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Growing electrolyser capacity bodes well for platinum demand over next decade – WPIC

15th September 2023

By: Marleny Arnoldi

Deputy Editor Online

     

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In its latest release about news in the platinum industry, the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC) says electrolyser capacity is ramping up as both production and deployment expand globally, in response to green hydrogen demand growth.

More than $300-billion in hydrogen investments are earmarked through to 2030, while the International Energy Agency (IEA) says electrolyser manufacturing capacity grew to reach nearly 11 GW/y last year.

The WPIC says demand for hydrogen could potentially rise seven times by 2050 compared with current demand, with two-thirds of hydrogen production coming from electrolysis.

Similarly, the IEA projects global electrolysis installed capacity could reach 3 GW by the end of this year, which is a four-fold increase in total capacity compared with 2022.

Additionally, the council expects one-million fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) to be on China’s roads by 2035 and that one in eight newly-registered commercial vehicles worldwide will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells by 2030.

The WPIC estimates that the broad-based commercial adoption of FCEVs could add more than three-million ounces to yearly platinum demand in ten years’ time.

If all projects currently in the pipeline are realised, global electrolysis installed capacity could reach between 170 GW and 365 GW by 2030.

Assuming a 30% share, the platinum-based proton exchange membrane (PEM) share of this market equates to between 50 GW and 110 GW.

PEM electrolysers and alkaline electrolysers are the two leading electrolysis technologies commercially available.

The WPIC explains that PEM electrolysers, which contain a platinum catalyst, were first developed during the 1950s for the space programme.

Today, they have moved from the niche to the mainstream as the case for green hydrogen has strengthened, driven by the need to find solutions to combat climate change; the improving business case for green hydrogen is based on growing renewable generation capacity and falling renewable electricity costs; and innovation in PEM technology.

CASE IN POINT

The growth of green hydrogen in the world’s energy system is significant because of its long-term energy storage capabilities, which could help to decarbonise transport, heating and industrial processes.

More than 30 countries have hydrogen strategies in place which focus on the deployment of green hydrogen to achieve net-zero goals.

In the US, the government released its National Clean Hydrogen Strategy earlier this year, with the stated ambition of enabling multi-gigawatt-scale electrolyser manufacturing capacity.

In parallel, the US’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), enacted on November 15, 2021, has a variety of initiatives to stimulate new markets for clean hydrogen, including $1-billion of funding for a clean hydrogen electrolysis programme, aimed at improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of electrolysis technologies by supporting the entire innovation chain – from research, development, and demonstration to commercialisation and deployment – to enable $2/kg clean hydrogen from electrolysis by 2026.

The IIJA also provides $8-billion of funding for the provision of Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs.

The WPIC says recent developments highlight how both manufacturing capacity and deployment are ramping up.

In the first quarter of this year, a company called Plug Power announced it had manufactured 122 MW of its 1 MW PEM electrolyser stacks at its factory in the US, achieving an all-time high for the industry.

It is on track to increase output to 100 MW a month for the remainder of the year.

In May, the same company announced a joint venture in South Korea with SK Group to build an electrolyser and fuel cell gigafactory.

Moreover, UK-based Johnson Matthey is working with PEM electrolyser developer Hystar, to enable further scale-up and automation for Hystar’s planned multi-gigawatt production line, which is expected to be operational by 2025.

Meanwhile, Norwegian company Nel Hydrogen has announced plans to build a new automated gigawatt PEM and alkaline electrolyser manufacturing facility in Michigan, in the US. When fully developed, the facility will be among the largest electrolyser manufacturing plants in the world.

While hydrogen-related platinum demand is currently relatively small, it is expected to grow substantially in the medium term, becoming a meaningful component of global platinum demand by 2030, and potentially the largest demand segment for platinum by 2040.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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