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Green hydrogen moves by China, India boosting outlook for platinum group metals

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is intent on making India a global green hydrogen hub.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is intent on making India a global green hydrogen hub.

Photo by Hydrogen Council

14th February 2023

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor


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JOHANNESBURG ( – The firm embrace of the new green hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cell future by China and India is a huge twin boost for Southern Africa’s great platinum group metals (PGMs) endowment, Mining Weekly can today report.

Hydrogen technologies have a special relevance for South Africa as most of the PGMs that are needed for the related technologies are hosted and mined in South Africa, which also offers for itself excellent sources of renewable energy through its superior sun and prime wind.

The renewable energy is used to produce green hydrogen, which is, in turn, clean electricity-in-waiting, ready to drive fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) sustainably, as well as turn steel, cement and so many manufacturing processes clean and green.

A big benefit of solar and wind energy is that it is replenished at a higher rate than it is consumed. Renewable energy sources are plentiful and all around us, which also opens the way for countries to achieve energy independence.

The correct focus needs to be on securing sufficient volumes of electrons and then to process excess electrons into molecules that can be converted back into electricity when needed for mobility in particular.

Recent World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC) research indicates that it is just a matter of time before demand for platinum from FCEVs equals the current level of platinum automotive demand for platinum, which is forecast to be over 3-million ounces this year.

In China, a new trade and technology centre dedicated to the growth of the PGMs market is being developed along with Anglo American, Honeywell, WPIC and close to 70 organisations that have signed strategic cooperation agreements with the Lin-Gang Group, a State-owned developer of industrial parks.

WPIC’s Asia Pacific headquarters are destined for relocation to the Lin-Gang Special Area, where, from this year, the annual Shanghai Platinum Week will take place.

This comes amid green electron and green molecule production being poised to make the world a better place, with proton exchange membrane, or PEM, electrolysis in particular relying on the uplift that South Africa’s PGMs can provide, and hydrogen fuel cells offering zero-emission mobility through PGM catalysis.

In what is a major plus for PGMs demand and consequently South Africa’s local mining economy, China is poised to become a leading market for platinum-using FCEVs, which provide the emission-free mobility needed to combat climate change.

In addition, China’s plan to be a major generator of climate-friendly green hydrogen is also supportive of FCEV take-up, as well as giving rise to the production of green steel, green cement and a host of other environment-friendly pursuits.

India, meanwhile, is seizing the green hydrogen opportunity with both hands, along with the far-advanced European Union, a keen Australia, and a South Africa that has been producing green hydrogen at pilot plant level since 2012, and which has been talking fuel cell mobility for decades.

This is the strong standpoint of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “We have to make India a global hub for green hydrogen production and export. This will not only help India to make new progress in the field of energy self-reliance but will also become a new inspiration for clean energy transition all over the world.”

India’s Cabinet-approved National Green Hydrogen Mission is designed to transform the populous South Asian country into a global hub for the production and export of green hydrogen.

Following the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act into law by President Joe Biden, the US is in a stronger position than ever to uplift its domestic hydrogen market for the benefit of the environment and the economy. The energy tax provisions included in the new law signal a seriousness about hydrogen’s role in driving a clean energy transition, incentivising continued private sector investment, and taking hydrogen production to the next level.

Hydrogen is seen as providing the flexibility needed to achieve a true clean energy transition swiftly and effectively, in that it can decarbonise transportation and industrial sectors, and is hugely scalable as energy storage.

A global hydrogen economy could create a $2.5-trillion market for hydrogen and fuel cell equipment, employment for more than 30-million people, and stop billions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions from destroying the planet.

American companies Plug and Amazon have signed an agreement to provide liquid green hydrogen to help decarbonise Amazon’s operations. Plug’s strategy is to build an end-to-end green hydrogen ecosystem.

Ionomr Innovations' Pemion membrane has achieved performance and durability testing results that surpass internationally recognised standards from the US Department of Energy and Hydrogen Europe, confirming the company’s hydrocarbon-based PEM and polymer are ready for widespread fuel cell application.

The membrane has met established accelerated durability benchmarks for combined chemical and mechanical stress testing. Throughout 1 000 hours of cyclical testing, it exceeded the internationally recognised 20 000 cycle durability targets set by the US Department of Energy for polymer electrolyte membranes.

In Belgium, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges is considering an open-access green hydrogen-sourced green ammonia import terminal. Three companies, Fluxys, Advario Stolthaven Antwerp, and Advario Gas Terminal, have joined together to investigate the possibility.

The terminal will link up with the open-access Fluxys hydrogen network, guaranteeing supply across the whole of northwest Europe.

The Dutch have a North Sea network plan to pump offshore wind-powered hydrogen to Germany, with the gas grid operator Gasunie applying to the European Commission for exemption from State-aid restrictions.

Hydrogen Central reports that proposed electrolysis capacity to generate hydrogen has now exceeded the 1 065 GW mark, with 93% of the proposed hydrogen projects being green.

The Hyundai Group has announced a large investment in hydrogen, committing $6.7-billion towards 'the fuel of the future'.

Zero-emissions is the future, says Teco CEO Tore Enger, who adds that there is no doubt that hydrogen and fuel cells will play a key role in decarbonising the heavy-duty and marine sectors. The Norwegian hydrogen industry is currently of limited size but holds large potential, says a report from Menon Economics.

On the renewables front, 1 000 global decision-makers are scheduled to gather in Madrid next week for the Spanish International Renewable Energy Conference, which is set to give new momentum to the world’s transitioning sun and wind energy, which is joined at the hip to green hydrogen.

On the electron storage front, South Africa’s abundant vanadium rather than the world’s scarce lithium is excitingly being appraised for green electricity storage of a longer-endurance kind.

Internationally, hydrogen is already in production to the level of about 85-million to 90-mlillion tonnes a year, with green hydrogen itself an energy in short-term or long-term storage.

The transition to green hydrogen can be a hugely beneficial reality in the near future with collaboration between companies, countries and knowledge institutions, South Africa’s Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande has told a just energy transition event attended by European Commission Joint Research Centre director-general Stephen Quest, UK high commissioner Antony Phillipson and representatives of neighbouring African States.

Already, European Union and African Union collaboration is under way to advance the Just Energy Transition to green hydrogen in Africa.

In the past, geopolitics was such that oil- and gas-rich countries developed faster, but now countries that are able to export their sunshine in the form of hydrogen will be the ones to develop faster, as the world transitions to clean, green energy.

“Africa is an example of a place on our planet that can lead this geopolitical shift,” says Hydrogen South Africa Infrastructure Competence Centre director Professor Dmitri Bessarabov, who will be chairing the global International Conference on Electrolysis (ICE 2023) at South Africa’s Sun City from August 27 to September 1.

Electrolytic green hydrogen generation, which is expected to be taken to the next level at ICE 2023, is already a cornerstone of South Africa’s Hydrogen Society Roadmap, which the Ministry at the forefront of drawing it up believes can be turned to positive account in the near-term with proper collaboration.

South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC) calculates that investment of more than R4.3-trillion will be required. The PIC, which has R2.339-trillion worth of assets under management, has a hydrogen investment strategy aimed at unlocking value through providing early-stage capital for the development of the hydrogen value chain and leveraging off more than 200 hydrogen projects that have already been announced worldwide.

The PIC sees hydrogen as the next frontier in clean energy technology owing to its omnipresence and extensive value chain potential.

There for investors is H2Global – a market ramp-up instrument that serves as an innovative form of subsidy scheme to smooth out bumps along green hydrogen’s early-mover road – which has made a strong call for final investment decisions to be taken on green hydrogen projects already supported by memoranda of understanding.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges are being enhanced to play a more pivotal role in the rapid expansion of renewable energy generation.

In transitioning to the inclusive green hydrogen economy, the TVET ecosystem needs to cultivate transversal skills, develop a knowledge commons for skills and create an enabling, collaborative environment to address local shifts and challenges.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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