Establishing hydrogen economies and societies in Africa will provide tremendous social, economic and environmental benefits - all at the same time as it will grow to become perhaps the most profitable investment available today.
That’s the message from the African Hydrogen Partnership (AHP), a to be multi-stakeholder association that has recently unveiled an ambitious vision to transform Africa from a vast and largely underdeveloped continent, to a region at the forefront of clean technologies with a thriving hydrogen value chain.
The plans would see renewable hydrogen produced and consumed locally in Africa, meaning the continent would be able to reduce the import of fossil-based fuels and chemicals drastically. This would reduce dependency on the US dollar and help improve trade balances.
AHP proposes that the savings from this, and from reducing pollution, as well as socio-economic benefits, could be used to fund new hydrogen programmes.
Next to those savings, new financial instruments such as Green African Hydrogen Bond could be developed for providing efficient access to capital markets to raise funding for green hydrogen projects.
The first hydrogen economies would begin with the construction of large-scale power to gas (P2G) renewable energy facilities or hubs along important trans-African highways. These would also be built in ports, where hydrogen stations would provide fuel for long haul heavy goods vehicles, buses and trains, all powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
The same P2G stations would also provide green hydrogen for industrial processes and green chemicals, such as ammonia (for fertiliser), green methanol (polymers), steel manufacturing (reducing agent), glass production (protective gas) and electronics (protective & carrier gas).
These trans-African hydrogen routes would connect major mining centres that use heavy-duty hydrogen vehicles (such as forklifts, tugs and bulldozers).
The routes would also connect harbours, trade centres, metropolitan areas overland and near-shore islands with hydrogen-powered ferries.
In metropolitan areas where there’s severe pollution, lightweight and convertible hydrogen fuel cell business vehicles could provide sufficient reliable energy to run a small business during the day and to supply electricity to the owner’s home at night. These vehicles would make clean transport and power available and affordable for everyone.
In AHP’s vision for a hydrogen economy, the consumer transports green energy from large scale, independent renewable energy production facilities and from local mini-grids to wherever they need to consume the energy.
This is a new, revolutionary concept for Africa put forward by AHP’s co-founders Vincent Oldenbroek and Siegfried Huegemann that would remove Africa’s current dependency on the electricity grid for energy.
“Hydrogen technology has accomplished tremendous achievements over the last four years. Costs have come down, products have been scaled up and at the same time all the developments like renewable electricity have become really cheap. These developments together made us decide the timing is right and 2019 was the year to start this,” explains Oldenbroek to gasworld.
“However, with climate change happening all over the world, for example the extreme warm winters in Europe, you could say maybe we are already too late. With all these environmental challenges we are facing, there’s no better time than today,” adds Huegemann.