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Change the world

25/06/2024

Nelson Mandela University development studies researcher Prof Janet Cherry has called for more local benefits to be built into the R109bn Coega green hydrogen project.

NMU researcher calls for greater first-tier spin-offs for region to be built into Hive Hydrogen’s R109bn Coega development 

 

by Guy Rogers

Published in The Herald on 25 June 

SPARKING CHANGE: NMU development studies researcher Prof Janet Cherry

The project, one of the biggest private sector investments in SA, will culminate in the production of green hydrogen and green ammonia for export.

The development team led by Hive Hydrogen South Africa will erect its own solar and wind energy systems and a desalinator to harvest the water it needs and use the brine waste to produce salt.

The project will also be geared around an energy partnership with the metro where it will supply the city with surplus clean energy and the municipality will feed it into the grid when there is insufficient renewable energy available.

Cherry, an activist in the field of sustainable and participatory development, said she was in favour of green hydrogen but only if it was linked to a local industrialisation initiative.

“Currently the only shortterm economic and labour benefits that will accrue to Nelson Mandela Bay will come from the secondary clean energy value chain business that the primary export industry attracts.

“The environmental costs of desalination will have to be assessed but in general clean energy production is good and green hydrogen and green ammonia are especially suitable as fuel for shipping and to produce products like green fertiliser, cement and steel.

“However, it would truly be a game changer if we could use at least a part of the new generation fuel they produce to galvanise a change in our transport sector and breathe new life into our auto industry.

“Imagine if we could produce a new line of public transport vehicles fuelled with green hydrogen and perhaps as well a small low end electric vehicle to give more people mobility.”

The project is being driven by Hive Hydrogen SA, which has signed a partnership with Japanese trading and investment company Itochu, and an agreement with Genesis EcoEnergy to install 372MW of wind power. Hive Energy, headquartered in the UK, is a 75% stakeholder of Hive Hydrogen SA, and is the principal funder and co-developer of the project.

The project, to be established in the Coega special economic zone, is one of the biggest private sector investments so far in SA, with the anticipated production of one million tonnes of green hydrogen and green ammonia annually.

Green hydrogen is produced through electrolysis, where electricity from a renewable source — in this case sun and wind — is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

To produce green ammonia, two molecules of green hydrogen are combined with one molecule of nitrogen.

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Denise van Huyssteen said in an opinion piece last week that the Hive project was a major opportunity for the Bay to attract new manufacturing businesses in the clean energy value chain.

These included businesses producing electrolysers, which used electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, solar and wind energy equipment, batteries and automotive alternatives such as like electric and green ammonia vehicles.

She said the Bay needed catalytic projects like Hive Hydrogen to diversify and strengthen the local economy and create much-needed employment.

“The chamber’s recently launched Local Economy Reinvention Think Tank incorporates a workstream which is solely focused on identifying the opportunities which could flow from the hydrogen economy. We are doing this because we believe that it is vital that proactive efforts are undertaken to ensure that the hydrogen project becomes an anchor to unlocking local economic spin off benefits through downstream industries.

“It is our view, especially given the high levels of poverty and unemployment in our metro, that all the stakeholders should collaborate to help ensure that this project achieves its milestones and succeeds.”

Speaking at the launch of the partnership with Itochu in Gqeberha in December, the chief of staff in Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane’s office, Baphelele Mhlaba, said the aim was to create 15,000 jobs and a “hydrogen valley” at Coega.

The project will also be geared around an energy partnership with the metro where it will supply the city with surplus clean energy and the municipality will feed it into the grid when there is insufficient renewable energy available.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777
Zandile.Mbabela@mandela.ac.za