Europe’s hydrogen rush targets Tunisia, other sunny African countries

bird story agency Kenya May 30, 2024

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TE H2, a joint venture that includes involves Total Energies (as the major partner), EREN Groupe, and Austria’s leading electricity company, VERBUND, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Republic of Tunisia to explore the viability of this project, according to a press statement.

The move is just the latest in a flurry of announcements involving African nations as European corporates and governments rush to develop Africa’s green hydrogen potential. Tunisia is the latest potential supplier to Europe after signing an MOU for a US$50 billion project.

“The project aims to produce 200,000 tons of green hydrogen annually during its initial phase, with the potential to scale up production to one million tons per year in South Tunisia,” Total Energies explained in the statement.

The green hydrogen produced by H2 Notos – the name of the new project – will be transported through the “SoutH2 Corridor,” a hydrogen pipeline project connecting North Africa to Italy, Austria, and Germany and which is expected to be operational by 2030.

According to Fatma Thabet Chiboub, Tunisia’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy, the initiative is “a step forward in our quest for clean, sustainable energy. Tunisia.”

“We see this project as a strategic pivot to enhance Tunisia’s attractiveness as a prime destination for foreign investment in renewable energies,” she added.

The study will focus on southern Tunisia, utilizing electrolysers powered by 5 GW of onshore wind and solar energy, combined with desalinated seawater. Plans include the potential expansion of the plant to produce one million tons of green hydrogen annually in its final phase.

In 2023, Tunisia launched its national green hydrogen roadmap, a 2035 national strategy aiming to leverage green hydrogen to bridge the country’s energy deficit while diversifying its energy mix.

Currently, more than 95% of Tunisia’s energy is generated from natural gas, but the government plans to reduce this dependence by tapping into solar and wind. The national strategy targets the production of 8.3 million tons of green hydrogen by 2050, with 6 million tons designated for export to Europe.

Tunisia’s climate, with between 6 and 12 hours of daily sunshine, and up to 24.5 mph of wind speed makes green hydrogen production highly viable. This potential makes it a hotspot for European investors pursuing investments in green hydrogen across the continent in a bid to satisfy Europe’s growing demand.

Beyond ‘H2 Notos,’ there has been a surge in announcements and commitments by European investors to develop greenfield green hydrogen projects in Tunisia.

These include the project by H2-Greenforce Deutschland GmbH, a German subsidiary of green hydrogen developer, H2-Greenforce BV, which is developing a 1 GW hydrogen project in the same country.

At the recent Italy-Africa Summit in Rome, Italy committed nearly US$6 billion (5.5 billion euros) for the integration of green hydrogen from North African countries, including Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt.

Tunisia’s potential has garnered interest not only from individual European countries but also at the regional level. Last year, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hinted at an MOU between the commission and Tunisia.

“Tunisia is looking to harness its tremendous potential for renewable energy. And the European Union needs reliable suppliers of clean energy as we electrify our entire economy. Thus, we need to invest in infrastructure so Tunisia can export clean energy to Europe,” she was quoted in Hydrogen Europe.

Ongoing EU investments include over US$320 million (300 million euros) in the ELMED interconnector, an undersea electricity cable linking Tunisia to Italy.

Europe’s interest in Africa’s green hydrogen extends beyond Tunisia. A 2023 report by energy consultancy firm Rystad Energy estimated Africa’s electrolyser pipeline capacity at 114 GW, spread across 52 projects, most of which include European investors.

For instance, Angola is developing a 300 MW green hydrogen project at Sonangol, which will export nearly 300,000 tons of green hydrogen annually to Germany. This aligns with Germany’s plan to import between 50 and 70% of its green hydrogen by 2030 to meet its demand.

Egypt’s geographical location makes it an ideal shipping point for distribution to Europe via the Suez Canal. Namibia, a frontrunner in green hydrogen development, has signed deals with Germany, the EU, and others, promising to supply them with electrolyser products.

According to Hydrogen Insight, Namibia is set to produce its first green hydrogen and ammonia in July, with the Daures Green Hydrogen Village project now 80% complete. The project plans to produce 18 tons of hydrogen and 100 tons of ammonia annually, with further scaling planned for regional and international exports, supported by an active deal with the Australian firm Fortescue.

McKinsey & Company projects that by 2050, Africa will self-supply its domestic green hydrogen demand of between 10 and 18 megatons while exporting about 40 megatons.

 

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