It is estimated that green hydrogen could supply up to 25% of the world’s energy needs and become a $10-trillion addressable market, says the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC).
This is underpinned by the recent emergence of strong green-hydrogen-focused national hydrogen strategies, including those announced by Australia, Chile, Germany, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and South Korea.
The US re-joining the Paris Climate agreement should also bolster the momentum, and accelerate hydrogen adoption, adds the WPIC.
It notes that the rapid growth of the proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis market “clearly has the potential” to benefit platinum demand, albeit modestly in the short- to medium-term.
That being said, hydrogen production capacity and associated infrastructure will facilitate the adoption of PEM fuel cell electric vehicles, the WPIC notes, meaning that there will be a combined impact on platinum demand as these two PEM technologies take off significantly over the longer term.
While its widely acknowledged that green hydrogen has the potential to play a significant role in decarbonising the global economy, only 1% of all hydrogen that is produced is “green”, the WPIC laments.
Green hydrogen is a zero-emissions, sustainable fuel made by using renewable energy – primarily wind and solar – to power electrolysis fuel that splits water into its constituent parts.
Platinum, in conjunction with iridium, is used as a catalyst in PEM electrolysis that uses polymer electrolyte, one of the two leading electrolysis technologies available on the market.
Until now, the WPIC says, cost has been a significant barrier to wider adoption of green hydrogen, with analysis showing that a price of $2/kg represents the likely tipping point at which green hydrogen should become the energy source of choice across multiple sectors, including steel and fertiliser production, power generation and transportation.
“The key to driving down costs is to build out additional capacity on a large gigawatt-scale to achieve the economies of scale needed to make green hydrogen production economically viable,” the council explains.
It is for this reason that the WPIC believes the new Green Hydrogen Catapult initiative will see green hydrogen industry leaders take on this challenge, targeting the deployment of 25 GW of renewables-based hydrogen production by 2026, with a view to halving the current cost of green hydrogen to below $2/kg and increasing production fiftyfold.
In establishing the initiative, the enterprises behind the Green Hydrogen Catapult are collaborating to accelerate the necessary technological and infrastructure advancements, as well as related market development.
The founding partners of the Catapult comprise Saudi clean energy group ACWA Power, Australian project developer CWP Renewables, Chinese wind turbine manufacturer Envision, European energy giants Iberdrola and Ørsted, Italian gas group Snam, and Yara, a Norwegian fertilizer producer.
The Catapult target requires an estimated investment of $110-billion.
However, this is “by no means the only plan on the horizon”, as at the beginning of this year, hydrogen producer, processor, storage and distribution company Linde, announced plans to build, own and operate the world’s largest PEM electrolyser plant at the Leuna Chemical Complex, in Germany.
This new 24 MW electrolyser will produce green hydrogen to supply Linde’s industrial customers through the company’s existing pipeline network. In addition, Linde will distribute liquefied green hydrogen to refuelling stations and other industrial customers in the region.
Once built, the facility will produce enough green hydrogen to fuel 600 fuel cell buses over a distance of 40-million kilometres, saving up to 40 000 t of carbon dioxide tailpipe emissions per year.
The plant is scheduled to start production in the second half of 2022.