Harnessing PGMs for fuel cell technology


Decarbonisation is an urgent global challenge. There are increasing opportunities to use platinum-catalysed fuel cells to provide zero-emitting, carbon-free energy, in electricity and mobile applications.

Fuel cells use a source of fuel, such as hydrogen, and an oxidant to create electricity from an electrochemical process. In supporting the development of a fuel cell economy, we aspire to make hydrogen a key part of decarbonising and powering our own operations.

Implats has invested around R25 million in targeted fuel cell development in South Africa, in collaboration with the South African government and academic institutions, to help promote local technology development as well as develop local skills and fuel cell manufacturing and deployment.

In 2016, we developed and successfully implemented the first hydrogen fuel-cell powered forklift and hydrogen refuelling station in Africa, at the base metals refinery at Impala Springs. The project showcased novel metal hydride technology for on-board hydrogen storage and compression. The successful prototype fuel cell forklift reduces noise levels and emissions and continues to perform well.

The project motivated investigations into the use of fuel cell technologies within other material movement equipment. Together with our project partners, we continue to review the viability of commercialising this technology.

We believe these efforts should be aligned with the special economic zone (SEZ) for fuel cell development that is under development in the Springs region, aimed at driving local mineral beneficiation. The SEZ comprises 16 hectares of land donated by Implats, adjacent to Impala Springs. The project in partnership with various government departments is a longer-term strategic investment to facilitate platinum beneficiation. The infrastructure includes the availability of pure hydrogen gas and natural gas on site.