Hydrogen Infrastructure to be Installed Between Joburg and Durban Freight Corridor

Before you can run, you must first walk - here is the plan to make hydrogen infrastructure and zero-emissions mobility in SA a reality. The post Hydrogen Infrastructure to be Installed Between Joburg and Durban Freight Corridor appeared first on CAR Magazine.

Hydrogen Infrastructure to be Installed Between Joburg and Durban Freight Corridor

BMW’s hydrogen-powered iX5 has officially taken to South African roads with key partnerships to yield a viable proof of concept but before it can ever become a mass reality, there will need to be significant investment into hydrogen infrastructure. Here is how Sasol plans on rolling out this technology and becoming a global player in green H2 development.

Image: BMW

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It is important to note that the refuelling infrastructure we have access to today, didn’t materialise overnight but rather over years of strategic placement for development and growth, owed in some part to the needs of the end users. An example would be that a novel refuelling station would have been placed on a route easily accessed by as many users as possible. Once achieved, infrastructure can be established in more niche locations, becoming more accessible for the end user. This principle will in some way dictate the growth of hydrogen infrastructure in South Africa over the next several years.

Related: Could Hydrogen Fuel Realistically Become a thing in SA?   

Starting from scratch, for hydrogen to become a realistic alternative form of propulsion, there will need to be strategic placement for maximum yield and adoption. Across several information-brimmed lectures during BMW’s iX5 pilot fleet experience, there was a consistent allusion to hydrogen being better suited for larger and heavier machinery. Sasol speaker Dries Swanepoel went as far as to say that this new technology is best suited for applications like mining, industrial processing with heat, long-term backup power and then only heavy-duty transport. Once these industries have demonstrated an interest and infrastructure has been established will it only be a viable solution for end users, like you and me.

Related: Hydrogen-Powered BMW iX5 Fleet to Reach Local Shores in Early 2024

With this in mind, all stakeholders who hope to see the success of hydrogen in South Africa have strategically conceived a hydrogen infrastructure passage between Joburg and Durban. This future plan, discussed at the Hydrogen Council’s Regional Meeting held for the first time in Africa, in Sandton on the 12th and 13th of February is a momentous occasion for aiding South Africa to gravitate towards a more carbon-conscious future. The N3 route will likely be the first customer-facing route to receive hydrogen refuelling, which at first, will be geared towards heavy-duty transport before the end consumer in a passenger vehicle can begin to reap the rewards with a hydrogen-powered vehicle. This is the best solution at “reduced risk” for the implementation of the system. Being more cost-effective in operation than ICE, there is a greater incentive for industry operators to begin adopting the technology now with hydrogen-powered long-haul trucks for example. A key benefit of this zero-emissions technology is that refuelling times are significantly less than EVs and that green hydrogen can almost always be produced, no reliance on coal-fired Eskom here. Pair this up with regenerative braking and the end product is essentially in South Africa’s context, the greenest way to move from one place to another.

Image: BMW

How is it green you may ask? Well, Key partner Sasol is planning on ramping up its hydrogen production through green processes. The energy giant can sustainably produce hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, through a process called electrolysis. This can be done by harnessing wind or solar power, making it green in production. In June 2023, Sasol produced its first green hydrogen in Sasolburg after repurposing an existing 60 MW electrolyser. This can produce 3.5 tones per day and all of the hydrogen fuel used in the Toyota Mirai last year and the iX5 pilot models, originates from that site. To further aid this, Sasol plans on getting the 69 MW Msenge Emoyeni wind farm in the Eastern Cape up and running later this year which will enable the energy producer to ramp up production to a commercial scale – a first for South Africa.

Not all of this green hydrogen will be used for vehicle transport, as mentioned earlier, adoption from industry is key for capital to be spent, which will lighten the cost on the end consumer. In a country constrained by rising and volatile costs of fuel, as has been seen by conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, locally sourced and green hydrogen can aid in alleviating heavy-duty industry power generation that would typically rely on dirty energy. The repurposing of the Sasolburg plant and plans for Secunda to produce 50 000 tons per annum would position Sasol to become a key global player in hydrogen, able to export to foreign markets.

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