ATC220615: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation on its Oversight of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research, Development and Innovation Programme, Dated 15 June 2022
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation on its Oversight of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research, Development and Innovation Programme, Dated 15 June 2022
The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation, having conducted oversight of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Research, Development and Innovation Programme on 18 March 2022, reports as follows:
- Members of the Committee
Ms NT Mkhatshwa: Chairperson (ANC), Ms JS Mananiso (ANC), Mr T Letsie (ANC), Ms D Sibiya (ANC), Mr BS Yabo (ANC), Dr N Khumalo (DA), Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) and Dr W Boshoff (FFP).
- Support staff
Ms S Isaacs: Committee Secretary and Dr R Osborne-Mullins: Content Advisor.
- Department of Science and Innovation
Dr Phil Mjwara (Director-General), Dr Mmboneni Muofhe (Deputy Director-General: Technology Innovation), Dr Rebecca Maserumule (Chief Director: Hydrogen and Energy), Dr Cosmas Chiteme (Director: Power) and Ms Mandy Mlilo (Director: Hydrogen and Energy).
- University of the Western Cape
Prof Jose Frantz (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation), Dr Shiva Pasupathi (Centre of Competence Director: HySA Systems) and Prof Vladimir Linkov (Director: South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry).
The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation (the Committee), on 18 March 2022, received a briefing from the Department of Science and Innovation (the Department or DSI) on the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies (HFCT) Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) Programme; as well as efforts to harness this RDI programme to, together with industry partners and government, create new economic sectors and geographical corridors via the Hydrogen Society Roadmap (HSRM). The briefing took place at the South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), which hosts one of three hydrogen centres of competence (CoC). The briefing was followed by an exhibition of the key components of both the HFCT RDI Programme and HSRM, and a tour of the Hydrogen South Africa Systems Integration and Technology Validation Laboratory.
In an effort to develop safe, clean and reliable alternative energy sources to fossil fuels, as well as build national capability in frontier science and technology initiatives, South Africa has given considerable attention and investment to the development of a local Hydrogen Economy. The commitment to energy security was identified by the Department’s 2007 Ten-Year Innovation Plan as one of the five Grand Challenges (priority focus areas) that the Department would focus on to steer the economy from the extraction of natural resources to being knowledge driven. In this instance, the global focus on hydrogen as an energy carrier, combined with fuel cell technologies to produce electricity, was considered a strategic imperative in which to develop capability and gain greater socio-economic benefit through resource beneficiation. The potential for resource beneficiation would be supported because an important component of most types of fuel cell is a platinum-group-metal (PGM)-based electrocatalyst. South Africa possesses approximately 80% of the world’s PGM reserves and the use of PGM electrocatalysts will increase the demand for PGMs. The programme to stimulate and guide innovation in the area of HFCT through the beneficiation of PGM was framed within the National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research, Development and Innovation Strategy. This strategy was branded as Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) and launched in 2008.
- SUMMARY OF THE PRESENTATION BY THE DSI
The three-part presentation outlined the implementation and achievements of the HySA Programme; the key purpose and planned actions of the HSRM; and the next steps in relation to both the HySA Programme and the HSRM.
The HySA Programme was designed as a 15-year programme, which started in 2008/9, spanned three phases and was implemented through the establishment of three RDI focused CoCs. These CoCs are located at North West University (HySA Infrastructure), the University of Cape Town (HySA Catalysis) and UWC (HySA Systems Integration and Technology Validation). The presentation detailed the key actions, achievements and funding allocated to each of the three phases.
Of significance, is that approximately R1.3 billion has been invested in HySA to date, and during this period, the RDI programme has resulted in a range of technology developments and product innovations, which have been deployed in a number of settings. For example, the fuel cell forklift and refuelling station at Impala Platinum refineries and the fuel cells deployed to provide power to field hospitals set-up during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the HySA human capital development programme has made great strides in developing the skills needed to sustain the HySA programme. The Department stated that for this level of investment and size of researcher pool, which are both, much lower than other countries pursuing RDI in HFCT, South Africa is making a comparatively bigger impact in the sector globally.
The presentation highlighted the existing research and technical capacity and capabilities for commercialisation through the three established CoCs. In addition, detail on the demographics of the students already trained, the future skills development initiatives in support of the hydrogen economy, and the role of and benefits for Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges (TVET) was provided.
The presentation indicated that the HySA programme has been reviewed twice (phases 1 and 2) since its inception and key recommendations were highlighted. Importantly, the second review identified the need for South Africa to have an overarching country plan or roadmap for hydrogen fuel cells, and that to realise the potential of HFCT and drive economies of scale, commitment is needed from both the private and public sectors. As a result, Cabinet approved the Hydrogen Society Roadmap in 2021. A Hydrogen/Platinum Valley Feasibility Study Report was also launched in 2021.
The Hydrogen Society Roadmap (HSRM) serves as a national coordinating framework to facilitate the integration of hydrogen-related technologies in various sectors of the South African economy and stimulate economic recovery, in line with the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP). The HSRM builds on what has been achieved in the past 10 years with the HySA programme to prepare South Africa to move from research and development (R&D) to manufacturing and commercialization. The HSRM’s key goal is to enable the development of an inclusive, sustainable and competitive hydrogen economy that supports South Africa’s aspirations to move toward a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.
The presentation outlined the various steps and milestones of the stakeholder engagement process leading to the launch of the HSRM. It also outlined the various policies that would need to align to support the realisation of the objectives of the HSRM. Furthermore, the key actions and milestones over the three phases of the HSRM; namely, 2021-2024, 2025-2030 and 2030-2040, in relation to hydrogen production and use, and jobs created were discussed.
To stimulate the development of a hydrogen society, a number of “catalytic projects” were identified for implementation. These include the:
- Hydrogen Valley or Platinum Valley Initiative – which will promote the scale up of clean, emerging technologies and reduce emissions through the development of green hydrogen hubs. Three hubs have been identified, namely, in Johannesburg (industrial and building sectors), Durban/Richards Bay (mobility sector) and Mogalakwena/Limpopo (mining sector), which will host 16 pilot projects and establish a “Hydrogen Corridor” from Limpopo, through Johannesburg to Durban;
- CoalCO2 X Project – which will convert coal-fired and industrial flue gas into multiple onsite industrial commodity streams using green ammonia and green hydrogen using local and international intellectual property (IP); and the
- Boegoebaai Special Economic Zone - Sasol is leading a feasibility study (24 months from June 2021) to ascertain whether a global export hub for green hydrogen and green ammonia is feasible at Boegoebaai, which already has an established hydrogen production plant.
The presentation briefly outlined what existing challenges would be addressed by these projects and what the socio-economic and skills development outcomes would be.
The presentation listed the progress against a number of action items, needed to start implementing the HSRM, from a Cabinet meeting held on 14 September 2021. A significant decision stemming from this Cabinet meeting was that the HySA RDI programme would be extended for another term, from 2022/23 to 2030/31. The presentation also explained the operationalisation of the HSRM through an interim structure; the purpose of the Green Climate Fund proposal to establish and develop an International Hydrogen Energy Centre (IHEC) in South Africa; the comparative advantage of collaborating with international agencies such as the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to establish the IHEC; and the approach that would be followed towards commercialisation and local manufacturing.
- EXHIBITIONS AND VISIT TO THE SAIAMC LABORATORY
- HySA Catalysis
HySA Catalysis is co-hosted by the University of Cape Town and South Africa’s minerals beneficiation science council, MINTEK. HySA Catalysis is responsible for the development of platinum-based catalysts and associated technologies. This CoC has already developed a spin-off company, HyPlat, which has commercialised and is selling some of its products for both commercial and R&D use. HyPlat is recognised internationally as one of the emerging players in the fuel cell sector.
- HySA Infrastructure
HySA Infrastructure is co-hosted by North West University and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). HySA Infrastructure is responsible for hydrogen production (linked to renewable energy), storage, distribution, safety, and codes and standards. HySA Infrastructure has developed state-of-the-art laboratories for the synthesis and characterisation of storage materials, as well as made great strides in hydrogen safety technology. HySA Infrastructure is primarily pursuing R&D in two types of storage for hydrogen, namely, via high-pressure composite tanks/cylinders and metal-organic framework materials.
- Coal CO2 to X RDI Programme
The process of converting coal-fired and industrial flue gas into multiple onsite industrial commodity streams using green ammonia and green hydrogen was explained. In addition, the steps that would be undertaken in 2022 to establish the pilot technology demonstration and training facility were outlined.
- Boegoebaai Special Economic Zone (SEZ)
This collaboration with Sasol is leading a feasibility study to ascertain whether a global export hub for green hydrogen and green ammonia is feasible at Boegoebaai, which already has an established hydrogen production plant. A number of facilities have been earmarked for establishment within the SEZ. These include an Electrolyser Park, Desalination Plant, Solar Wind and Battery Park, and Gigafactory.
- SAIAMC Laboratory
The SAIAMC Laboratory hosts the HySA Systems Integration and Technology Validation CoC. Here, the Committee was shown the products that have already been developed. These included the electric scooter with a fuel cell range extender; metal hydride tanks for hydrogen storage and supply; the fuel cell forklift developed in collaboration with Impala Platinum; and the LT-PEM stacks for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and scooter applications.
- COMMITTEE DELIBERATIONS
The Committee commended the Department, HySA CoCs and HSRM partners on the achievements to date and expressed their approbation on what was sought to be achieved through the HSRM. Having engaged with the presentation and information shared, the Committee:
- Expressed interest around the collaboration with and participation by other government departments and entities in this project. The concern centred on how resources are made available and shared to ensure effective and efficient implementation.
- Noted the importance of public awareness and outreach and asserted that the level and type of engagement should be enhanced to promote the skills development opportunities that exist within the sector, as well as improve the general awareness of the HySA RDI programme and HSRM.
- Noted the importance of the TVET colleges in developing skills for the hydrogen economy and welcomed the planned initiative that would see specific skills development programmes implemented in this regard.
- Noted the challenges around the full realisation and implementation of the HSRM, and encouraged the Department, with its partners, to develop clear implementation plans with manageable timeframes, and monitoring and evaluating mechanisms that would engender a sense of accountability throughout the progress of the project.
- Noted the aim to intensify the involvement of the private sector in the project, particularly from a commercialisation perspective, and encouraged that the role of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) not be overlooked.
- Noted the existing technology capacity and capability that could already be implemented under the HSRM. For example, transitioning the fossil fuel-based heavy-duty mining transport industry (trucks) to hydrogen-powered trucks. Hence, the Committee conveyed the expectation that the policy and regulatory environment would receive the necessary attention to enable this transition.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Science and Innovation ensure that:
- The TVET college programme is expanded and better promoted to attract more students to develop the skills necessary to support a hydrogen economy.
- Concerted efforts are made to ensure gender equity and social inclusion in job creation and commercial uptake.
- The level of international engagement is increased to attract additional funding support and ensure that the programme remains relevant in terms of the latest developments in RDI.
- The public engagement and education programme is enhanced, and encourages and facilitates the broader participation of communities in the HySA project and its programmes.
- The collaboration with the private sector is strengthened to ensure the sustainability of the commercialisation objectives of the HSRM.
- The Committee is provided with further details on how transformation objectives will be considered when attracting students to the hydrogen programme hosted by TVET colleges, as well as in the broader awareness and outreach work around HySA and the HSRM.
- The Committee is provided with a written report that details the spin-off companies of the CoCs, the sectors in which they operate, and the status and activities of these companies.
Report to be considered.