The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has revealed that it will jointly establish a Hydrogen Centre of Competence (CoC) with North-West University, focusing on hydrogen production, storage, delivery and distribution.

South Africa sits in a good position to participate in the emerging hydrogen economy as it held a dominating position in platinum reserves, with more than 75% of the world's known reserves and platinum as a key catalytic material used in hydrogen fuel cells.

The CSIR said that hydrogen and fuel cell technologies had been identified by the Department of Science and Technology as a ‘frontier science and technology’ initiative that could, potentially, position the country to compete within the dynamic knowledge economy. The initiative would adopt proactive innovation and knowledge generation in the beneficiation of key natural resources, resulting in new downstream industries, the organisation stated.

“This technology is key in the production of industrial-scale process heat that could be used in thermal electrolysis to generate hydrogen for use in fuel cells,” the CSIR noted, adding that South Africa was also regarded as a leader in the technology to produce liquid fuels from coal through gasification.

Globally, hydrogen and fuel cells are seen as energy solutions for the twenty-first century, enabling clean and efficient production of power and heat from a range of primary energy sources. The transition to a hydrogen economy is expected to greatly reduce dependency on oil and gas, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The Hydrogen CoC would function in a hub-and-spoke collaborative mode, which was a mechanism to bring together all interested stakeholders to deliver on a long-term vision, creating a coherent and dynamic action plan to achieve such a vision.