SA ‘well placed’ to take the lead in zero-carbon fuels

SA ‘well placed’ to take the lead in zero-carbon fuels

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SOUTH Africa is well placed to lead the production of zero-carbon shipping fuels and attract billions of rand in investment, a study has found.

A study by Ricardo and Environmental Defence Fund for the P4G Getting to Zero Coalition Partnership said South Africa’s geographical location and economic development made it particularly well suited to distribute zero-carbon fuels for the South African shipping sector and export to international markets.

It also found that South Africa held an untapped opportunity to supply the global shipping industry with zero-carbon fuels.

The production of green hydrogen-derived fuels could help to meet decarbonisation targets and act as a catalyst for the country’s economy by opening new export markets, supporting an equitable transition and creating the jobs of the future.

The study explores the economic and environmental potential for the implementation of zero-carbon shipping fuels through the shipping sector of South Africa.

International Climate, Environmental Defence Fund director Aoife O’Leary said their study showed that South Africa had an abundance of renewable energy potential.

“It is enough to supply the country’s domestic electrical demand, as well as the production of zero-carbon fuels to supply commercial vessels refuelling in its international ports. The adoption of zero-carbon propulsion technologies at South Africa’s ports could attract investment of between R122 billion and R175bn in onshore infrastructure by 2030. All that is needed to unlock this investment is the right policy incentives set at the International Maritime Organisation,” said O’Leary.

International maritime transport was said to be on the verge of an energy revolution. Within this decade, the shipping industry must start to replace traditional heavy bunker fuel with new zero-carbon shipping fuels generated from renewable energy, to meet decarbonisation targets. South Africa had vast renewable energy sources, and the country had also committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Ricardo future energy specialist and project lead, Olivia Carpenter-Lomax, said South Africa had the opportunity to feed into the growing global demand for decarbonised materials, products and services by offering bunkering capability for zero-carbon fuels to vessels of all types.

“With access to busy shipping routes, abundant renewable energy potential, and experience handling these and other fuels, South Africa is in a great position to produce the shipping fuels of the future, access a growing global market, and thus catalyse a new low carbon economy,” said Carpenter-Lomax.

Global Maritime Forum project director Ingrid Sidenvall Jegou said the report identified hydrogen and ammonia as the most suitable options for large commercial vessels, while South Africa’s small domestic vessels could be supplied through direct electrification using onboard batteries and motors.

“Shipping’s demand for zero-carbon fuels could provide a constant long-term revenue stream, which is an attractive feature for investment,” said Jegou.

The adoption of zero-carbon shipping fuels depended on global market requirements. In order for a successful adoption of zero-carbon shipping fuels, South Africa should look globally. Vessels adopting zero-carbon fuels bunkering in various ports around the world must have the opportunity to refuel along their journey.

Adopting zero-carbon shipping fuels had significant benefits and synergies for South Africa far beyond the shipping sector, and was in line with South Africa’s commitment to reach net zero carbon by 2050.

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