Government and private sector collaborate to build SA's hydrogen valley

AngloplatinumDeveloping a sustainable hydrogen ecosystem is at the heart of the Department of Science and Innovation's hydrogen strategy.  The Department is collaborating with companies in the energy sector to carry out a feasibility study in relation to the establishment of a Platinum Valley in South Africa.

The feasibility study is the first phase of the Platinum Valley initiative, and will drive the planning, design, construction and commissioning of projects related to the development of a Hydrogen Valley.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has partnered with Anglo American, energy and services company ENGIE, and clean energy solutions provider Bambili Energy to carry out this study.

Implemented through the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), the study will support plans to create a Hydrogen Valley along the Bushveld complex and larger region stretching from Anglo American's Mogalakwena platinum mine near Mokopane to Johannesburg and Durban.

SANEDI will also fund projects to take intellectual property created through the Hydrogen SA (HySA) centres of competence to market in partnership with the private sector.

The study will identify tangible opportunities to build hydrogen hubs in this key economic and transport corridor, leveraging the regional platinum group metals (PGMs) mining industry and exploring the potential for hydrogen production and supply at scale.  PGMs play an important role in polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis used to produce hydrogen, as well as in hydrogen fuel cells.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) said the agreement set a framework to define a sustainable pathway toward establishing a local hydrogen ecosystem in the context of the national hydrogen roadmap under development in South Africa, with the potential of creating direct opportunities for economic and community development while contributing to decarbonisation efforts.

Science, technology and innovation will play a key role in supporting the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan for South Africa.  The Department's continued long-term investment into research, development and innovation (RDI) in South Africa over the years is being leveraged to contribute to three areas – RDI to revitalise and modernise existing industries/sectors, RDI that creates new sources of growth and stimulates research and development-led industrial development, and RDI in support of a capable and developmental state.

The DSI's partnership with Anglo American, Bambili Energy and ENGIE on the Hydrogen Valley is an example of leveraging investments made in the HySA programme to create mechanisms for the uptake of intellectual property arising from publicly financed research and development.

The Hydrogen Valley is one of the first projects that will be implemented in partnership with the private sector to the support the Platinum Valley initiative.  SMMEs will be supported to take advantage of opportunities in the green economy as part of the just transition to a green economy.

South Africa's Hydrogen Valley will identify concrete project opportunities for kick-starting hydrogen activities in promising hubs.  The aim is to boost economic growth and job creation, drive the development of new industries, increase value-add to the country's platinum reserves, and reduce the country's carbon footprint.

Hydrogen and fuel cells offer several advantages to the transport sector – comparable refuelling times to internal combustion engine vehicles, longer ranges and space efficiency.

Anglo American is one of the leaders in initiatives to promote the adoption of hydrogen fuel cells vehicles for commercial use, facilitating the creation of consortiums of industry partners to promote the development of hydrogen freight corridors in the United Kingdom, South Africa and China, among others.  These projects aim to accelerate the uptake of heavy-duty fuel cell vehicles by aligning end-user demand locations with access to the requisite hydrogen infrastructure along key freight routes.

Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American's PGM business, commented: "The transition to a low-carbon world is an opportunity to drive the development of cleaner technologies, create new industries and employment, and improve people's lives. Anglo American was an early supporter of the global potential for a hydrogen economy, recognising its role in enabling the shift to greener energy and cleaner transport. Our integrated approach includes investing in new technologies, supporting entrepreneurial projects and advocating for policy frameworks that enable a supportive long-term investment environment for hydrogen to deliver that potential."

All the project partners will make an important contribution. Bambili Energy has played a pivotal role in ensuring that the HySA catalyst and membrane electrode assemblies developed by the HySA Catalysis centre of competence are integrated into commercial products through its partnership with global original equipment manufacturers such as Horizon and Element One.

The HySA centres of competence will provide expertise and relevant intellectual property to be demonstrated in the Hydrogen Valley.  For example, intellectual property from HySA Systems that was deployed at Impala Platinum in 2015 could be used for the refuelling stations in the corridor.

ENGIE, a French company, aims to accelerate the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy through reduced energy consumption and more environmentally friendly solutions. It has provided co-funding for the techno-economic analysis that will be conducted on identified hubs within the Hydrogen Valley corridor.

SANEDI will manage the input of human resources and capabilities from the implementing agencies, such as HySA Infrastructure, HySA Catalysis and HySA Systems, towards the deployment of technologies in the Platinum Valley that are based on HySA intellectual property.

The DSI will engage other government departments that are critical to the successful implementation of the Platinum Valley.  

Issued by the Department of Science and Innovation.


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