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Major new gigafactory fuel cell thrust enlivening demand outlook for platinum

Platinum cathode required in PEM fuel cells to convert hydrogen to electricity. Heraeus infographic.

Platinum cathode required in PEM fuel cells to convert hydrogen to electricity. Heraeus infographic.

15th March 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – A major new fuel cell thrust in North America is enlivening the outlook for platinum and helping the world advance further along the road to net zero.

Emphasising that the advancement of the hydrogen economy can significantly move the needle against climate change, North American green mobility company Ballard is setting out to invest $160-million – net of government grants – to build a new manufacturing facility that will have the production capacity equivalent of three gigawatts of fuel cells a year.

The proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell products developer and manufacturer is setting out to be able to produce eight-million membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs), eight-million bipolar plates, 20 000 fuel cell stacks, and up to 20 000 fuel cell engines a year.

Future phases are expected to further increase production scaling and capacity expansion with much lower capital requirements.

Expected government grants will support the construction and build-out of the integrated fuel cell production gigafactory of the zero-emission PEM fuel cells that enable the clean and green electrification of mobility in the form of buses, trucks, trains, marine vessels, and stationary power. PEM fuel cells are catalysed by platinum and demand for platinum from stationary fuel cells and electrolysers is set to rise by more than 120%, according to the calculations of the World Platinum Investment Council.

Ballard Power Systems has announced that it has received government notification that its applications for two grants totalling $40-million, which are under a clean hydrogen electrolysis, manufacturing, and recycling programme have been selected and recommended for negotiation of financial awards.

Of the total $40-million worth of government grants,  $30-million relates to advanced PEM MEAs and automated stack assembly, and $10-million to a next-generation flexible graphite bipolar plate manufacturing line.

These government grants have been awarded to implement provisions of a legal infrastructure framework, which provides for the award of $750-million for clean hydrogen electrolysis, manufacturing and recycling.

Ballard has also applied for additional funding under other government funding programmes, which is helping to enable cost-competitive solutions at scale.

“With an increasingly constructive policy environment and growing customer interest, it is critical to invest in this innovative manufacturing line,” Ballard chief transformation officer Dr Lee Sweetland commented.

“We’ve been working hard to develop next-generation, automated production processes for MEAs, bipolar plates, and stack assembly to meet expected future market demand, while significantly driving down the cost of fuel cell engines,” Sweetland added.

HYDROGEN ECONOMY DISCUSSION

Mining Weekly can report that at this year’s Hydrogen Economy Discussion in Johannesburg on April 11, green hydrogen is expected to be shown as an exceptionally far-reaching economic opportunity for platinum, with the potential demand for platinum group metals (PGMs) from PEM electrolysers and fuel cells being highlighted.

Gradually, demand for PGMs from PEM electrolysers and fuel cell electric vehicles is expected to become a meaningful component of global PGMs demand.

POWER OF COLLABORATION

For the benefit of future generations, the people of the world are duty bound to collaborate to establish an holistic approach to decarbonisation, where PGMs and green hydrogen have the potential to play the most holistic role when compared with all other options.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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