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Picture: 123RF/TOMAS1111
Picture: 123RF/TOMAS1111

Sasol, the synthetic fuels and chemicals company that is SA’s biggest private sector emitter of greenhouse gases, is partnering with Imperial Logistics to transport freight across southern Africa using more environmentally friendly methods.

The JSE-listed companies said on Tuesday that they will explore the use of green hydrogen, which holds the promise of cleaner solutions for SA, the world’s 12th-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Hydrogen is a crucial part of industrial processes for plants that produce items such as steel, chemicals and glass. The traditional method still used by most releases vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Sasol and Imperial are also evaluating potential cross-border collaboration, given the latter’s extensive reach on the African continent. Fuel-cell electric trucks hold promise as a viable zero-carbon solution, the companies said.

Led by CEO Mohammed Akoojee, Imperial will tap into Sasol’s expertise in hydrogen production and associated infrastructure, while Sasol stands to benefit from Imperial’s expertise in fleet management and transport.

“Green hydrogen can help tackle various critical energy challenges and is positioned for rapid global growth as the pathway of choice to decarbonise, among others, the long-haul transport sector,” said Priscillah Mabelane, executive vice-president of Sasol Energy Business.

Though still expensive compared with conventional grey hydrogen, the ultimate commercialisation of green hydrogen is seen as a means to decarbonise energy intensive sectors such as shipping and aviation.

In cross hairs

Green hydrogen may also be the answer to Sasol’s long-term sustainability conundrum as the carbon intensity of the group’s operations comes under intensifying scrutiny.

Companies and businesses in SA are increasingly looking to reduce their carbon footprint while the country faces the possibility of being excluded from markets due to the carbon intensive nature of its exports. Almost all of SA’s electricity is generated through coal, putting the country in the cross hairs of key markets such as the EU, which is considering a carbon border tax on imports as it seeks to meet its own targets.

The cabinet said on Monday it has approved the adoption of tougher greenhouse gas emission targets as the country prepares for the next UN climate change conference, COP26, where it is likely to attract attention as Africa’s biggest source of greenhouse gases.

In recent years Sasol has come under intense pressure from activists over its emissions, being called upon to explain how it is aligning its activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement, an environmental accord to strengthen the global response to climate change. Its Secunda plant, where fuel is produced from coal, was singled out by Greenpeace as the largest single-point source of CO2 emissions anywhere on Earth.

FirstRand announced last week that it will no longer finance coal-fired power stations, joining Nedbank, which has taken a similar stance. Banks and asset managers have also come under pressure to shun carbon-intensive projects.

Sasol shares were up 3.1% at 3.14pm while those of Imperial, which is being acquired by Dubai-based multinational DP World, were flat.

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