The special economic zone (SEZ) for fuel cell development, proposed for development by the Gauteng Industrial Development Zone initiative and Impala Platinum (Implats), has been approved, Implats fuel cell coordinator Fahmida Smith told attendees at the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy Industry Forum, in Pretoria, on Wednesday.
The SEZ comprises 16 ha of land donated by Implats and is located near the Impala Refinery in Springs.
It was one of the initiatives outlined in Implats’ Fuel Cell Roadmap.
Smith said Implats intends to use the SEZ platform to build on its current partnerships, build up skills capacity and leverage the current supporting infrastructure for both fuel cell manufacturing and deployment.
This infrastructure includes the availability of pure hydrogen gas and natural gas on site, as well as an operational hydrogen refuelling station. Smith noted that, currently, the refinery only uses about 50% to 60% of the hydrogen line’s capacity and about 3 kJ of the 80 kJ natural gas pipeline capacity.
The company is using the excess capacity to hold demonstrations featuring “viable hydrogen technologies”, including those that are derived from Implats' collaborations, such as research into bus and load haul dump applications, as well as those furthering its intention to replace 22 kW of grid-power with fuel cell technology.
“And it's not just power . . . we’re looking at total energy consumption. We have coal-fired boilers on site [and so we are investigating] how we can leverage the heat from fuel cell technologies [and] integrate that into our operations.”
Smith also touched on the fuel cell forklift, developed in collaboration with HySA Systems, and noted that the forklift’s three years of operation revealed “several learnings” including issues with dust ingress and maintenance.
She commented that the next phase of commercialisation would address such issues and result in a “proper” robust industrial unit.
She added that, as part of the next phase, HySA Systems and Hot Platinum were testing a local power module with plans to integrate it into a 3 t forklift.
Implats works with HySA Catalysis and its commercial spin-off HyPlat was mainly focused on catalyst development, as well as the development of a 3 kW stationary demonstration fuel cell unit.