Green hydrogen: The bigger picture emerges

Jemima Beukes
Rajend Govender, CEO of Thyssenkrupp Uhde South Africa, said a recent study found that landing costs for green hydrogen in Namibia are 10% lower than its closest competitor Saudi Arabia, and this puts Namibia in an excellent position to become a global player in energy supply.

He made these remarks at a two-day conference which kicked off yesterday at the Windhoek Country Club Resort under the theme 'Towards a Green Hydrogen Hub in Africa'.

The event was attended by more than 400 participants, including international and local economy and new energy experts.

At the same occasion, four pilot projects being funded by the German government at a cost of N$500 million were revealed.

These projects include a port decarbonisation project, a Cleanergy hydrogen refuelling project by Ohlthaver & List, a hydrogen diesel dual-fuel locomotive by TransNamib, and the Daure green hydrogen agriculture project.

Saudi Arabia will start construction of a green hydrogen plant as soon as this month as it pushes ahead with plans to export the fuel in about four years, Bloomberg reported in March.

The kingdom is on track to sell carbon-free hydrogen from a US$5 billion project in Neom by 2026, according to Peter Terium, the head of energy and water for the new region.

Engineers have finished flattening the site in north-western Saudi Arabia and American-based Air Products and Chemicals Inc will soon begin building the facility, he said.

Meanwhile, according to Govender, while Saudi Arabia is a desert country, Namibia is sought-after for its favourable wind and solar patterns, which greatly affect costs.

“Governments worldwide are prioritising net zero emissions. There are also the plummeting costs for renewable power that improve the attractiveness for green hydrogen production. A large appetite for green hydrogen exists in Europe, and one such driver is green steel... The whole of Europe is looking at countries like Namibia,” he said.

Real deal

Jason Kasuto, chairperson of the Economic Association of Namibia, pointed out that Namibia is a haven for pipe dreams, but this time - based on the level of commitment from government - it is evident that this is the real deal.

According to him, the convergence of local and international players and world-class new energy experts in Namibia and the fact that local companies are committing to this initiative is evidence that work has started and that this is far from a pipe dream.

He added that green hydrogen presents an opportunity to change the structure of the Namibian economy, and for the country to strategically position itself not merely as a recipient of royalties and taxes, but as part of the ownership to participate in the value chain.

“Then, of course, the skills transfers; the skills we would pass over to Namibians will be of world-class quality,” he said.

Calculated risk

James Mnyupe, presidential economic advisor and green hydrogen commissioner, said energy security is of utmost importance and Namibia is looking at being a problem solver at a regional and international level, given that its own neighbour South Africa is in energy distress.

“We can see how our friends in Europe are struggling and in Namibia we are relying on our neighbour. Our jobs are to make partnerships at a regional and international level, but ultimately, it is up to the private sector to really begin to make calculated risks and deploy capital for this to work,” he said.

He also highlighted that Namibia is currently working on a synthetic fuel strategy which is likely to be launched in November, to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), while a draft Synthetic Fuels Act, aimed at regulating the industry, is set to be completed by the third quarter of 2023.

“By November, we want to sign the implementation agreement with Hyphen [Hydrogen Energy] that allows them to start a feasibility study in detail and the figure that would be spent from that is north of US$100 million (N$1.65 billion).

“Again, a portion of that will land in Namibia so we see further economic stimulus from there,” he said.

Last year, Namibia appointed Hyphen as the preferred bidder to develop the country’s first large-scale vertically integrated green hydrogen project in the Tsau //Khaeb National Park, at an estimated cost of US$9.4 billion (N$154.6 billion), with the aim of producing 300 000 tons per year of green hydrogen for regional and global markets.

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