South Africa could become an effective exporter of cost-effective green hydrogen to the world, given its immense renewable energy potential, according to the inaugural PwC report on hydrogen published yesterday.
The report titled ‘Unlocking South Africa’s hydrogen potential’ said that South Africa had one of the highest renewable energy generation potentials in the world citing the billions of rand committed to solar, wind and pumped storage projects across the country.
The reported said the Integrated Resource Plan-the blueprint for South Africa’s energy mix, which was gazetted last year, made clear guidance for renewables to account for a bigger proportion of the country’s generation capacity.
“With so much effort being committed to these renewable initiatives, a clear opportunity exists for South Africa to a couple of renewable generation with hydrogen production through electrolysis. The added benefit of this was that an investment in electrolysis technology would also support the platinum sector and downstream beneficiation, as platinum is the primary component in the electrode assembly,” said the report.
Pwc experts said that the infrastructure needed to export hydrogen was similar to existing natural gas networks and was already being piloted in Australia and Japan.
“South Africa could leverage its existing port infrastructure to support this initiative and, in doing so, protect the jobs and infrastructure that are declining as a result of the drop in global demand for coal exports,” said the report.
The report said there would also be significant secondary benefits to increasing South Africa’s commitment to renewable energy and that the need to construct so much renewable capacity would make it increasingly viable to manufacture a number of the components domestically.
“Especially within the wind turbine sector, this could help support the need carbon-capture technology implemented to produce blue hydrogen.
It also said that given French oil and gas giant Total’s deepwater Brulpadda find offshore South Africa and the existing gas-to-liquids facility operated by PetroSA, much of the infrastructure already existed to supply pure hydrogen into the domestic and international markets.
“The natural gas market may also provide another solution in the form of carbon storage. Many of the gas fields off the coast of South Africa are depleted, yet the infrastructure linking these fields to the coast still exists,” said the report, adding that similar to the solution being piloted in the UK, hydrogen could be produced on land through either coal gasification or reforming of natural gas and the carbon by-product could be pumped into the depleted gas fields for storage.
“The transition of the ailing South African coal and natural gas sectors to the production of blue hydrogen could help protect industry jobs and, if exported, generate critical foreign income for the country,” said the report.