Opinion piece by Yershen Pillay, chief executive officer of CHIETA

With projects such as a recently completed hydrogen production proof of concept (PoC) initiative in Vredendal in the Western Cape, it’s safe to say that South Africa is well on its way to producing green hydrogen as part of its renewable energy posture. To this end, the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) has embarked on an 18-month research project: a comprehensive study of hydrogen power in SA which will assist us in our efforts to support the hydrogen economy, identifying growth areas for skills and economic development.

The study, which is already underway, is being conducted in partnership with research groups and is aimed at not only our own skills development targets but also government and companies of all sizes within the chemical industries.

A comprehensive study of hydrogen power will focus on:

  • The collection and analysis of documents, baseline data, and a literature review on the state of the hydrogen economy in South Africa.
  • The production of a green hydrogen research report that responds to the project’s objectives.

We believe the project’s outcomes and recommendations will not only assist government through the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and chemical sector companies, but also support the country’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP).

Furthermore, we are working on a Green Hydrogen Skills Plan for our petrochemicals sub-sector. This will allow us to identify the top-10 skills in the green hydrogen economy and close the hydrogen skills gap by ensuring that talent is locally produced.

It’s also encouraging to note that one of our member companies, Sasol, is already playing a leading role in the green hydrogen economy through its research partnership with the DSI and the Northern Cape Economic Development and Investment Promotion Agency (NCEDA). CHIETA will soon be collaborating with NCEDA to ensure a well-coordinated and shared response to skills planning for the green hydrogen economy.

The feasibility study for the production of green hydrogen in the Namakwa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is being conducted at Boegoebaai, a port located in the local municipality of Richtersveld. As our biggest member company and largest skills levy contributor, Sasol hopes to establish the port as a global centre for green hydrogen production.

Through projects and initiatives such as Sasol’s Boegoebaai research, a roadmap is being crafted that will stand the chemical industry in good stead and position the country as a global leader in the production of green hydrogen energy.

CHIETA will also be actively pursuing a green hydrogen research chair position in collaboration with public institutions to advance excellence and innovation in green hydrogen for the future development of scarce skills. We will be investing more than R5-million into the CHIETA Green Hydrogen Research Chair as part of our increasing investment into research and development.

As the chemical industry, we have a significant role to play in what is undoubtedly the next step in the evolution of renewable energy, not only for the continent, but across the globe.