen’s potential to contribute to South Africa’s decarbonization objectives, leveraging renewable development programs to produce green hydrogen, and how global commitments towards hydrogen production and demand can create an opportunity for South Africa to engage in energy export at an international level.
The virtual event was officially opened by Technology Innovation Deputy Director General at the Department of Science and Innovation, H.E. Dr. Mmboneni Muofhe. In his opening remarks, he addressed how the hydrogen valley will unlock economic development opportunities in South Africa.
“One of the things that we have wanted to do is to reach a point where are going to build very strong partnerships with the private sector in order to take the hydrogen society into being part of the critical aspects of other economic activities in the country,” he said.
Director at ENGIE, Vincenzo Giordano, stated that hydrogen is a key element to unlocking decarbonisation objectives set in the Paris Agreement, with reference to South Africa’s ambitious objectives of reaching net zero by 2050.
“Green energy has a leverage potential for growth, it’s a strategic priority for South Africa’s economic development and decarbonization. So, the goal of the study in this context was to look at what are the necessary conditions to kickstart the hydrogen economy in the country, in particular this hydrogen valley, which is discovered to be the corridors stretching from Mogalakwena to Richards Bay in KwaZulu Natal,” he said.
According to the report, these corridors have been identified based on locations with potential for a high concentration of future hydrogen demand, the possibility to produce hydrogen and contributions to the just transition—an economic development plan that brings positive social impact particularly to more fragile groups and communities. These hubs – located in Johannesburg, Durban, and Mogalakwena – will host pilot projects and contribute to the launch the hydrogen economy in the Hydrogen Valley.
CEO of Bambili Energy Services, Zanele Mavuso Mbatha shared her insights, “We have gone beyond the concept stage to materializing and implementing. We are re-inventing business models within the energy sector. Hydrogen economy has increased interest and advanced involvement by participants. The data points and inputs are very empirical and make a very strong case for domestic hydrogen economy. Therefore, the issue aggravating demand for this commodity is a priority.”
Hydrogen export could be a potential future source of demand; however, the Valley will face competition from other hydrogen exporting countries such as Morocco and Australia and from other ports in South Africa such as Boegoebaai. Nevertheless, the co-location of demand and supply gives synergy opportunities within the hub that will help initiate and scale up pilot projects.
A recommendation for the Hydrogen Valley to either consolidate domestic demand and create economies of scale before embarking on ambitious export projects, or take an opportunistic stance such as leveraging international funds to develop export infrastructure, was made.
Meanwhile, Anglo America Platinum CEO, Natalia Viljoen stated that the potential opportunity the project offers South Africa was close to Anglo American’s purpose of improving people’s livelihoods by transitioning into a hydrogen fuelled economy.
“As the world’s leading producer of platinum goods, we hope to shape the ecosystem through incentivising the production of hydrogen fuel which will include key institutions of implementing this strategy,” she said.
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