By Johan Burger
Sasol, South Africa’s chemicals and energy giant, recently announced it would be conducting feasibility studies for green hydrogen projects in two regions - the Northern Cape and Gauteng. The project in the Northern Cape could potentially produce at least 400 kilotons of hydrogen annually, creating as many as 6,000 direct jobs. This excludes the many indirect jobs that can be created elsewhere in the ecosystem.
The importance of hydrogen as the fuel of the future lies in the fact that it only emits water when used to generate energy, thereby enabling countries to reduce their carbon emissions. Until recently, the large-scale use of hydrogen was hampered due to the need to burn fossil fuels when extracting it. The traditional method for creating hydrogen splits natural gas into hydrogen as well as carbon dioxide, a contributor to climate change. Now countries with access to renewable energy resources, such as South Africa, can produce clean hydrogen without burning any fuel. The new method of producing hydrogen uses electricity from solar and wind resources in electrolysis to split water to produce green hydrogen and oxygen. This can potentially place them as leading players in a green hydrogen economy.
According to Sasol’s vice president for Energy Business, Priscillah Mabelane, South Africa has a green hydrogen potential of between four to seven million tons by 2050, with the opportunity to export over three million tons. This situation will stimulate the rollout of more than 50GW of renewable energy for South Africa, contributing more than US$6.75bn per annum to its economy, and create more than 370,000 jobs by 2050.
According to Mabelane, there is also the potential to use South Africa’s green hydrogen for domestic purposes such as mobility, revitalisation of the steel industry, and sustainable aviation fuel, particularly at OR Tambo International Airport. Special economic zones will also be created to enable the optimal utilization of green hydrogen. The first large-scale green hydrogen production pilot project is being implemented by France’s Engie, in partnership with Scatec, a Norwegian energy company, for the mining sector in South Africa.
South Africa is not the only country on the continent experimenting with green hydrogen. Mauritania recently signed an MoU to develop a 10GW green hydrogen project. Project Nour could make Mauritania into a major green hydrogen supplier. Ample solar and wind resources mean that Mauritania could produce the cheapest green hydrogen in Africa. Green hydrogen can replace traditional fossil fuels resulting in a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
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Takouleu, J.M. 2021. Mauritania: Chariot to produce and export green hydrogen through Nour project. Afrik 21. Available at https://www.afrik21.africa/en/mauritania-chariot-to-produce-and-export-green-hydrogen-through-nour-project/. Accessed 23 October 2021.
Tena, N. 2021. Mauritania greenlights development of green hydrogen project. ESI Africa. 29 September 2021. Available at https://www.esi-africa.com/renewable-energy/mauritania-greenlights-development-of-green-hydrogen-project/. Accessed 23 October 2021.