Scrap recycler eyes green hydrogen in Africa

STORY: At a scrap metal recycler in Nigeria's economic hub Lagos, aluminum is being melted in a furnace.

It's one of the world's most environmentally-friendly metals, in part because of its ability to be infinitely recycled.

But that comes at a cost.

Smelting aluminum uses a huge amount electricity and causes severe gas emissions.

Romco Metals, which operates in Nigeria and Ghana, is tackling that problem.

It started using the more environmentally friendly Compressed Natural Gas to power its furnaces at the start of 2022.

But Raymond Onovwigun, CEO of the UK-based company, says they are hoping to go further.

‘’We are constantly looking at how we can evolve our practices and we are actually currently conducting studies with a UK university, unfortunately I can’t name which university, but what we are looking at doing is seeing how we can use solar power to provide green hydrogen into our production process.’’

Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

It's also an opportunity for some African countries to harness their potential for solar and wind energy.

The continent's first green hydrogen power plant, located in Namibia, is expected to start producing electricity by 2024, a senior executive at France's HDF Energy said on Monday (September 13).

Onovwigun says the global shift away from fossil fuels will see more renewables come into focus.

"It's going to require lots of materials and the more recycled materials that we have in there, it is only going to help us get to the targets that we're trying to reach globally.''

Romco, which currently produces around 18,000 tonnes of aluminum a year, also wants to grow.

That includes escalating production more than five-fold this year to meet increasing demand.

It plans to open seven new plants in Africa over the next five years and says it is in advanced talks to raise $50m in debt and equity to drive the expansion.