Hydrogen fuel cells in South Africa
The large scale application of hydrogen fuel cells can ultimately replace combustion type power generation, and provide South Africa with a sustainable supply of energy.
The first step of this vision was taken when Impala Refining Services launched a prototype hydrogen fuel cell forklift and refuelling station.
The prototype is a collaborative effort between the Department of Science and Technology through the HySA Systems Centre of Competence based at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Impala Platinum (Implats) through its Impala Refineries in Springs.
Over the past three years Implats has provided HySA Systems with funds of R6-million to enable the prototype development.
Implats plans to use hydrogen fuel cell technology as its main source of energy for material handling and underground mining equipment.
A fuel cell is a chemical device operating at various temperatures, up to 1000°C and transforms chemical energy of a fuel such as hydrogen, methanol, and natural gas and an oxidant (air or oxygen) in the presence of a catalyst such as platinum into electricity, heat and water with low to zero emissions.
“As the world’s largest platinum-supplying region there is a guaranteed supply of the metal as well as the potential of an increase in global platinum demand. The development and implementation of this technology provides an important opportunity for South Africa to play a role in reducing global greenhouse emissions, thus diminishing urban pollutants and contributing to reduced health care costs and an improved quality of life,” said Implats CEO Terence Goodlace.
“Our involvement in this project signifies Implats’ commitment to deploying the nascent fuel cell industry in South Africa in support of the platinum industry.”
With Implats becoming a partner to the UWC’s South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC) the university has achieved a long term goal of entering strategic research, development and innovation partnership with an absolute leader in one of the pillars of energy generation.
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