Hydrogen South Africa hosts National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Workshop
A national Hydrogen and Fuel Cell (HFC) technology supply chain workshop was held on Friday 12 April 2013 at the University of the Western Cape, with participation from South African industries, SMMEs, researchers and policy makers.
The opening address was delivered by Dr Cosmas Chiteme, the Director: Alternative Energy at Department of Science and Technology (DST). “For me this is as big as it comes,” he said, “and if there is a tinge of nervousness in my voice, that’s because the occasion is so big.” Despite any nervousness he may have felt, Dr Chiteme gave a brief overview of DST's commitment to green energy and HFC technology, and the need for a transition from a resource-based economy to a knowledge economy. Outlining the chief issues that need to be addressed, the policies and strategies that come into play, and the need to get industry, mining houses, researchers, graduates and others involved.
“We need to create an IPR portfolio around HFC,” he explained. “We need to engage the public and role players in such a way that can lead to the development of prototypes. We need to try to generate a cluster of industries that will not only absorb the students that we will produce, but also create the necessary jobs to move the industry forward. We look forward to when South Africa will become a leader of hydrogen and fuel cell technology. We have to start thinking of what we can do as individuals, to take collective responsibility for achieving these targets. It’s not an easy target, but with everybody playing their part, I think it is achievable.”
The workshop was hosted by Hydrogen South Africa Systems Integration and Technology Validation Centre of Competence (HySA Systems), located at UWC and the South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC), HySA Systems is one of three national Competence Centres that were initiated by the Department of Science and Technology's National Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Technology Flagship Project – also known as Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) – to further research in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
Celebrating the beginning of a new phase of intensive research and development, as well as component prototyping and manufacturing, the workshop brought together prominent local and international players in the HFC sector, creating a platform to establish a network of companies that could enable a strong HFC supply chain in South Africa. Workshop attendees were able to experience enlightening presentations and lively discussions, and visit information booths to find out more about a variety of HFC topics, including the green aspects of HFC technology and the public understanding of and engagement with HFC technology in South Africa.
Among others: Professional keynote speaker and futurist – and Vice-Chairman of Wesgro – Guy Lundy discussed the Green Economy in the Western Cape (the first municipality in Africa to have a Department of Climate Change, he noted), reflecting on current endeavours and future plans, including the Atlantis Green Manufacturing Hub and the Polaris Climate Change Observatory.
CME Precision explored the manufacturing ability already available in the Western Cape, and the potential for future manufacturing. Prof. Vladimir Molkov from the University of Ulster (in the United Kingdom) gave an insightful lecture on the safety of hydrogen use indoors, and progress made in improving safety concerns. Mikael Hajjar of Areva explained Areva's methods of hydrogen and energy storage.
Grant Healy of Melex Electrovehicles gave a talk about their hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and the future of hydrogen in transportation. Several Melex vehicles were also parked outside the building, providing a more direct experience of the hydrogen mobility industry.
Dr Sivakumar Pasupathi, Key Programme Manager at HySA and organiser of the workshop, explained that HySA Systems believes that creating a supply chain network for the hydrogen and fuel cell sector in South Africa is crucial at this juncture. “HySA is gearing up for the manufacture of hydrogen and fuel cell components and prototypes – the workshop is an important first step towards creating a functional HFC industry.”
Professor Bruno G. Pollet, Director of HySA Systems, agreed: “South Africa is beginning the difficult but important journey towards a hydrogen and fuel cell infrastructure, so it is essential that we create new working partnerships and bring about a sense of cohesion among those already working within the industry in this country.”