Mauritania is a key location for Africa’s green hydrogen ‘sphere’ © Photo by APP/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Mauritania is a key location for Africa’s green hydrogen ‘sphere’ © Photo by APP/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Why Africa is the cornerstone of Europe’s green hydrogen plans

30 March 2023

Sub-Saharan Africa could be a key global source of green hydrogen if it can obtain sufficient investment to develop infrastructure to produce the energy source, according to Norway-based consultancy Rystad Energy.

So far, 52 green hydrogen projects have been announced in Africa, with production likely to show a sharp increase after 2025 – when many projects are due to come online.

Production will reach 7.2m tonnes by the end of 2035. Most of the hydrogen is destined for Europe, which is seeking to diversify its energy mix following the reduction of Russian natural gas supplies.

Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable energy. It is expected to play a key role in the transition to a net-zero energy system by helping to decarbonise sectors that are difficult to electrify, including heavy industry and long-haul transport.

“The global green hydrogen economy is beginning to take shape, with Africa and Europe becoming a dynamo of production and use,” said Rajeev Pandey, clean tech analyst at Rystad Energy.

“Africa’s unparalleled mineral reserves are critical for electrolyser production, and the region’s fantastic renewable potential combined with Europe’s prodigious production and import targets will not just alter energy flows, they will create them anew.”

Key countries within Sub-Saharan Africa's green hydrogen production sphere are set to be Mauritania, South Africa and Namibia.

South Africa currently holds about 90% of the world’s global platinum group metals reserves – critical for the production of the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysers used to produce green hydrogen.

However, creating a green hydrogen industry in these countries depends on securing sufficient investment to build production facilities and associated infrastructure, the consultancy warned

“The continent’s access to land, low labour costs and renewable power potential has been attracting attention from further afield, with Germany signing offtake deals with Namibia and South Africa,” said Rystad.

The EU’s recently released green industrial plan aims to promote renewable energy and green hydrogen projects across Africa.

Germany plans to import much of its green hydrogen from Africa to power the 17-21GW of hydrogen-ready gas-fired power plants it aims to build by 2030.

North African countries such as Egypt are even more important as potential producers of green hydrogen.

Norway has provided $8m of funding to Scatec, a Norwegian renewable company, to develop green hydrogen projects in Egypt.

Abu Dhabi's clean energy company Masdar and Hassan Allam Utilities are funding the development of green hydrogen production plants in the Suez Canal Economic Zone and on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast.

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