8 Nov 2021
Namibia optimistic about new green hydrogen industry
AUTHOR: BRIGITTE WEIDLICH
The global search for green and renewable energy sources is intensifying and green hydrogen is regarded as a promising solution. As northern countries scramble to secure hydrogen supplies from the southern hemisphere, Namibia has joined the race. The Namibian government has recently revealed ambitious plans to start with green hydrogen production with a pilot plant to be set up during 2022. President Hage Geingob said Namibia wants to be the first African country to achieve carbon neutrality and utilise the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to export clean hydrogen energy to its neighbours and abroad.
Namibia will showcase its green energy ambitions during the next UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 26), which starts in Glasgow, Scotland on 1 November.
Much achieved since April
President Geingob broke the news in March this year during the launch of the country’s second Harambee development plan, as the government was already hard at work to establish a green hydrogen production industry. “Given our world class renewable energy resources, Namibia will develop a national strategy for developing green hydrogen and ammonia. As we pursue this strategy, we have the opportunity to become the first country in Africa to achieve carbon neutrality and utilise the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to export clean energy to our neighbours,” he said.
In early August a request for project proposals for local and international bidders kicked off during an online event at State House. During that occasion, Germany’s green hydrogen commissioner who had joined the launch online from Berlin announced that Namibia would receive about N$682,3 million (40 million Euros) from the German government to assist with research on venturing into green hydrogen.
The director general of the National Planning Commission (NBC), Obeth Kandjoze, said in addition to examining the feasibility of Namibia exploiting green hydrogen, the money will also be used to set up the Green Hydrogen Council of Namibia. This has been set up in the meantime with eight members. It is supported by a 15-member technical committee. The economic advisor to President Geingob, James Mnyupe has been appointed as Namibia’s green hydrogen commissioner.
Mnyupe visited several countries during a European green hydrogen fact-finding and marketing mission a few weeks ago in order to engage potential partners and investors and promote Namibia as an ideal location for green hydrogen projects.
While in Antwerp, Belgium, Mnyupe met Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, at CMB Tech’s opening of the world’s first multimodal hydrogen refuelling station which will be used to power ships, tube trailers, buses and cars.
Belgium is interested to establish a synthetic pilot plant in Namibia’s Erongo Region in due course.
Recently, a group of international business people were taken on a tour to southern Namibia, where a huge industrial plant for green hydrogen production is envisaged near Lüderitz. A second site might be established in the Erongo region near the current desalination plant.
According to the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB) nine bidders showed serious interest at the deadline of 16 September.
Huge investments create many new jobs
Kandjoze said the preliminary estimates of this potential project for Namibia's annual production of green ammonia was in excess of 2,5 million tonnes. “It will thus attract more than US$6 billion in foreign direct investment, while generating annual revenue in excess of US$800 million.” Over the next few years, thousands of new jobs could be created.
Although situated in the Tsau-Khaeb National Park (previously Sperrgebiet Park), the government plans to develop four industrial areas south of Lüderitz as green hydrogen and ammonia production sites with solar and wind parks. Parallel to that a brand new deepwater port is planned just south of Lüderitz. The Environmental Management Act of 2007 permits certain economic developments in parks albeit subject to certain conditions.
The government is also looking into setting up a wind blade manufacturing plant for wind turbines and a green steel plant and an ammonia fertiliser production line.
The intricacies of green hydrogen and ammonia
Ammonia is a gas that is widely used to make agricultural fertilisers. Green ammonia production is the process of making ammonia that is 100 percent renewable and carbon-free. Ammonia consists of one nitrogen atom bonded to three hydrogen atoms. It is produced by using hydrogen from water electrolysis and nitrogen separated from the air.
This requires energy. Namibia with its wide open spaces, abundant sunlight and good wind conditions near Lüderitz plans to set up large solar and wind plants for the ammonia and hydrogen production.
The hydrogen generated from the ammonia splitting can be used in a fuel cell. Ammonia in liquid form is a hydrogen carrier enabling cost-effective storage and distribution of large quantities of renewable energy – green hydrogen - over large distances. Consequently, converting hydrogen to ammonia as a means of transporting it across the world would have lower costs than transporting it as hydrogen.
Green hydrogen is also created by using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels by means of electrolysis. Hydrogen energy is very versatile, as it can be used in gas or liquid form, be converted into electricity or fuel, and there are many ways of producing it. Green hydrogen can be stored in large amounts for a long time.
Approximately 70 million tons of green hydrogen are already produced globally every year for use in oil refining, ammonia production, steel manufacturing, chemical and fertiliser production, food processing and metallurgy. When converted into a carrier such as ammonia, it is a zero-carbon fuel which can easily be transported, as mentioned above.
Germany becomes Namibia’s hydrogen partner
Germany’s Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek has signed a memorandum of understanding at the end of August with Namibia for the future supply of green hydrogen. Remarking on Namibia’s and Germany’s cooperation in the field of green hydrogen technology, Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek said: “The global race for the best hydrogen technologies and the best sites for hydrogen production is already on. We believe that Namibia has an excellent chance of succeeding in this competition. We want to take this chance together. I am proud that Germany is the first country to officially form a hydrogen partnership with Namibia.
The Namibian government is currently drafting a policy framework for this new industry sector and a green hydrogen strategy, which are to be completed early next year.
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