Hydrogen Social Roadmap to stimulate economic recovery

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, has unveiled the first official Hydrogen Social Roadmap (HSRM) that will identify high-level outcomes for a South African hydrogen economy.

Launched on Thursday, the HSRM will serve as a national coordinating framework to facilitate the integration of hydrogen-related technologies in various sectors of the South African economy, and thereby stimulate economic recovery, in line with the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP).

Speaking at the launch, Nzimande said government is determined to create an environment that encourages investment, creation of employment and skills needed for our economic growth and development.

Nzimande said the depth of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened government’s resolve to address massive socio-economic challenges.

He said at the centre of government’s ERRP is the creation of sustainable jobs and livelihoods.

“Our determination is to get our people back into the jobs they lost during the pandemic and create new ones. This means that we want to broaden the participation of all South Africans in an inclusive economy,” Nzimande said.

The Minister said he viewed the HSRM launch as amongst the critical and leading instruments towards country’s economic recovery and developing its economy.

The South African hydrogen economy journey started in 2007 when Cabinet approved the national Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Research, Development and Innovation Strategy (HySA Strategy).

The HySA Strategy is currently being implemented by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), through the 15-year Hydrogen South Africa Programme.

Now in its 13th year of implementation, Nzimande said the HySA Programme has made significant contribution towards the creation of a hydrogen economy in South Africa.

“This has been achieved through the creation of knowledge, technological expertise and human resources development,” the Minister said.

During the 2019/20 financial year, the HySA Programme underwent its second five-year review, which recommended the development of an overarching HSRM.

In September 2020, the Department of Science and Innovation in collaboration with key relevant departments, as well as the private sector and civil society, initiated a process to develop the HSRM through a consultative process, which culminated in a stakeholder collaboration workshop on 14 July 2021.

This led to the Cabinet approval of the Hydrogen Society Roadmap on 14 September 2021.

Support inclusive growth

Nzimande said the implementation of the roadmap is expected to support inclusive growth and assist government to reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality.

“In South Africa, hydrogen is extensively used in the chemical and fuel-refining sectors, but it is currently produced mainly from non-renewable sources, such as coal and natural gas. What is concerning is that hydrogen and fuel cell technologies (HFCT) are currently used in very few industrial activities in our country.

“However, the use of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies is likely to expand significantly in future, driven by both mobile and stationary applications, as well as its use in industrial processes such as ammonia and steel production,” Nzimande said.

In addition to the renewable resources and available land to build the required renewable energy plants, Nzimande said South Africa has comparative advantage in that the country is home to 75% of the world reserves of the platinum group metals (PGMs).

“The PGMs such as platinum, ruthenium and iridium are key components in fuel cell catalysts and electrolysers for green hydrogen production. In addition, South Africa has a unique and patented Fischer-Tropsch process owned by Sasol, which gives South Africa a competitive edge in the production of liquid fuels based on the hydrogen production route.”

The Minister said South Africa has good trading relations with countries that are looking to import green hydrogen. These include the European Union broadly and Germany in particular, Japan, South Korea and China.

Platinum Valley Corridor

According to the recently launched South African Hydrogen Valley Feasibility Study Report, the average cost of green hydrogen will be around USD 4 (EUR 3.5) per kg by 2030 along the Platinum Valley Corridor, representing a green premium of USD2-2.5 per kg above grey hydrogen, produced from natural gas.

The Platinum Valley Corridor starts from Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena Mine in Limpopo, through Pretoria and Johannesburg down to Durban, passing through the N1 and N3.

Nzimande said it is expected that by implementing the catalytic projects identified in the South African Hydrogen Valley Feasibility Study Report, the green premium could be lowered to enable green hydrogen to be at parity with grey hydrogen.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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