Mining giant Anglo American says it will complete a feasibility study to develop a “hydrogen valley”, anchored in the platinum group metals-rich Bushveld geological area in South Africa.
The study will be undertaken as part of a collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and also includes energy and services company ENGIE, the South African National Development Institute (SANEDI) and clean energy solutions provider Bambili Energy.
The proposed hydrogen valley will stretch approximately 835 kilometres from Anglo American’s Mogalakwena platinum group metals (PGMs) mine near Mokopane in Limpopo province in the north of South Africa, along the industrial and commercial corridor to Johannesburg and to the south coast at Durban.
The DSI has said that the project will focus on hydrogen technologies and forms part of the government’s economic recovery plans.
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 said.
“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 department said in October 2020.
The industrial corridor project will start in a PGMs mining area in Limpopo and continue through the Johannesburg-to-Durban corridor, the department said.
South Africa has 75% of the global reserves of PGMs, which form a key input into proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technologies.
“The transition to a low carbon world is an opportunity to drive the development of cleaner technologies, create new industries and employment, and improve people’s lives,” said Natascha Viljoen, chief executive of Anglo American’s PGMs business.
Viljoen said that the The regional PGMs industry will be central to such a hydrogen valley, with PGMs playing an important role both in Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) electrolysis used to produce hydrogen at scale and in fuel cells themselves.
She added that Anglo American is already investing in renewable hydrogen production technology at its Mogalakwena PGMs mine and in the development of hydrogen-powered fuel cell mine haul trucks – the world’s largest to run on hydrogen.