JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Green hydrogen produced on site can play a huge role in solving the energy crisis as it eliminates the challenges associated with establishing electrical distribution networks over vast distances, says Hydrox Holdings CEO Corrie de Jager.
“Access to dependable energy can be the catalyst to improving the lives of many and with access to electricity the potential of Africa’s people can be developed,” De Jager points out in a release to Engineering News & Mining Weekly.
Hydrox's Proudly South African divergent electrode flow through (DEFTTM) technology, already a recipient of South Africa’s National Science and Technology Forum Award for Innovation, last year won top recognition in Monaco at the principality’s inaugural hydrogen forum.
DEFT allows hydrogen-producing electrolysers to operate without membranes at higher temperatures, resulting in significantly improved electrical efficiencies.
The African Hydrogen Partnership estimates that more than 600-million people in Africa have no access to electricity. “To replace paraffin and diesel with methanol and hydrogen is going to make a massive impact in people’s lives,” says De Jager.
“At conference after conference we learn about big plans and vast amounts available for the development of green hydrogen in South Africa but the execution of these plans is unfortunately lacking.
“Many engineers and firms, including ourselves, that have the technology and knowhow to immediately implement hydrogen-related projects, are faced with the harsh reality that access to funding is just about impossible.
“The relevant governmental agencies, and even the venture capital firms in control of these funds, are so busy ‘de-risking’ projects that smaller enterprises are denied access to funding – and in the process South Africa is losing valuable skills and technology," he says.
Hydrox calculates that its membraneless DEFT has the potential to reduce the cost of producing hydrogen by up to 30%.
Envisaged when Hydrox beat off 15 global strongholds, among them the US, Europe, Canada, Australia and India to win its Monoco award, was that the principality could use the South African technology in a marine context.
“They’ve got these huge motor boats lying out there in the harbour, massive ones, that all use diesel, and they want to replace the diesel with green hydrogen – as do the countries alongside them, such as Spain and Italy, Gibraltar and Malta. They all approached us. They have a huge need to get into the green hydrogen space,” De Jager told Engineering News & Mining Weekly last December.
"There is great excitement about South Africa’s plans to take advantage of our abundant sunshine and to a lesser degree our wind resources to generate green hydrogen industries for export to Europe and Japan.
“This is great news for all our green pundits but from a purely practical view, it is difficult to see how we in South Africa can compete in the export market,” he contends.
Australia is investing heavily in green hydrogen; existing pipelines of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, with already developing green hydrogen zones, can pump methanol at low cost; Namibia, with existing infrastructure in place, is receiving financial support from Germany; and Spain, with significant solar and wind resources, is developing its own green hydrogen industries.
Germany is completing a study which indicates that South Africa needs to make itself more competitive.
At the end of the month, Hydrox will, once again, be presenting in Monaco, where it will be highlighting a solution to large-scale energy storage at high energy efficiencies.
DEFT, without a membrane, allows for higher temperature production and can operate off seawater and treated acid mine water.
Standard electrolysers use a heat exchanger system to remove excess heat so that it does not supersede the maximum operating temperature of the membrane. Within DEFT, this excess temperature can be locked in to improve system efficiencies, that lower operating expenditure and hydrogen costs. The system can also handle fluctuating currents, which makes it appropriate for renewable energy and green hydrogen.
One of the Randburg-based company’s early objectives, as reported by Engineering News & Mining Weekly, was to produce hydrogen below R100/kg, making it cost competitive with petrol. Its vision at that stage was to make hydrogen readily accessible to the public by adopting the single-pump model that was once used at filling stations by the long-defunct Satmar and then later by Sasol, in its early days.