- Green Hydrogen (GH) Production and Costs
- Why Africa
- GH in South Africa and Morocco
- Production Challenges
To understand Hydrogen, we should probably go back to our high school Chemistry. The name ‘hydro-gen’ by Antoine Lavoisier means water former. It belongs to Group I Period I in the periodic table. So what exactly is Green Hydrogen then?
Moving away from Chemistry, green hydrogen implies hydrogen created using renewable energy or non-fossil fuels. So why is this a big deal for the world? Green hydrogen has the potential to provide green power that can be used in manufacturing, transportation etc. Its only byproduct is water.
Production and Costs of Green Hydrogen
Green hydrogen is produced by utilizing renewable energy and electrolysis. Electrolysis splits water into oxygen and hydrogen gas. Another name for this is water splitting. In the U.S. green hydrogen costs 3 times the price of natural gas. This is the current industry problem since it is cheaper to produce gray or blue hydrogen. Blue hydrogen is obtained from natural gases (methane) via steam methane reforming. The process however emits carbon dioxide which is captured and stored underground. On the other hand, grey hydrogen throws off carbon waste.
It is the cost of electrolysis that make clean hydrogen so expensive. However, prices of electrolyzers are falling as manufacturing scales up. In California, it costs averagely $16.51 per kilo to fuel a light duty passenger car in the opinion of Joint Agency Report of 2019. As a result, fueling a Hyundai Nexo’s 6.33kg tank will costs about 65-95 pounds.
There is however hope for the industry. Haldor Topsoe, a Danish catalyst manufacturer plans to build a large facility to manufacture electrolyzers. The company outlined that the electrolyzers would cut hydrogen production costs by as much as 20 percent.
To produce green hydrogen, it is imperative to possess sustainable clean energy sources. These green energy sources maybe solar, wind etc. These resources are clearly abundant in Africa. There are ever-growing solar and wind projects implying that renewable electricity can be produced often. It is this green energy that will power production of green hydrogen. Moreover, green hydrogen possesses the capacity to act as a storage system for excess clean energy. This comes in handy by overcoming current weaknesses in renewable energy sector.
A good idea without support is as good as dreams. Strategy implementation and execution is a critical part in projects. Voice of support from African governments such as Morocco and South Africa have gone a long way to make the dream come true. The support has gone a long way in formation of more environmental policies. There have also been partnerships with other foreign governments to build hydrogen producing plants.
Geopolitical and oil price instability for the continent is a big issue. Green hydrogen will tone down the exposure while also reduce energy costs. Since energy industry is huge in Africa, there will be a ripple effect. Lower energy costs will be significant enough to imply increased savings. Increased savings leading to more investments, more employment, increased tax collection and economic growth.
If you read our previous article, you definitely know the importance of technology in the renewable industry. Many African countries are not confined in contemporary technology. If you look on the brighter side, this is advantageous since huge devaluations or exit risks present less issues. The African Hydrogen Partnership (AHP) encourages clean hydrogen economies that will resolve most of the economic, environmental and social challenges in African countries. The (AHP) vision is to see the construction of power-to-gas clean energy stations.
Green Hydrogen in South Africa
ENGIE, a French multinational predicts South Africa to be a global clean hydrogen leader. The prediction was majorly based on the county’s abundant clean energy sources. The South Africa government via its “Hydrogen South Africa “initiative is selling the idea to the locals. South Africa is unique in this industry. She sits on 90% of known platinum group metals (PGM). PGMs are the main raw materials in synthesis of catalysts vital for electrolysis. The South African government has also been looking at export opportunities. With countries like Japan mentioning their intention to purchase up to 800,000 tons of hydrogen annually by 2030, South Africa maybe on the right track.
Green Hydrogen in Morocco
It is when corona marred the world that the Moroccan government partnered with Germany to build Africa’s first clean hydrogen plant. The partnership will see the completion of two projects namely Power-to-X and Power-to-X research. Operations of the project will be between 2024-2025. The term “Power-to-X” implies the different methods in which energy is generated (i.e. power-to-gas, power-to-fuel, power-to-heat etc.)
Green Hydrogen Production Challenges
Actualizing mass production of green hydrogen across the continent is not a walk in the park. The costs alone are very high. The initial investment is quite high due to the customized infrastructure required to produce and most importantly transport clean hydrogen.
In addition, the logistics of very distant transportation is a challenge. The thought of converting hydrogen into other forms such as ammonia or liquid forms is less efficient. The conversion process and reconversion see energy lost. As a result, costs increase. Some organizations have however advocated the use of already in place natural gas infrastructure. For example, the Spain-Algeria or Spain-Libya natural gas connections.
So, can Africa produce green hydrogen? Yes. It is now just a matter of time rather than a question of possibility. Africa already possess the right attitude and support towards clean hydrogen. Interests keep on surging as technological advancements keep lowering the costs of hydrogen production. Some credit however goes to international friends who are helping in the actualization of the vision.
For a continent with extensive wind and solar resources coupled with growing support for green hydrogen technology, Africa can turn out to be a clean hydrogen hub. This will go a long way in the actualization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) together with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.