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Nelson Mandela University-led consortium to develop green hydrogen feasibility study


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Nelson Mandela University-led consortium to develop green hydrogen feasibility study

Green hydrogen symbol on a tank
Photo by Bloomberg

22nd April 2024

By: Darren Parker
Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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A consortium led by Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and boutique consultancy firm Ikigai Group has won a UK government grant under the South Africa-UK Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions (Pact) programme to deliver an innovative feasibility study to explore the viability of green hydrogen production and export infrastructure from the Eastern Cape to global markets, including the UK, Europe and Japan.

The consortium will be working with the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC) in support of South Africa’s wider development and just energy transition plans.


"South Africa generally and the . . . Eastern Cape in particular experience high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment. South Africa is committed to deliver economic growth through a just transition from, inter alia, dependence on fossil fuel-based energy production.

“This feasibility study aims to inform strategic decisions for the production and export of green hydrogen from the Eastern Cape, potentially reshaping South Africa's economy for inclusive growth,” NMU Vice Chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa said on April 22.


The consortium comprises several industry leaders and experts in the energy transition, from University College London, DNV, National Gas, University of Kent, and the Thames Estuary Growth Board.

The consortium is also supported by key delivery partners, including Hive Energy, the Nedbank Group, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and Advantage Partners, who will provide fund management services to the Japan Hydrogen Association’s new fund dedicated to hydrogen-related investments.

“The missing links in hydrogen moving from an inter-regional to an international commodity are import and export ports receiving, converting, and onwards distributing infrastructure and the hydrogen carriers from a [health, safety and environmental] and total lifecycle cost perspective. This green hydrogen corridor project is looking at all these aspects.

“It's focusing on a large-scale green hydrogen project in South Africa, comparing it with ammonia as a counterfactual carrier, and exploring how we can deliver hydrogen to places like Japan, Europe and the UK. The goal is to show that exporting hydrogen can also boost local demand,” Ikigai co-founder and COO Helena Anderson said.

Green hydrogen, which is produced through electrolysis using renewable energy sources, is a clean and versatile alternative to conventional fossil fuels. The feasibility study will evaluate the potential for establishing green hydrogen production facilities in the Eastern Cape and developing the necessary infrastructure for export, including port facilities and transportation networks.

Stakeholder engagement will be integral to the process, to ensure alignment with local communities, government agencies and industry partners.

“This project strengthens the UK’s support to South Africa as part of the Just Energy Transition Partnership. We are excited by the potential impact of the outputs of this study, which will play a key role in accelerating efforts to advance the green hydrogen export agenda in the Eastern Cape and the green hydrogen economy across the country,” British High Commissioner to South Africa Antony Phillipson said.

The export focus of the project is key to maximise the valorisation of abundant renewable energy resources in the Eastern Cape and surrounding provinces, but also to provide a diversification of revenue streams through the sale of green hydrogen and green ammonia to international markets. This is critical to ensure the bankability and ultimately the delivery of the overall project.

“The funding for the study demonstrates the catalytic impact of collaboration between private sector and development capital. The partnership will facilitate the creation of a new asset class in the energy sector with a profound and positive economic, social and environmental impact in the province and the country.

“This feasibility study will also, through import and export infrastructure assessments, address regional integration of sustainable green hydrogen projects and contribute to Africa’s prosperity,” DBSA project preparation group executive Catherine Koffman said.


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