6 months ago

Mpumalanga Business 2021-22

INTERVIEW Finding new

INTERVIEW Finding new ways of reducing and reusing carbon Council for Geoscience CEO, Mosa Mabuza, is excited about new research on carbon capture and is intent on expanding his organisation’s relevance to the South African economy. Mosa Mabuza, CEO BIOGRAPHY After qualifying as a geologist from Wits University, Mosa held various positions at De Beers and Anglo American and worked in jurisdictions as varied as West Africa and Canada. From his appointment as the Director of Mineral Economics in the former Department of Minerals and Energy, he was promoted to Deputy Director-General of Mineral Policies and (Investment) Promotion in 2012. He has been CEO of CGS since 2017. How will the Council for Geoscience (CGS) carbon capture and the storage project in Mpumalanga expand South Africa’s energy mix and decrease the country’s carbon footprint? We abbreviated the project to CCUS: Carbon Capture for the two Cs, U for utilisation, storage as the last stage. Once the carbon is captured it has numerous applications. Not only would you be able to reduce the carbon content that is emitted into our climate, but you can also apply it in fertiliser manufacturing and in a number of other applications. We see it as a scientific intervention that gets us as a country to breathe life into the climate mitigation measures, in terms of the international climate protocol that we have committed to. If the science is proven, not only will South Africa meet but it will go far beyond the minimum commitments that we have made as a country. But we’ve got to let the science take place, we’ve got to let the pilot project prove that indeed, it is a sensible scientific intervention, that the economics make sense, that science and the intentions are met. Only once we have proven all of those three attributes, would we be confident enough to say that, indeed, we can continue. We think that, if it is proven, then coal can continue to play a critical role in our energy mix. Is this pilot at one site or is it multiple sites? The first one is on one site. We have chosen a pilot very close to the major emission sites in Mpumalanga where there is a higher concentration of power stations, as well as the Sasol plant. If we get that right we can have our contribution to carbon pollution reduced by between 60% and 80%. What are the other priorities of the CGS in Mpumalanga? The CGS mandate is that we are the custodians of geoscientific information and knowledge in the country so we have quite a number of programmes in Mpumalanga. One of them which is really very exciting and is at an advanced stage of development is the passive treatment of polluted water. This is getting groundwater that has been polluted to be cleaned up using natural processes without using any chemicals. We are piloting this exercise at a site in Middelburg. The early results are indicating that the ranges of acidity are being drastically reduced. At level one, water is very acidic and if you get to a pH of seven, then that’s normal water and if you go beyond seven then it’s MPUMALANGA BUSINESS 2021/22 34

ecoming too alkaline for consumption or industrial use. This passive treatment has increased the pH level from 2.8, which could not be consumed by human beings, to around 6.8. That is exciting. That is almost getting to a textbook measure of pH. The water coming out of our taps is not anywhere close to 6.8. If we can replicate that, imagine all of that water that has been contaminated by coal mining over the years in the Mpumalanga area that could be sorted out? We haven’t done the economic studies yet but if we get it right, it should be highly costefficient. The cost should not be an issue if and when we get it right. What other priority projects are you pursuing? We are looking at mineral development projects in Mpumalanga and others. We are excited about the prospects that lie ahead. We are confirming the extension of the Wits Basin beyond the previously known areas. The result is that – over and above coal mining – we think that gold mining in Mpumalanga may just have a much longer future than we thought before. CGS passive mine water remediation pilot plant, Carolina. What role is the CGS playing in the debate over the just transition? We will not be driving the whole debate but the carbon capture utilisation and storage is a scientific intervention that asks the fundamental question – does transition necessarily mean transition from coal or does the transition mean we are making a commitment to transition from high carbon to low carbon? Over many years we have developed the capacity to generate our baseload from coal. We still have huge resources of coal in South Africa and we have installed generation infrastructure. On the other hand, we have correctly made commitments to be part of climate change protocols. There is no debate on the contribution of carbon in accelerating the climate change, there’s absolutely no debate there. But if there are scientific interventions that can allow for that transition to enable us to move from high to low carbon and continue to burn the coal, then that is something worth considering. If human beings could send a man to the moon in the 1960s, I don’t see why we cannot find the appropriate technology to use so that coal is part of our just transitioning journey. As the Council for Geoscience, our contribution in the main is limited to the science. We must also play a prominent and critical role as a leader in mobilising society around a particular position that takes into account South Africa’s specific societal circumstances. 35 MPUMALANGA BUSINESS 2021/22

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