Nam, SA hydrogen partnership mooted

• By Hilary Mare

SOUTH Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed that a partnership between Namibia and South Africa could be on the cards as both nations are developing a green-hydrogen hub saying that the project could “bring the two countries together”.

In an address to the second Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium, which took place as a hybrid event in Sandton last week, Ramaphosa described green energy as one of the “new frontiers of infrastructure development”.

Ramaphosa said South Africa stands ready to be a major exporter of green hydrogen and has described the special economic zone (SEZ) proposed for development at Boegoebaai in the Northern Cape, as a major step towards realising the country’s potential to be a global leader in green hydrogen and derivative products, such as power fuels.

“It was wonderful, two days ago, when I sat down with President Hage Geingob of Namibia, and we started talking about this type of project and how this project, in Boegoebaai, is going to bring the two countries together – to get both countries to approach this type of project on a joint basis, so that we work together all developing a project that is going to have enormous industrial benefits for both South Africa and Namibia.”

Namibia’s hydrogen-focused Southern Corridor Development Initiative is ahead of the one proposed for Boegoebaai, with an expression of interest process having already closed and with work under way to finalise the launch of competitive bidding.

But the Boegoebaai proposal did receive a boost ahead of Ramaphosa’s address with energy and chemicals group Sasol announcing that it had signed an agreement with the Northern Cape Development Agency to lead the feasibility study to explore the potential of the site as an export hub for green hydrogen and ammonia.

In a statement, Sasol stressed that it was pursuing a number of green hydrogen, ammonia and power-to-X opportunities as part of its new strategy, through which it aims to play a leading role in South Africa’s nascent green hydrogen economy.

“We stand ready to be a major exporter in this market, to use hydrogen to rapidly decarbonise our existing industries, and attract industrial investment from across the globe seeking to meet new standards of green power in the production process,” Ramaphosa further said adding that:

“The Boegoebaai SEZ will host such mass-scale production, but will also source green hydrogen volumes from emerging players such as Mahlako, which is setting up the Prieska Power Reserve, and projects like it across the Northern Cape solar belt.”

Green hydrogen is produced by using renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, using an electrolyser.

South Africa has deposited an updated Nationally Determined Contribution range of 420- to 350-million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-eq) for 2030 with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which represents a marked improvement on its 2015 pledge of 614 Mt CO2-eq to 398 Mt CO2-eq.

It is also looking to use the upcoming COP26 climate talks to secure higher commitments from rich countries to support mitigation and adaptation programmes in developing countries and to secure concessional finance for its own transition.