Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: An exciting transition to clean, green hydrogen is on the way in Sasolburg, in the Free State.
Creamer: Just announced this week by Sasol, they have reached agreement with a supplier of renewable energy, that is wind energy coming in from the Eastern Cape. This will be the first of the move towards green hydrogen, which is so important, because if you don't use clean energy, and you don't have clean molecules, in time you won't be able to sell your product on the export market. That, I think, Sasol understands better than anybody, because they have been producing grey hydrogen for so long. They know that this is no good for the planet and that they have to change.
This has come through, quite interestingly, with an announcement that many such renewable energy arrangements are to follow, so we should see the Sasol production cleaning up very well going forward. We just had the announcement now that North West University has got R35-million to spend on green hydrogen research. We know that they were the first to produce green hydrogen in 2012. Now, Hydrogen South Africa at North-West University is proceeding very fast. Sasol is also involved with Hydrogen South Africa at the university , so we can see some good movement towards green molecules, which is so important for this economy, because it can stop us from being forced to import oil ,which we pay a fortune for from overseas suppliers. We can produce our own clean electrons and our own clean molecules locally, and in so doing be able to declare energy independence in our country.
Kamwendo: A new low-emission ship that protects Mother Earth from climate change sailed out of Saldanha Bay this week.
Creamer: This is great news by Anglo American. They are ahead of the game worldwide. We see that the iron-ore coming out of Northern Cape from Kumba, the Anglo American iron-ore mine, is railed down to Saldanha. But from there, it is put into ships that really emit a lot of pollution as they sail across the ocean.
This is what Anglo American is now trying to eliminate. To do so, it has launched the first ship with low-emission pollution and will eventually move towards no emission with the help of green hydrogen and green ammonia. In the meantime, we saw this first wonderful consignment of our quality iron-ore going off to China in a low-emission vessel, and there are going to be ten more of these ships, with the second one due to be launched next month. So, we can look forward to changing of the emission rates on the sea.
Kamwendo: Drones and copper cable that can’t be recycled are being deployed on the coal line to flummox cable thieves.
Creamer: This is heart-breaking to see that the actual coal that we exported last year dropped to 50-million tons. We should be at 100-million tonnes. All lower coal exports do is open the way for Australians to get into our coal market. What is stopping us is, among other things, terrible cable theft. Richards Bay Coal Terminal reports that it has been going through hell in the last two weeks because of cable theft. They already have drones flying over the coal line, with 89 various armed respondents to respond to drone alerts. But South Africa’s coal exporters are finding that every time they go forward with new technology, the cable criminals then adapt, and they do all sorts of things to steal copper cable.
So what Transnet Freight Rail is now doing is moving away from the use of copper cable and eventually the cable will no longer be copper cable but composite cable of far less value. Of course, Transnet can't change all the cable immediately, but when the people eventually start stealing this composite cable thinking that it's copper, they are going to be flummoxed, and if they still send it off to the overseas markets, they're going to be in big trouble with those who receive it abroad, because when you melt this composite wire, there will be a smelting snarl-up, and their clients could well take it out on our cable thieves. In the meantime, it is so heart-breaking that these robbers get ahead all the time.
Every time the coal line operators come out with new technology, they seem to adapt. Hopefully, we will eventually get the better of these thieves, because the export of coal is so important to the economy of this country. It brings in foreign exchange that strengthens the rand, it adds to our gross domestic product and with coal exports slumping to 50-million tonnes for year 2022, we have gone down to where we were in 1993, which is a huge blow to our economy.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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