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CSIR takes helm in green hydrogen plan for NC

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The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research said it is leading the strategic environmental assessment for the Northern Cape’s ambitious plan to produce green hydrogen. The proposed project includes a new special economic zone, a port at Boegoebaai and other infrastructural developments.

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THE COUNCIL for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said it is leading the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for the Northern Cape’s ambitious plan to produce green hydrogen. The proposed project includes a new special economic zone, a port at Boegoebaai and other infrastructural developments.

The SEA will encompass the proposed port, the adjacent special economic zone (SEZ) and the broader Namakwa region. A local-scale SEA study will scrutinise the sustainability of the proposed port and SEZ development, spanning an area of approximately 33,500 hectares. Meanwhile, a regional-scale SEA study will address sustainability issues linked to the Northern Cape’s green hydrogen economy within the Namakwa District, which includes the local municipalities of Richtersveld, Nama Khoi, Kamiesberg, and Khâi-Ma.

The SEA process will adopt a holistic approach, considering both biophysical and socio-economic aspects at a strategic level. Independent expert teams will lend their expertise in various domains, including marine and terrestrial ecology and biodiversity, surface and groundwater, sustainable port planning, fisheries and coastal livelihoods, conservation planning, regional planning and socio-economics associated with this development.

Paul Lochner, leader of the CSIR’s Environmental Management Services group and a seasoned environmental practitioner, emphasised the necessity of a strategic environmental assessment in the context of a regional hydrogen economy in the Northern Cape. He noted the global interest in green hydrogen’s potential to replace fossil fuels, especially in sectors where reducing fossil-fuel-based emissions is challenging, such as aviation, shipping, and bulk transport.

“These sectors are crucial to meeting climate change commitments. The proposed generation of green hydrogen at Boegoebaai would be for export and local use,” Lochner said.

The SEA aims to develop an integrated decision-making framework to guide the planning of the proposed Boegoebaai port, SEZ, and the wider Namakwa region sustainably. The assessment will identify the sensitivity of the receiving environment, potential fatal flaws that need early attention in the planning process, strategic-level opportunities and constraints, and strategic management actions. However, the SEA does not supersede the legal requirement for a project-level environmental impact assessment.

“The CSIR has been instrumental in the introduction and evolution of strategic environmental assessments in South Africa. Our competency in these assessments is widely recognised, and we are committed to providing independent science-based information and advice into the decision-making process in a transparent manner,” Lochner said.

The CSIR, the Northern Cape Economic Development Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, the South African National Energy Development Institute and the Transnet National Ports Authority convened with approximately 40 stakeholders at the end of last month. These representatives from non-government organisations, community-based organisations, the government, academic research and the private sector aim to guide and inform best-practice science-policy processes and facilitate the co-production of knowledge content.

This collaborative effort will be used to inform decision-making for sustainable development in the Northern Cape.

Graphic: CSIR

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