Good chances for "green" hydrogen from West Africa

Jülich/Berlin - The ambitious project started just about a year ago: The goal of "H2-Atlas-Africa" is to determine the potential in the west and south of the Africa continent for the sustainable production of hydrogen using renewable energies. In the long term, Africa could thus establish itself as a successful producer and exporter of hydrogen for a climate-neutral energy supply in the future. In Berlin today, Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek and Dr. Solomon Agbo presented the initial results of the project, which is being coordinated by the Jülich scientist. At the same time, an interactive "hydrogen tool" went online, which clearly presents the results of the individual regions so far processed. The atlas will be updated as soon as new results are available.

The "H2Atlas-Africa" is being developed in the context of the National Hydrogen Strategy. Hydrogen is intended to replace fossil fuels on a large scale, serve as storage for renewable energies, enable mobility and link the various energy sectors - all efficiently and cost-effectively.

Portrait of Dr. Solomon Agbo
Expert on "green" hydrogen: Jülich physicist Solomon Nwabueze Agbo. Copyright: Research Center Jülich/Wilhelm-Peter Schneider

The interim report now presented in Berlin shows the great potential for sustainably produced hydrogen in the 15 states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). For example, 33 percent of the land area is suitable for photovoltaic plants, and the figure for onshore wind power plants reaches 76 percent. The average cost of a kilowatt-hour of electricity from photovoltaics is put at 2 to 4 cents, and 2 to 15 cents for wind power - so hydrogen could be produced cheaply from renewables. "Theoretically, the total potential of hydrogen production in ECOWAS countries is about 165,000 terawatt-hours that can be obtained," says Dr. Solomon Agbo. One terawatt hour - TWh - is equivalent to one billion kilowatt hours. The calculated price for the bulk of hydrogen production in West Africa is less than 2.50 euros per kilogram. Earlier studies put the cost of hydrogen produced in Germany at about 3.80 euros/kg in 2050.

The interim report also paints a positive picture of the socio-economic impact of sustainable local energy production in Western Africa. It shows a win-win situation: construction and maintenance of the plants stimulate local industries and crafts, provide jobs and a stable energy supply, especially in rural areas. The amount of sustainably generated electricity not only covers the increasing demand in the countries, it is also sufficient for the production of "green" hydrogen, which can be exported and thus provide an enormous boost to domestic industry and the economy.

The report sees a need for action in the water supply and in the construction of an energy and transport infrastructure that links production sites and transports the "green" hydrogen to the ports on the coast. It clearly points out that in the northern areas of the ECOWAS states, groundwater is not sufficient to ensure the supply of the population and the production of hydrogen. Energy produced sustainably in the north must therefore be transported south to the coast via the power grid. There, water from seawater desalination plants can then be used to produce hydrogen through electrolysis.

So far, it has also not been possible to precisely calculate the costs of transporting the hydrogen to Germany by sea. These and the costs for desalination plants are to be precisely calculated in a next step and presented in the course of the year - just like the results of the investigations in 16 states in Southern Africa.

The results of the "H2Atlas-Africa" are intended to be versatile: as a guide for the construction of pilot plants as well as a roadmap for the development of a green hydrogen economy in sub-Saharan countries, to be used by politicians and potential investors. The most important partners on the African side are the two centers for climate research in Ghana (West African Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use, WASCAL) and in Namibia (Southern Africa Science Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management, SASSCAL).

Video of Bundespressekonferenz from May 20th 2021

Further information:

Press release of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Article "Hydrogen potential atlas: Africa could become the energy supplier of the world".

Dr. Solomon Nwabueze Agbo
Forschungszentrum Jülich, Corporate Development
Phone: +49 2461 61-1666

Press Contact:
Erhard Zeiss, Press officer
Phone: +49 2461 61-1841