Will Angola become Germany's first African hydrogen supplier?


Angola could make giant humans green hydrogen. Germany needs them urgently. It could start from 2024. And other African countries could follow suit. But many questions are still open.

< p>Angola is to be the first African country to supply Germany with green hydrogen. The Angolan state energy company Sonangol and the two German companies Gauff Engineering and Conjuncta signed a letter of intent this week to build a factory. From 2024 it is to produce around 280,000 tons of green ammonia for export.

Germany's hunger for green hydrogen

The federal government and many companies consider hydrogen to be the magic bullet to make Germany's economy climate-friendly. The Ukraine war has made the need even more urgent. Gas and electricity prices have risen drastically in some cases. Because Germany is dependent on Russian gas and is now desperately looking for other supply options. The Angola project is therefore even more important from the point of view of the companies involved: “This will help Germany to switch to green energy more quickly and become independent of gas and Russia,” Conjuncta boss Stefan Liebing told DW img src=”https://static.dw.com/image/62145008_401.jpg” />

German and Angolan company representatives signed a letter of intent in Berlin

According to Sonangol, Angola has significant potential to produce green hydrogen. It is produced by electrolysis, using renewable electricity to break water molecules down into their component parts. And Angola has untapped water reserves: it is estimated that only five percent of the 47 major watersheds are currently being used.

Africa's wealth: wind, water and sun

Angola's government has set itself the goal of increasing the use of renewable energy to 70 percent by 2025. The hydrogen project aims to contribute to this. Part of the production will also go to the local market. In an interview with DW, the Minister for Mineral Resources and Petroleum, Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, explains how important the project is for Angola's energy transition. “This shows that Angola has great potential for hydrogen project development and also has infrastructure that allows us to develop the project with a certain speed and quality,” he said.

Many African countries could adopt climate-friendly  Produce hydrogen, says Nigerian energy expert Chigozie Nweke-Eze to DW: “The African continent is rich in all kinds of energy resources: sun, wind, water. There are many ways to generate renewable energies that can be used within the continent and can also be exported.” But they are hardly used: In 2018, the continent generated about 180 terawatt hours of electricity from renewable sources – less than 0.02 percent of the estimated potential.

Africa is rich in sustainable energies

Germany is interested

These figures are also known in Germany. Therefore, interest in green hydrogen from Africa is growing – not just from Angola. Last year, the Federal Ministry of Research presented an investigation into where it could be produced in western and southern Africa. 

In Namibia, the federal government has pledged 40 million euros for a national strategy to develop green hydrogen. In the past, German companies had also talked about a gigantic production facility in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

But Germany's interest could also have disadvantages for Africa. More than half of Africa's population has no electricity. “Access to electricity on the African continent is less good. So there are still problems with energy security. This should be solved first so that the production of green hydrogen does not encounter energy problems,” says energy expert Chigozie Nweke- Eze.

Where does the water come from?

In addition, the production of green hydrogen consumes a lot of water, while some regions of Africa suffer from severe water shortages. Around 400 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to drinking water. “We must ensure that the water sources for the production of green hydrogen do not compete in any way with other freshwater uses,” warns Nweke-Eze.

Many countries in Africa are struggling with droughts and water shortages

This is not a problem in Angola, assures Gauff Director General Stefan Tavares Bollow. “Angola has enough clean water. You don't need to desalinate seawater to get the water you need.”

However, desalinated seawater could also be used. With enough water, around 120,000 terawatt hours of green hydrogen could be produced per year in West Africa alone. According to the Federal Association of Renewable Energies, all of Germany will need around 745 TWh in 2030.

Difficult transport

But the export to Germany can only work if the transport problem is solved beforehand.  So far, ships have been considered the cheapest solution, while pipelines could be considerably cheaper for shorter distances. Currently, however, most pipelines transport natural gas from North Africa to either Europe or the Middle East. A West African pipeline that transports gas from Nigeria to the neighboring countries of Benin, Togo and Ghana offers potential for transporting hydrogen. And the recently launched Nigeria-Morocco pipeline project could potentially be extended to Europe. “But these projects have not yet been completed,” says Nweke-Eze.

A lot still has to happen before large quantities of hydrogen can be exported from Africa to Europe. But Nweke-Eze still thinks such projects are for the future. “There are many good reasons to start working together. Germany already plays a role in Africa and we hope that this can be strengthened in the future, in the form of a partnership of equals.” Then nothing would stand in the way of the flow of green energy from Africa to Europe.

Collaboration: Cristiane Viera Teixeira

Watch video 26:06

Made in Germany – hydrogen – energy carrier of the future?