SA to Deploy Hydrogen Fuel Cells to Support COVID-19 Response

In a bid to assist the government with its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation in partnership with the Department of Defense and Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, will deploy seven hydrogen fuel cell units at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.

Having made steady progress since its approval from the cabinet in 2007, the Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) program has been developing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies focused on platinum group metal beneficiation and improved energy security.

The project is a partnership between the government and the private sector, comprising South Africa’s Bambili Energy Group, Singapore-based Horizon, U.S.-based Element One, and Powercell Sweden.

Bambili, Horizon and Element One will integrate HySA’s intellectual property into their commercial products, including five of the seven fuel cell systems that will be deployed at 1 Military Hospital. The remaining two systems involve a partnership with Sweden’s Powercell. Bambili plans to start manufacturing the stationary fuel cell systems locally by March 2021.

Globally, hydrogen fuel cells are increasingly being recognized as a clean energy technology suitable for both mobile and stationary applications. Hydrogen fuel cells combined with renewable energy have the ability to decarbonize both the energy and transport markets, significantly adding to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Other advantages of hydrogen fuel cells include their versatile design, as well as their ability to take a variety of fuel sources from which hydrogen can be produced, allowing them to be moved quickly from one phase to another. For these reasons, fuel cells may play an important role in disaster management and the distribution of energy in remote areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for an accelerated delivery of health facilities in support of efforts by the government to combat the spread of the virus and provide high treatment to those affected. Containerized hydrogen fuel cells may be easily installed, even though they are temporary, to supply renewable power to these installations.