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Africa set to feed Europe's green hydrogen hunger

As the shift towards a green hydrogen economy makes headlines around the world, Africa is fast entrenching its place as a significant supplier of the new energy resource.

From Egypt to Angola, Morocco to Djibouti, a growing wave of green hydrogen projects is spreading across the African continent.

According to a recent energy consultancy firm Rystad Energy report, Africa's electrolyser pipeline capacity has reached 114 gigawatts, spread across 52 projects.

Moreover, Eastern, Southern, Western and Central Africa now constitute over 60% of Africa's announced green hydrogen pipeline capacity - even though North African countries are far closer to the largest anticipated early markets in Europe.

According to Rajeev Pandey, a clean tech analyst, much of Africa offers near-perfect conditions for green hydrogen generation.

"Africa's unparalleled mineral reserves are critical for electrolyser production, and the region's fantastic renewable potential combined with Europe's prodigious production and energy targets will not alter energy flows, but create them anew," Pandey said. 

With an announced electrolyser pipeline of about 70GW, Mauritania leads the way in the sub-Saharan region, covering 50% of the total, followed by South Africa and Namibia. 

Even new players, like Djibouti, are jumping on the green hydrogen bandwagon. The country seeks to utilise its solar, wind, and geothermal resources to increase green hydrogen supplies.

It recently signed a landmark agreement with CWP to launch a 10GW renewable energy and green hydrogen facility in the country.

Similarly, Angola's 300MW green hydrogen project at Sonangol will export 280 000 tonnes per annum of green ammonia to Germany.

Globally, metal production processes like steelmaking are turning to green hydrogen to minimise their outsized carbon footprint. The entire production pipeline, including shipping, will need to transform to clean energy to meet European Union standards, with industrial giants like Mitsubishi already working to ensure their ships can run using a hydrogen derivative, ammonia, for fuel. 

Hydrogen production at scale will be reliant on green energy-driven electrolysers. To be highly efficient, these, in turn, are likely to rely reliant on platinum group metals. South Africa is sitting on about 90% of the world's global platinum group metal reserves.

Although sub-Saharan Africa has great potential, Egypt and Morocco in North Africa also possess unique advantages that make them promising green hydrogen-supplying hubs.

Egypt's geographical location makes it a good shipping point for distribution to Europe, Asia, and Africa, and its control of the Suez Canal gives the country a unique strategic position.

Egypt already has 21 hydrogen projects and is Africa's top hydrogen-producing country. In neighbouring Morocco, the Amun Project, being constructed close to Tan Tan City, will have an annual capacity of 900 000 tonnes – the largest hydrogen capacity from a single project in Africa to date.

With these pipeline projects, the authors of the Rystead Energy report estimate that Africa's green hydrogen production will hit 7.2 million tonnes by the end of 2035.

However, the challenge lies in financing these projects, with Africa's completed projects generating just about 13MW of the planned 114GW. 

Nevertheless, the financing opportunities for Africa are extensive, given Europe's keen interest in Africa as a supplier of green ammonia after Russia's botched supply route.

Germany alone seeks to import between 50% and 70% of hydrogen to feed its domestic demand by 2030.

According to Patrick Prestele, a South Africa-based consultant at Frost and Sullivan Africa, "clean hydrogen costs can fall faster than expected if scaled up with proper regulatory frameworks".

"The most substantial cost reductions are expected in locations with exceptionally high renewable potential," he noted 

Momentum is building.-fin24

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