Green H2-Hydrogen from Africa is King. H2-Hydrogen is seen as a beacon of hope for the energy transition. But producing it in a climate-neutral way requires a lot of land, sun and wind. That’s why Germany wants to import hydrogen from H2 Africa – a cooperation that pays off for all partners.

Hydrogen plays a central role in the energy system of the future. Without it, the climate targets cannot be achieved. However, the energy carrier can only be produced sustainably – i.e. in a climate-neutral manner – from renewable energies. However, the capacities required for the local demand are not available in Germany. H2 Africa must therefore be imported from regions where there is plenty of solar energy, wind and water power and sufficient land for renewable energy plants.

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The first step is to find suitable locations for production, and the second is to build the necessary infrastructure. This is the goal of the H2Atlas-Africa project, which the physicist from Forschungszentrum Jülich is coordinating. “If states and economic players cooperate globally. All sides can benefit from the energy transition.

H2 Africa as a producer and exporter of green hydrogen

In the long term, the project aims to build strategic partnerships with countries in western and southern Africa. There is enough sun and wind south of the Sahara for hydrogen production. In addition, our scientists at Forschungszentrum Jülich already have contacts there. By the end of the year, the German researchers will analyze the available renewable energy resources with their local partners in 31 countries. Since the strategic partnerships Germany wants to develop are complex, many aspects have to be taken into account – for example, geographic, political and legal factors.

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In each country, a team consisting of German and African experts is taking soundings. In addition to the natural scientists from Jülich, experts from business, politics and society have been involved. These teams are investigating the available renewable energy and water resources, existing areas for the production of green hydrogen and key data on production, as well as social framework conditions. Important partners on the African side are two centers for climate research: in Ghana the West African Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) and in Namibia the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL).

Germany and Africa benefit equally from H2 cooperation

However, it is not enough for a location to have sufficient sun or wind. From a technical point of view, large water resources are also needed to produce H2. The teams are therefore also considering other aspects: Can the infrastructure – for example, for a large wind farm – be built at a location without conflicting with arable farming, for example? Can water be used in large quantities without harming the environment and local residents? We take the social, economic and political situation seriously. In terms of energy supply, the focus is on security and stability at all levels.

An important prerequisite for the success of the strategy: All participants must benefit from international cooperation. Germany will receive energy in the form of green, i.e. climate-neutral hydrogen. The African countries where production takes place will benefit beyond the export revenues: Many places there have lacked a reliable power supply to date, which hinders economic development. As a result, forests are being cut down and the wood is being burned. This in turn causes environmentally harmful emissions. If we create a hydrogen infrastructure there from renewable energies, new jobs will also be created beyond the plants, which will boost the economy. A reliable energy supply allows local businesses new opportunities to manufacture goods.

Technical know-how from the basics to H2 utilization

The basis for the project’s technical success is the scientific know-how of the Jülich scientists. At the heart of it is the question of how green hydrogen can be produced in large quantities. We know how to transport H2 over long distances and in large quantities with what infrastructure – and then process it into synthetic fuels and industrial chemicals.

To be able to do this on a large scale, the potential atlas is being created. The project has two goals: First, the atlas is intended to capture, in an interactive map, reasonable locations for building green hydrogen production infrastructure. Second, we want to follow up with pilot projects to show how we can economically produce, export and distribute hydrogen. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the “H2Atlas-Africa” project with about 5.7 million euros.