Anglo American Platinum in partnership with Ballard Power Systems is developing a next generation fuel cell product, which forms the core of a power system that is capable of supplying 230V AC electricity through a mini-grid. The system is suitable for charging electronic devices, television, radio, electric lighting, refrigeration and cooking to households. Click on image to see video....
The South African government has embarked on an ambitious National Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Technologies Flagship project, branded as Hydrogen South Africa, HySA.
The aim is to establish South Africa as one of the few nations that export high-value products into the growing international hydrogen and fuel cells markets. As custodian of some 80% of the world's Pt and Rh reserves, South Africa's future role is no longer exclusively as the supplier of raw materials but as a manufacturer of value-added components. This is one important step in the transformation from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy.
HySA/Catalysis, co-hosted by the University of Cape Town and Mintek, is one of three Centres of Competence tasked with the establishment of a technical and scientific base for distinctly South African contributions to the global hydrogen and fuel cell technology know-how. Its mandate includes the components in the early part of the value chain, catalysts and catalytic devices.
Whilst there has been much speculation about the emergence of a ‘Hydrogen Economy’, there is still little evidence of the supply of hydrogen being introduced commercially to any great extent (limited largely by existing technology constraints). However, hydrogen in the form of hydrocarbon fuels is widely distributed and readily available as a source for the interim acceptance and off-take of fuel cell technology. Moreover, hydrocarbon fuels and specifically LPG is tried and tested, safe, and easy to liquefy and transport. The predominate driver for the use of PGM catalysts in the various stages of a fuel processor relates to the need for durability (oxidation resistance and catalyst deactivation) and high catalytic activity. Research in this area relates to hydrogen generation from hydrocarbon fuels, both catalysts and devices (reactors) across the full fuel processor train. The development of micro-reformers and novel integrated fuel processor systems is central to advancing local know-how that can ultimately be translated into a local manufacturing capability for fuel cell systems and components.
One of HySA’s mandates is to enable South Africans to participate in the commercialization of fuel cell technologies. The goal is to manufacture PGM containing components in South Africa (SA), containing South African technology and deliver to global markets. HySA/Catalysis’ approach to enter the fuel cell space is to bring international leadership from industry to lead the business and technology development activities, and to develop the value chain in South Africa. We are also working with international partners that have fuel cell technology already developed to enable South Africa to leap-frog into the existing global state-of-the-art of fuel cells, followed by integration of SA-technology into these products. The Portable Power Systems programme (Key Programme 2) represents one of HySA’s five R&D programmes. The main goal is to deliver portable power systems in the 50 W to 5 kW power range.
Impala Platinum (Implats) CEO Terence Goodlace is championing the marketing of platinum by surging ahead with plans to use platinum fuel cells to produce electricity at the Implats platinum refinery in Springs, on Gauteng’s East Rand. Print Send to Friend 1 0 JSE-listed Implats, which is heavily supported by the strong black-owned shareholding of the Bafokeng community, is flying the platinum marketing flag high to counter the metal’s significant recycling position, which demands ongoing market expansion.
Platinum major Impala Platinum (Implats) is studying the feasibility of taking its entire platinum refinery off the national electricity grid and powering it with platinum fuel cells.
The refinery already has a supply of available hydrogen to fuel the cells and would need some 20 MW of fuel-cell power if it were to do without the Eskom grid.
In the interim, plans for an initial 2 MW fuel cell, which would be the biggest such unit in the southern hemisphere, are at an advanced stage.
“We’re going ahead with the project to put in the 2 MW unit at the refinery. The benefit of that for us right now is that we can do away with all of our generators, peaks and reduce our reliance on Eskom in that way,” Implats CEO Terence Goodlace told Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online in a video interview on Tuesday, when the company reported 3.6% lower half-year revenue at R15.9-billion and a 40.7% higher unit cost of R22 952/oz caused by 10.4% group inflation.
“We’ve got a ready supply of hydrogen, which we use in the refinery and we’re looking at taking the whole of our refinery off grid power through putting in fuel cells,” Goodlace outlined, adding that at mine level, fuel cells were also being tested to power locomotives and load haul dumpers.
“The generator produces electricity in an environmentally friendly way, without pollution or noise,” said Piotr Bujlo, leader of the generator project and a technology specialist at HySA Systems.
Fuel cells are already used to power vehicles and provide power in remote or inaccessible places, including on space capsules and satellites.
Researchers at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) hope that their work on hydrogen fuel cell innovations may help with the global quest to cut reliance on fossil fuels, as well as helping with South Africa’s own attempts to give more of its population access to electricity.
The work of the newly launched Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Infrastructure facilities located at the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in Pretoria, would promote South Africa’s hydrogen economy, as well as the beneficiation of platinum-group metals (PGMs), CSIR CEO Dr Sibusiso Sibisisaid on Thursday.
The facility would be jointly used by HySA Infrastructure and the CSIR’s batteries research group to conduct research aimed at developing novel materials to meet challenging hydrogen and energystorage requirements.
“There are boundless opportunities for hydrogen as a fuel inenvironmental management and mineral resource beneficiation in South Africa through fuel cell deployment and advanced manufacturing,” HySAInfrastructure director Dr Dmitri Bessarabov said at the lauch of the facility.
He explained that fuel cells using PGM catalysts, used hydrogen as a fuel, resulting in little or no polluting emissions as chemical energy was converted into electrical energy.
However, the challenge was to develop the infrastructure to produce, store and make hydrogen available for these applications in addition to getting cheaper replacement catalysts.
Bessarabov told Engineering News Online that the facility located at the CSIR would conduct its research in collaboration with the other HySA Infrastructure research centre located at the North West University (NWU).
He explained that HySA Infastructure had two key programmes designated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) namely KP4 and KP5.
KP4 related to hydrogen storage and would be carried out at the CSIR-based facility, while KP5, which was being carried out at the NWU, pertained to hydrogen production.
He said the newly opended facility was, therefore, dedicated to benchmarking research in terms of hydrogen storage materials.
This process had already started with some outputs having been received.
Going forward, the facility would also aim to develop new materials for hydrogen storage, while also investigating ways in which storage materials could be adapted for commercial applications.
To achieve this, the HySA Infrastructure facility at the CSIR included laboratories dedicated to materials synthesis, equipped with specialised fume-hoods, and materials characterisation, equipped with an inert atmosphere glovebox with a built-in vacuum oven, a surface area and a porosity analyser with a cryostat and a pycnometer.
The facility also included a performance testing laboratory with a pressure-composition-temperature gas analyser, an in-house designed and built Sieverts-type apparatus and a centrifugal granulator.
The laboratories would also be further equipped with additional state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation in due course.
Further, the facility would also, through the CSIR batteries group, focus on the development of lithium-ion batteries for stationary and mobile applications.
Speaking at the launch, CSIR energy materials manager Dr Mkhulu Mathe noted that the key mission of the battery programme was to enable the local manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries through the development of a pilot-scale battery cell manufacturing operation based on South African materials.
Pretoria — The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has officially launched the innovative 2,5 kW hydrogen fuel cell power generator prototype unit at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
The generator demonstrates South Africa's innovative capabilities in the emerging hydrogen and fuel cell technologies space.
"This prototype was developed by the HySA Systems Integration and Technology Validation Centre of Competence (HySA Systems) in collaboration with Hot Platinum (Pty Ltd), a local company involved in power management and control electronics," the department said on Tuesday.
The partners have been testing the unit at the Cape Flats Nature Reserve, on the UWC campus in Bellville, with remarkable results, the department said.
All electrical power used in the reserve is generated from a bank of hydrogen cylinders, instead of from the national grid.
The cylinders release hydrogen in the presence of a platinum catalyst (mined in the North West) and a series of proton exchange membranes.
Director-General of department, Dr Phil Mjwara, emphasised the critical role of science, technology and innovation in the development of the country.
"We talk a lot about adding value and reducing our carbon footprint, about access for all, creating wealth and developing private/public partnerships. This project shows that we are capable of all these things," he said.
The hydrogen fuel cell power generator unit uses hydrogen to generate electrical power, with water vapour the only by-product, which means that electricity can be produced in an environmentally friendly way without pollution or noise.
Furthermore, hydrogen can be used to produce electricity in remote areas that do not have access to the national grid.
The decentralisation of energy generation by using hydrogen fuel cell systems is one of the few possibilities for providing efficient and cost-effective access to electricity.
Prof. Bruno Pollet, Director of HySA Systems, said: "The South African government has rolled out several energy and energy-efficiency programmes and initiatives, such as HySA, with an emphasis on alternative energy opportunities and off-grid renewable energy solutions."
South Africa is one of the primary suppliers of platinum group metals to the world, but not much beneficiation is being done in the country.
However, the rise of hydrogen fuel cell technologies in various markets is about to change the global platinum landscape with the anticipated increase in platinum usage in this emerging market.
It is therefore safe to assume that if the technology gains market share in coming years, as is anticipated by manufacturers such as Toyota, Hyundai, Honda and BMW, the platinum group metal market will see profound and sustained growth.
Prof Pollet said there were significant opportunities for South Africa to partner with international fuel cell producers, and that these partnerships had the potential to make the country an established hub for the production of fuel cell components. - SAnews.gov.za
JSE-listed platinum producer Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Canada-based Ballard Power Systems on Tuesday launched the world’s first platinum-using fuel cell mini-grid electrification field trial.
Amplats and Ballard Power Systems partnered with State-owned power utility Eskom and the Department of Energy to conduct the 12-month trial in the rural community of Naledi Trust, which is part of the Moqhaka local municipality in the southern part of the Fezile Dabi district of the Free State.
As part of the trial, 34 households would be powered using a methanol fuel cell prototype product developed for use in off-grid residential application where the cost of electrification through an expansion of the national grid may be cost or technically prohibitive.
The fuel cell prototype had been delivering electricity to the households for the past three weeks, subsequent to the testing of the system.
Johannesburg, Solar hydrogen fuel power plants with capabilities smaller than 10 kilowatts are helping rural and informal communities that aren’t on the national electricity grid. The households in these communities get reliable electricity and heat from these power plants.
The Vaal University of Technology Centre for Alternative Energy has been leading the research and therefore developments in this life improving project.
Initial research at the Vaal University of Technology’s (VUT) Centre for Alternative Energy has shown that power plants based on solar powered hydrogen generation and a fuel cell, providing less than 10kW of power to run light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, may well provide the solution to the communities without electricity.
During the day, solar generated electricity will produce hydrogen, which will be stored in a low pressure tank. During the night, and at times when there is little solar radiation, the stored hydrogen will be used to power a fuel cell. This process will generate heat for electricity which will be re-used for the production of hydrogen.
“Under serviced or rather under resourced communities have been making do without basic power to the detriment of their safety and lifestyle. Enabling amenities that the world and other South African’s take for granted such lighting for studying are highly sort after. The basic privilege of flicking on a light switch for illumination, heat and access to connectivity are creating exciting prospects for improved education, health and security”, explained Professor Christo Pienaar, Vaal University of Technology’s Director of Institute for Applied Electronics.
About 80 percent of South African homes have grid-based electricity, leaving approximately one million homes that could benefit from such a system. The potential in the rest of Africa is enormous as in many countries only about five percent of homes are connected to the grid.
On average, six homes would be connected to each power plant. Consequently, if 25 percent of the homes needing electricity were to use this system, about 42 000 power plants would be required. The job creating potential is considerable. Each power plant would require site construction, followed by the electrical installations. In addition, ongoing maintenance of the systems and regular cleaning of the photo voltaic (PV) panels is essential, providing further employment. These jobs would be provided where they are most needed: in rural areas and communities.
Other potential small business and job creation opportunities lie in local assembly of power plants with a medium-term likelihood of local manufacture of PV products and low pressure hydrogen tanks.
“The economically viable provision of electrical power to rural and deprived areas is probably the single most important catalyst for empowerment and upliftment through improved education, healthcare and employment”, said Professor Pienaar.
- See more at: http://africanbrains.net/2014/06/30/solution-improving-lives-south-africans-living-without-electricity/#sthash.gEEpJNXo.dpuf
With a potential market that includes developing economies, the Georgia Tech team set out looking for a low cost, low energy fuel cell that can be scaled down into small units, in addition to its application for large-scale projects.
The idea of using biomass to run a fuel cell is nothing new. The problem is that to break down the carbon bonds in natural polymers you need a catalyst. That currently involves expensive precious metals, typically platinum (although that is beginning to change, for example here).
One workaround is the development of microbial fuel cells, but the current state of technology provides for limited application and low power output (that’s probably going to change, too).
The Secret Sauce For Low Cost Fuel Cells
The key mechanism for the new fuel cell is POM, a polyoxometalate catalyst (polyoxometalate refers to transition metals). POM is both a photochemical and a thermochemical catalyst, so when it is mixed in a solution with ground-up biomass and exposed to sunlight or heat, it goes to work like this:
The POM oxidizes the biomass under photo or thermal irradiation, and delivers the charges from the biomass to the fuel cell’s anode. The electrons are then transported to the cathode, where they are finally oxidized by oxygen through an external circuit to produce electricity.
As for safety (always a consideration with fuel cells), the POM-biomass mixture is inert at room temperature, until exposed to light or heat.
So far, the research team has demonstrated that the POM catalyst can be re-used without requiring retreatment, which helps to cut costs.
Another cost-cutting factor is the durability of POM compared to more expensive metal catalysts, which can be “poisoned” by impurities in biomass.
Aside from solar-enabled power in the form of direct sunlight or stored solar thermal energy, the POM fuel cell could run on waste heat from other processes, helping to create a cost-effective, integrated system.
Don’t expect to stash a supply of wood chips in the trunk of your fuel cell EV any time soon, but according to Georgia Tech professor Yulin Deng, there is a potential for POM-biomass fuel cells to achieve output parity with methanol fuel cells.
About That Methanol…
While we’re on the subject, let’s point out that using methanol (aka natural gas) is hardly a sustainable solution, but that’s only if you’re talking about methanol from fossil sources. Currently in the works are renewable natural gas sources including landfills and livestock operations.
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