Platinum Valley project to pull SA's hydrogen initiatives into one ecosystem
South Africa is to establish a Platinum Valley that will serve as an industrial cluster bringing various hydrogen applications in the country together to form an integrated hydrogen ecosystem. The initiative is part of the government's economic recovery plans.
South Africa's version of a "hydrogen valley" will identify concrete project opportunities for kick-starting hydrogen activities in promising hubs, with the aim of boosting economic growth and job creation, spurring the development of new industries, increasing the valorisation of the country's platinum reserves, and reducing its carbon footprint.
The industrial corridor project will start in a platinum group metals (PGMs) mining area in Limpopo, including the Limpopo Province Science and Technology Park, and continue through the Johannesburg-to-Durban corridor (OR Tambo International Airport to King Shaka International Airport).
This development comes as the country joined the rest of the world last week in marking World Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day on 8 October. October 8th (10.08) was chosen in reference to the atomic weight of hydrogen (1.008). The day is celebrated annually to raise awareness of the vast potential of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies for improving people's lives.
Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies offer an alternative source of clean electricity, while hydrogen allows for energy to be stored and delivered in a usable form. Using hydrogen as an energy carrier could potentially reduce South Africa's dependence on fossil fuels that cause global warming while reducing its reliance on imported oil.
The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has already deployed fuel cells in several off-grid establishments, including Poelano High School in the North West. Most recently, seven hydrogen fuel cell systems were installed as the primary power source at 1 Military Hospital in support of the country's COVID-19 response.
The Platinum Valley will also allow South Africa to showcase its recent achievements in supporting the sustainable extraction, processing and recycling of PGMs, which are essential for low-carbon technologies throughout the value chain. South Africa has 75% of the global reserves of PGMs, which form a key input into proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technologies.
The implementation of the DSI's Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Strategy is also linked to a number of other national policies, such as the Minerals Beneficiation Strategy and the National Climate Change Response White Paper. The Minerals Beneficiation Strategy identifies PGMs as strategic minerals for supporting the creation of decent employment and the diversification of the economy, including the promotion of a green economy.
Engagements on the Platinum Valley are at an advanced stage with key stakeholders including the Limpopo Economic Development Agency, with whom the DSI signed a memorandum of understanding in 2018. Other stakeholders are the Gauteng Industrial Development Zone and Airports Company South Africa.
In another development, the DSI has given the thumbs-up for the development of the National Hydrogen Society Roadmap for South Africa in line with the HySA Strategy.
The vision of the HySA strategy is to use local resources to create knowledge and human resource capacity, enabling the development of high-value commercial activities in hydrogen fuel cell technologies.
The Roadmap will set out the plan for creating an inclusive hydrogen society in South Africa so that an enabling compact between industry, labour, communities and the government can be developed. This will enable the government and industry to draw up a policy framework for exploiting the potential benefits of hydrogen by integrating it into various sectors of the economy.
An Atlas of Green Hydrogen Generation Potentials in Africa is also being developed in order to establish Africa's potential as an exporter of green hydrogen. The atlas will not only identify clean hydrogen potentials in the continent but will also consider related social, political, climate, infrastructure, policy and environmental issues.