Evora company leads international project on natural hydrogen in Africa


The Portuguese company CONVERGE!, based in Evora, will lead the first international research project on prospection and use of natural hydrogen as a new energy source, the HyAfrica, funded by the European Union, it was revealed today.

The project, starting this month and lasting three years, is led by CONVERGE!, a spin-off from the University of Évora (UÉ)and based at the Alentejo Park of Science and Technology (PACT), but involves eight other partners.

HyAfrica “aims to estimate the resources in natural hydrogen in promising regions of Morocco, Mozambique, South Africa and Togo and assess their socio-economic impact for local communities,” explained today the UÉ, in a statement sent to the Lusa agency.

“The project will involve stakeholders in identifying the regulatory and licensing procedures required for hydrogen exploration in the target countries and will compare business models based on natural hydrogen with other renewable energy solutions to understand their advantages and complementarity,” it added.

This is “the first international research project on the exploration and use of natural hydrogen as a new energy source,” co-funded by the European Union through the Euro-African Renewable Energy Research and Innovation Partnership (LEAP-RE).

HyAfrica – “Towards a next generation renewable energy source – natural hydrogen as an energy option in Africa” starts from a basic question: “Can natural hydrogen be used to generate electricity for local communities?”

CONVERGE!, with five years of existence and research and development (R&D) activity in the fields of geoenergy (geothermal energy, natural hydrogen, energy and CO2 storage in geological formations), as well as the consortium it leads, want to find the answer.

According to the Alentejo academy, “natural hydrogen, also called white hydrogen, occurs in specific geological environments, as a result of chemical reactions between certain types of rock and water, at great depths.”

“It is a natural resource, continuously generated, that can be a primary and clean, renewable and non-intermittent source of energy. The feasibility of its use for electricity production has been demonstrated since 2012 through a pilot project in Mali,” he indicated.

Hydrogen is considered essential for the energy transition and the European Union and several African countries have already defined strategies that require the production of hydrogen from methane with CO2 capture (blue hydrogen) or from water electrolysis using renewable energy sources (green hydrogen), UÉ reminded.

The approach proposed by HyAfrica is different: “it advocates the exploitation of hydrogen occurring in geological formations and its use as a primary energy source.”

“This constant renewable resource can provide a lower-cost complement to hydrogen production, without efficiency losses associated with the industrial production cycle of blue hydrogen and green hydrogen and without impacts on land use and water consumption inherent in green hydrogen production,” UÉ said.

The project also involves two German research institutes (Fraunhofer IEE and Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics), the National Directorate of Geology and Mines of Mozambique and five universities: Mohammed Premier (Morocco), of Lomé (Togo), of Limpopo and Pretoria (South Africa) and Eduardo Mondlane (Mozambique).

Nedim Husomanovic

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