IN what promises to be a significant economic boost for the Eastern Cape, a giant green ammonia export plant valued at $4.6 billion (R70 billion) is set to be built at the Coega Special Economic Zone adjoining the Port of Ngqura in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The first phase of the 780,000-ton-a-year facility, which will boast its own dedicated power supply, is scheduled to go live in 2025 with full operation expected by the end of 2026. The plant, billed as the largest of its kind in the world, is a collaboration between Hive Hydrogen and Linde plc, through its wholly owned subsidiary Afrox.
These backers are banking on tapping into the global surge in demand for ammonia to meet current agricultural, chemical and mining requirements. They believe that this, together with the future switch to green ammonia as the main fuel in the maritime industry and for coal substitution, makes this the perfect time to invest in this commodity.
Green ammonia production is where the process of making ammonia is 100% renewable and carbon-free.
Thulani Gcabashe, Chairman of Hive Hydrogen South Africa and Executive Chairman of Built Africa, said the plant would herald “a new era for the country in its commitments to greener solutions for industry. The pure scale of the project and the clean technology being used is truly remarkable”.
Mayor Eugene Johnson described the plant as a breakthrough project for South Africa Nelson Mandela Bay in the global drive for sustainable green industry. “The investment in job creation, training, new and clean industry, and the significant community benefits that this brings will be a great boost to the transformation programme we are planning for the region,” she said.
Hive Energy CEO, Giles Redpath said the renewable energy and energy storage component alone would be “the biggest project of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the largest globally”.
Schalk Venter, CEO of Afrox said southern Africa was one of a few regions in the world with very favourable conditions for green hydrogen and ammonia production and export. “Through our parent company’s engineering division, proven global expertise and technology, we’ll support this project’s feasibility, engineering design and development phases.”
Hive Hydrogen are also being supported by InvestSA, a branch of the South African Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, specifically with investment facilitation through the InvestSA One Stop Shop mechanism.
InvestSA Head Yunus Hoosen said the department recognised the importance of the green hydrogen sector in contributing to increased investment and industrial development opportunities. “The department’s work in this regard is coordinated through the High Level Panel on Hydrogen, established by Minister Ebrahim Patel.”
John Drinkwater, Managing Director of Cerebos, Africa’s largest salt products producer and the supplier of water for the project said, “When Hive first approached us two years ago we were amazed at the vision they had for their project and how we could work together to provide them with desalinated, demineralised water whilst they keep their production chain powered by green energy.”
Peter Lake, owner of Tankatara Farm where the on-site solar plant will be located said, “We have been farming here for four generations and have seen first-hand, the negative effects of climate change on the viability of our farming operation. We are impressed with the way Hive have been going about striking a balance between land utilisation, protecting the environment and bringing renewable power supplies and green industry to life.”
Japie Buckle, Managing Director of Hive Ecosystems added, “Not only is the ammonia that will be produced a vital part of the Green Industrial Revolution to help achieve global carbon emission reduction targets, but we are also putting in a huge effort to make sure we consult with all stakeholders in the vicinity to ensure we properly protect the unique areas on Tankatara – including its magnificent 500 year old thicket and the sensitive bird and wildlife habitats.”