Platinum to benefit from hydrogen revolution push, says WPIC

The hydrogen revolution is fast becoming action rather than talk, says the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC).

It notes that a series of spending commitments and investments are “pointing to a future where hydrogen will be a mainstream source of sustainable fuel”.

Supporting this sentiment, is the Hydrogen Council, which says that 18 countries have now produced roadmaps or strategy documents setting out their intentions for the future regarding hydrogen.

As an example, Germany alone has announced a $7.9-billion plan to invest in its renewable hydrogen economy, with the European Union (EU) setting out ambitious plans to develop renewable hydrogen production, with the aim of generating ten-million tonnes of renewable hydrogen a year across the region by 2030.

The EU’s goal is for renewable hydrogen technologies to reach maturity and be deployed at large scale from 2030 to 2050. 

Hydrogen – considered to be the most abundant element on earth – is already used as a fuel source in certain industries as it contains no carbon, and produces zero emissions, only water.

However, its credentials as a “truly sustainable fuel source” rest on the way in which it is produced, considering that green hydrogen is completely carbon free as its production does not involve the use of any fossil fuels. 

The most well-known way of producing hydrogen is through the electrolysis of water and, during this process, an electric current is used to separate water into its component elements – hydrogen and oxygen.

When the electric current is derived from a renewable source (solar photovoltaic panels or a wind turbine), it is known as green hydrogen, the WPIC explains.

Therefore, the council says platinum also plays a significant part in this environment-friendly way of producing hydrogen because the commodity is used during the electrolysis process as a catalyst to provide the performance and durability necessary for commercial scale systems. 

At present, only a small proportion (less than 1%) of hydrogen produced is considered green hydrogen.

The remainder is made by stripping hydrogen from fossil fuels such as methane, natural gas or coal. If the carbon dioxide emitted in the process is captured and buried underground in a process known as carbon capture and storage, some of its harmful environmental effects are mitigated.

Hydrogen produced from this method is called blue hydrogen, and the council says that it is expected that blue hydrogen will continue to be used as a stepping stone to achieving longer-term green hydrogen goals, while renewable energy production is ramped up and infrastructure developed.

Looking ahead, the potential growth of green hydrogen in the world’s energy system is significant owing to its long-term energy storage capabilities that could help to decarbonise transport, heating and industrial processes.

The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that the world will need 19 exajoules of green hydrogen by 2050, or between 133-million and 158-million tonnes a year, should green hydrogen replace the current use of fossil fuels in these sectors. 

Platinum in fuel cells for fuel cell electric vehicles is already a small, but growing, demand source for this precious metal, and with the global hydrogen economy predicted to be worth $2.5-trillion and supporting 30-million jobs by 2050, the WPIC says platinum’s dual role in unlocking green hydrogen and its uses “places it in the sweet spot”, making it a major beneficiary as the green hydrogen revolution moves us closer to the hydrogen economy.