As part of resuscitating the economy that has been in the doldrums long before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, government will set up a ‘Platinum Valley’ that will see an establishment of an “industrial cluster” aimed at amalgamating the various “hydrogen applications in the country to create an integrated hydrogen ecosystem”.
The initiative will “identify concrete project opportunities” to set in motion a range of “hydrogen activities in various promising hubs with a view to boosting economic growth and job creation”.
Some of these activities will include among others, stimulating the development of new industries, increase “the valorisation of the country’s platinum reserves and reduce its carbon footprint”.
The industrial corridor project is planned to start in a platinum group metals (PGMs) mining area in Limpopo and this will include the Limpopo Province Science and Technology Park. It will also encompass the Johannesburg-to-Durban corridor (OR Tambo International Airport all the way to King Shaka International Airport).
This development coincided with the World Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day on October 08, 2020. The date, October 8th (10.08), was chosen in reference to the “atomic weight of hydrogen (1.008)”. The day is celebrated annually to raise awareness of the vast potential of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies for improving people’s lives.
Energy experts recommend hydrogen and fuel cell technologies as alternative sources of clean electricity saying hydrogen allows for energy to be stored and deployed in usable form. In addition, they say, hydrogen fuel cells are efficient, reliable, and safe and quiet and that because they are modular in nature they can be deployed rapidly and scaled up as the need arises. Their maintenance cost is also comparatively low.
The use of hydrogen as an energy carrier could help South Africa substantially reduce its reliance on fossil fuels blamed for the emission of greenhouse gases which cause global warming. It will also reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil.
The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has already deployed fuel cells in several off-grid establishments one of them being Poelano High School in the North West.
In August the DSI, in partnership with the private sector and sister departments: Public Works and Infrastructure and Defence unveiled seven hydrogen fuel cells systems that are used as the primary power source for a field facility at 1 Military in Pretoria in support of the country’s COVID-19 response.
The Platinum Valley will also allow South Africa to showcase its recent successes in supporting the sustainable extraction, processing and recycling of PGMs, which have proven to be essential for low-carbon technologies. South Africa has 75% of the global reserves of PGMs, which form a key input into proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technologies.
Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Strategy, which is being implemented by the DSI, is also linked to a number of other national policies, such as the Minerals Beneficiation Strategy and the National Climate Change Response White Paper. The Minerals Beneficiation Strategy identifies PGMs as strategic minerals for supporting the creation of decent employment and the diversification of the economy, including the promotion of a green economy.
The Platinum Valley is also engaged in with other stakeholders, which include the Limpopo Economic Development Agency, with whom the DSI has signed a memorandum of understanding in 2018. Other key players are the Gauteng Industrial Development Zone and Airports Company South Africa.