Groundbreaking feasibility study to accelerate international green hydrogen production and export infrastructure

A consortium led by Nelson Mandela University and Ikigai Group has won a UK Government grant under the South Africa-UK PACT programme to deliver an innovative feasibility study to explore the viability of Green Hydrogen Production and Export Infrastructure from South Africa’s Eastern Cape region to global markets, including the UK, Europe, and Japan.

The project delivered by the consortium will be working with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) of South Africa in support of South Africa’s wider development and just energy transition plans.

The consortium comprises several industry leaders and experts in the energy transition, including University College London, DNV, National Gas, University of Kent, and the Thames Estuary Growth Board. The consortium is also supported by key delivery partners, including Hive Energy, Hive Hydrogen, the Nedbank Group, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, and Advantage Partners, who will provide fund management services to the Japan Hydrogen Association’s new fund dedicated to hydrogen related investments.

Green hydrogen, produced through electrolysis using renewable energy sources, offers a clean and versatile alternative to conventional fossil fuels. The feasibility study will evaluate the potential for establishing green hydrogen production facilities in South Africa’s Eastern Cape region and developing the necessary infrastructure for export, including port facilities and transportation networks.

Stakeholder engagement will be integral to the process, to ensure alignment with local communities, government agencies, and industry partners.

The export focus of the project is key not only to maximise the valorisation of abundant renewable energy resources in the Eastern Cape and surrounding provinces, but also to provide a diversification of revenue streams via the sale of green hydrogen and green ammonia to international markets, which is critical to ensure the bankability and ultimately the delivery of the overall project.

By fostering innovation, job creation, community participation and sustainable development, the project aims to contribute to a greener, more resilient future for South Africa and beyond.

Professor Sibongile Muthwa, Vice Chancellor at Nelson Mandela University stated that “South Africa generally and the Province of the Eastern Cape in particular experience high levels of poverty, inequality, and unemployment. South Africa is committed to deliver economic growth through a just transition from, inter alia, dependence on fossil fuel-based energy production. This feasibility study aims to inform strategic decisions for the production and export of green hydrogen from the Eastern Cape, potentially reshaping South Africa’s economy for inclusive growth.”

Ms Helena Anderson, Co-Founder & COO at Ikigai commented that: “The missing links in hydrogen moving from an inter-regional to an inter-national commodity are import and export ports receiving, converting, and onwards distributing infrastructure and the hydrogen carriers from a HSE and total lifecycle cost perspective. This green hydrogen corridor project is looking at all these aspects. It’s focusing on a large-scale green hydrogen project in South Africa, comparing it with ammonia as a counterfactual carrier, and exploring how we can deliver hydrogen to places like Japan, Europe, and the UK. The goal is to show that exporting hydrogen can also boost local demand.”

Mr Antony Phillipson, British High Commissioner to South Africa stated: “I am delighted to see the launch of this exciting new project under the South Africa-UK PACT Country Fund. This project strengthens the UK’s support to South Africa as part of the Just Energy Transition Partnership. We are excited by the potential impact of the outputs of this study, which will play a key role in accelerating efforts to advance the green hydrogen export agenda in the Eastern Cape and the green hydrogen economy across the country.”

Ms Catherine Koffman, Group Executive: Project Preparation at the Development Bank of Southern Africa confirmed that “The funding for the study demonstrates the catalytic impact of collaboration between private sector and development capital. The partnership will facilitate the creation of a new asset class in the energy sector with a profound and positive economic, social, and environmental impact in the province and the country. This feasibility study will also, through import and export infrastructure assessments, address regional integration of sustainable green hydrogen projects and contribute to Africa’s prosperity.”

Colin Loubser, CEO of Hive Energy Africa and General Manager of Hive Hydrogen South Africa added: “We are delighted that our Team based in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa are able to support this initiative and its wider impact on the country and beyond. Hive Hydrogen’s development work over the past three years on the Coega Green Ammonia Project in the Eastern Cape, South Africa has produced many insights into how these projects should be developed within the existing and evolving government frameworks, country legislation and bankability challenges and what is required for success both commercially and for all the communities these projects impact.  It is a pleasure to work with and share our experience with the South Africa-UK PACT programme.”

Hive Hydrogen South Africa is co-founded by Hive Energy and BuiltAfrica. Hive Energy, headquartered in the UK, is the 75% stakeholder of Hive Hydrogen SA and is the principal funder and co-developer of the project which located in Midrand, Gauteng and Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape. Hive Energy was founded in 2010 by Giles Redpath to participate in the significant solar PV expansion across England. The company now operates in 22 countries globally with its largest projects in Spain. Hive is developing eight green hydrogen/ammonia projects globally. Once complete, the Hive projects will have the capacity to produce some 8,500,000 tons of hydrogen/ammonia each year to support the global drive to net-zero emissions by 2050. The Hive Energy Group is recognised internationally as a trusted partner in the development, construction, and operation of large-scale renewable energy projects. Hive is known for its innovative approach and market leading vision across the renewable energy, circular economy, and Green Hydrogen industries. Hive has established some of the world’s leading solar projects, including the UK’s largest solar park, and is developing one of the world’s largest Green Ammonia plants in South Africa and the first Green Hydrogen/Ammonia Hub in Spain. In addition to its eight giga scale Green Hydrogen/ammonia projects Hive is currently developing over 28,000 MW of renewable energy projects. To date, Hive’s projects have generated over £2.3billion capital expenditure in green energy projects, saving over 1.9m tonnes of CO2 each year.

BuiltAfrica has a 25% stake in Hive Hydrogen South Africa and is a co-developer. It is a renewable energy development company based in South Africa and was founded by Thulani Gcabashe in 2009 as an investment and development business focused on sectors that support sustainable development. In its first 10 years, the Group focused on developing renewable energy projects in South Africa, having successfully participated in the early rounds of renewable energy procurement under the South African government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP). During this period two solar generation plants were built and are in operation. In addition to this, the BuiltAfrica Group was involved in energy efficiency projects aimed at lowering peak demand on the power system.

Thulani Gcabashe served as Chairman of the Standard Bank Group, and the Standard Bank of South Africa from 2015 – 2022 and is the current chairman of Hive Hydrogen SA. He began his career as a town and regional planner in 1982. After practicing as a director with a firm of architects and town planners he joined the national power utility Eskom in 1993. In 1999 he was appointed Deputy Chief Executive of Eskom, and Chairman Eskom Enterprises and served on the Eskom Management Board and the Electricity Council. In 2000 he become the Chief Executive of Eskom, a position he served in until 30 April 2007. In 2008 he founded the BuiltAfrica Group and has served as the Executive Chairman since inception.