It’s that time again on a Friday when Update At Noon host Sakina Kamwendo presents another Update From The Coal-Face with Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.
Kamwendo: South Africa’s National Society of Black Engineers this week called on the government to enable the development of a local hydrogen economy.
Creamer: Yes, this was a very important call by the National Society of Black Engineers, which was made by the society’s president, Mdu Mlaba. He's seeing great opportunities for green hydrogen particularly, and the opportunities need a policy backbone, they also need execution of investment, and he's calling on the government to please hasten this, because we can see in Europe at the moment, there is such a commitment to going green, that they want to have it by 2035, which is massive for a region of that size. I'm told that if you're in Germany now and you've got a hydrogen car, you can drive around Germany without any problem, there are refuelling stations for you, and this is a huge advancement very quickly. It's also very useful because of the urgency around getting sovereign energy. Energy freedom is so important at the moment. The high risk of a country getting its energy from a risky source is now giving rise to hydrogen being pushed in a very big way. And this is great for South Africa, because of the need of the fuel cells to get vehicles going. The fuel cells need platinum group metals, and the platinum group metals come from South Africa. So, it's an important breakthrough for us.
Kamwendo: The UK think-tank SFA Oxford has declared hydrogen to be key to the long-term use of South Africa’s platinum.
Creamer: So, in this case you get a UK think-tank that's out there in Oxford, from where they’ve be watching South Africa’s platinum group metals situation for so long. They're saying if South Africa really wants to keep demand going for platinum group metals coming from Southern Africa, it needs to promote the hydrogen economy vigorously. SFA Oxford outlined quite a long-term plan on that because they don't see the hydrogen economy coming in as fast as it will, say, in Europe. But still, they're saying this is what is needed to keep the platinum group metals demand up. We can see, too, that their researchers are worried about supply, and that they are hoping that the promotion of platinum group metals in general will proceed, because this will lower the price of platinum itself, which is needed in these fuel cells that drive vehicles. And that also have a big involvement in generating hydrogen because the platinum group metals, iridium and platinum, are also used to generate the hydrogen from water using renewable energy. All in all, they're saying Africa is blessed with massive sunshine. They should be planning now to grab the opportunities that Europe and everybody else will bring in the field of hydrogen. Hopefully, there will be responses soon, particularly also at the supply end because we need more platinum group metals produced going into the future so that demand is met.
Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. He’ll be back At The Coal-Face at the same time next Friday.