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EU turns to African hydrogen supplier to hit clean energy targets


The European Union is looking to ramp up its use of clean energy sources and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Starting next year, those efforts could get an unexpected boost from one of Africa’s oil behemoths.

A new agreement between Sonangol, Angola’s state-owned energy giant, and German engineering firms Conjuncta and Gauff Engineering could unleash an influx of clean hydrogen imports to the European market. Under the deal, Sonangol is building a green hydrogen plant along Angola’s Atlantic coast that will produce some 280,000 tons of green ammonia per year. The liquid substance enables long-distance transport of green energy sources like hydrogen, including future intercontinental deliveries from Angola.

When the plant opens in 2024, Sonangol will become the first company in sub-Saharan Africa to export green hydrogen to Europe.

The collaboration comes as the European Union intensifies efforts to swap fossil fuel-based energy for sustainable alternatives that spew far lower volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Dangerous greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane are rapidly heating the planet and giving rise to severe weather events across the globe, including historic wildfires and flooding in Europe. The world as a whole experienced its hottest summer on record this year.

To blunt the effects of climate change, EU leaders are aiming to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, and they’ve identified hydrogen as an important step toward achieving the bloc’s climate goals. Hydrogen is a clean fuel that produces only water when consumed in a fuel cell, per the U.S. Department of Energy, making it an attractive fuel alternative for transportation and electricity generation.

Green hydrogen, derived from renewable energy sources, is a relatively new but increasingly popular option.

Brussels has set an initial target of producing 10 million tons of and importing a further 10 million tons by the end of the decade.

Angola holds enormous potential as a source of green hydrogen due to the country’s vast renewable energy resources, namely solar and wind, and its favorable geographical location. Notably, the nation’s promising place in the clean energy future follows a legacy of dominance in Africa’s past and present energy market. Angola remains the largest sub-Saharan oil producer and is one of 13 members of the influential OPEC oil cartel.

Sonangol is perhaps the most visible face of Angola’s changing economy. The longtime purveyor of Angola’s oil wealth is increasingly focused on delivering environmental reforms and meeting the growing demand for more sustainable energy, as the company looks to attract private capital including from climate-focused investors in the West.

The state-run firm this month reached a separate agreement to use Paris-based TotalEnergies’ drone technology to monitor and reduce methane emissions at Sonangol’s inland and offshore facilities. That deal was signed at the U.N. Climate Conference in Dubai, where global leaders more broadly pledged to invest heavily in curbing methane emissions.

As for the hydrogen deal with its German partners, Sonangol is well underway building its new hydrogen facility in Barra do Dande, where Angola has invested in the construction of a deep-water port and hydroelectric facility some 30 kilometers north of Luanda, the capital city. The site is on track to open in 2024. Source: Business Insider Africa.

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