Nelson Mandela Bay hits jobs jackpot at R73bn plant

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The site for the R73bn ammonia plant inside Coega’s Special Industrial Zone was unveiled yesterday with the promise of thousands of jobs for Nelson Mandela Bay residents.

Hive Hydrogen hopes to make the city the renewable energy capital of SA with its green ammonia plant, and it is envisaged a combined 10,000 direct and indirect jobs will be created through the investment.

The company will employ 1,900 people for the plant, a further 6,000 during the construction phase and 5,000 more indirect jobs through spin-off ventures.

Green ammonia is a cleaner alternative to coal, with applications in agriculture, mining and industrial chemicals.

It is a new clean energy set to be a game-changer as the world moves away from fossil fuels.

It will also be a key energy source in the maritime industry as it shifts away from diesel.

The energy is created by combining hydrogen and nitrogen. Using desalinated water, hydrogen is extracted by an electrolysis process while nitrogen is simultaneously extracted from the air using an air separation unit.

The two gases are combined through a process called ammonia synthesis, which produces green ammonia.

Once produced, it will be cooled, liquefied and stored in a tank farm.

Much of the ammonia will be for the export market.

The jobs bonanza comes as the Eastern Cape faces a 47% unemployment rate, the highest in the country.

Hive Hydrogen chair Thulani Gcabashe said the scale of the project could be a catalyst for post-Covid-19 recovery and would increase investor confidence in the region.

“There is no doubt this project will be catalytic,” he said during the site unveiling.

“It will boost business confidence and attract significant foreign direct investment, and present supply chain opportunities for local and international supplies.

“With the capital cap of R75bn it will create thousands of jobs.”

The first phase of the project is expected to start in 2025 and be fully operational by the end of 2026.

While still conducting a feasibility study, a bankable offtake arrangement for the full project has been secured.

On completion, it will be the world’s biggest green ammonia plant, churning out 780,000 tonnes a year.

Gcabashe believes the plant could position the Bay as the next clean energy hub.

Trade, industry and competition minister Ibrahim Patel said the scale and nature of the project could serve as a reference point in developing a policy framework for SA moving towards renewable energy.

“We need projects where we can learn from real-life examples on what we can do.

“What support is needed, what financing supplements may be required?

“The project can also provide us with guidance on how we pose the environment to be shaped to ensure a sustainable future,” Patel said.

Hive Hydrogen is also being supported by InvestSA, a branch of the SA department of trade, industry and competition, specifically with investment facilitation through the InvestSA One Stop Shop mechanism.

“The importance of these early catalyst projects is that they will provide experience on how the current price differential between green hydrogen and fossil fuels is minimised to facilitate fuel transition,” Patel said.

Hive Energy CEO Giles Redpath said the project also needed to be understood in the context of the looming threat of climate change.

Hive Hydrogen is a subsidiary of Hive Energy in the UK and BuiltAfrica.

“Greenhouses are accumulating in the atmosphere faster this year than they were last year,” Redpath said.

“At the current rate by the end of the century, if we do nothing, the planet will warm between five and six degrees, and that will not support human life.

“South Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest renewable energy resource on the planet in terms of wind and solar, and has an incredible opportunity to be a major leader in the solving of climate change for the benefit of the economy and the wider population.

“Ammonia is important because it can be transported in a way hydrogen can’t, so it can be made in SA and transported to other parts of the world as a ready fuel.”

Bay mayor Eugene Johnson pledged full support from the city, saying: “We are very proud to have been chosen as the host city for the first SA green ammonia project.

“Hive Energy has proven it has a good track record in renewable energy and is present in 14 countries,” she said.

“Though it was established as recently as 2014, this points to passion and expertise.

“We welcome this project not only because it will give employment and boost the economy of the city, but also because it is imperative from an environmental aspect.”

The event was also attended by economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Mlungisi Mvoko.

Johnson was accompanied by mayoral committee members Khusta Jack and Lawrence Troon

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