Powerfuels are being discussed around the world as an important option for the future energy system: They can help to reduce emissions in all consumption sectors and can also be a central component of energy security and innovation strategies of countries and industries. Together with WITS Business School and the European Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Southern Africa, the Global Alliance Powerfuels held a workshop in Johannesburg on 9 December 2019. The aim of the event was to bring together key players and to exchange views on existing and future technology approaches. About 60 participants followed the invitation as evidence of a high level of interest especially from business and science.
The workshop demonstrated the relevance of powerfuels in industrial policy considerations: Could powerfuels be an opportunity for the transformation of industry and society in areas currently dependent on coal mining? Could powerfuels be an opportunity to create new export markets, and so additional beneficiation in South Africa? Could exports help to lead powerfuels out of a niche application in South Africa in the medium term?
The questions were intensely discussed in light of the continuing difficulties in reliable electricity generation and increasing electricity prices. There was broad consensus among the participants that green hydrogen as the base of all powerfuels can contribute to the development of South African wind and solar energy. Tobias Bischof-Niemz, Head of Business Development at wind developer Enertrag, highlighted the outstanding renewable potential in the country compared to other parts of the world. The existing know-how in fuel processing and catalysis is also an important argument for South Africa’s future as a technology provider for hydrocarbon powerfuels.
Jens Baumgartner, Business Development Manager Electrolysis with the Global Alliance Powerfuels member sunfire, presented the company’s highly efficient technology and upcoming projects in the European market. Several ideas were discussed to get powerfuels "from plans to plants". One of them was a proposal to use and modify the existing Fischer-Tropsch fuel production plants in South Africa towards the production of kerosene as a sustainable aviation fuel, which could be sold as a high-value product internationally. Other ideas, such as hydrogen buses and hydrogen long-distance transport vehicles, were also discussed.
As a conclusion, participants expressed the need to continue and deepen powerfuels discussion in South Africa and to start a moderated market development process with politics, industry and science.
The Global Alliance will further contribute to raising awareness of South Africa's potential as a key player in powerfuels and actively support project development in the region. An extensive documentation of the workshop results will be published in the next weeks on the website of the Global Alliance Powerfuels.