Since 1996, the Tshwane-based specialised engineering company, RTS Africa Engineering, has had the sole agency to represent Nel Hydrogen, a Norwegian company which has been at the forefront of hydrogen (H2) production through water electrolysis since the 1920’s.
NEL Hydrogen and RTS Africa Engineering teamed up to bring H2 solutions, via the electrolysis method, to the African continent.
Managing Director of RTS Africa Engineering, Ian Fraser, explains, “South Africa has one of the largest electrolysers in the world, which we regularly maintain. This is at Illovo Sugar Mill in KwaZulu-Natal, where a Nel A-485 electrolyser produces H2 for the manufacture of furfuryl alcohol from furfuryl – a downstream product from the sugar refining process.
In the rest of Africa, NEL has installed and maintains units in Kenya, Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria, and a further two in South Africa. Its production plants usually have a long life span of up to 40 years.
Director for Nel, Eric Dabe, said, “As pressure on the countries of the world increases to lower carbon emissions, the need for efficient and effective renewable energy is increasing.”
“However currently, in the renewable energy sector, the supply of energy fluctuates as it is dependent on the sun and wind. Fluctuations make connecting renewables to the AC grid challenging. In addition, the dynamic nature of renewable energy dictates that installed capacity is greater than demand. This means that considerable energy surpluses are produced at certain times, which cannot be absorbed by the main grid. In this case, the only solution at present is to discard significant amounts of valuable ‘green’ energy,” he adds.
Renewable sources can be fed to electrolysers to generate H2, which can be stored and then used to create energy at convenient times. This so-called ‘green’ H2 enhances the business case for renewable energy sources, as the electricity it produces maximises the value of renewable energy systems.
In February this year, Nel Fuelling, a division of Nel Hydrogen, announced that it had developed and launched a new multipurpose H2 fuelling station. Connected to a single fuelling module, it can serve at least three H2 dispensers.
“It is this type of H2 innovation that we hope to see soon in South Africa. The possibilities for energy-friendly buses and taxis are definitely viable in the future,” says Fraser.
Nel has invested decades of research and development in electrolyser technology, which is now a practical, mature alternative to fossil fuel energy for numerous different sectors.
“RTS Africa Engineering, through its long association with Nel, is well qualified not only to offer the latest in H2 technology; but also to offer expert advice, service and support to customers both locally and throughout Africa,” Fraser concludes.