Amplats eyes fuel cell ‘home generator’

4 March 2013

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) is to invest US$4-million in Canadian company Ballard to support projects to commercialize platinum-based fuel cell products, in particular the development of a prototype “home generator” with the potential to provide economical electric power to remote rural African households.

Announcing the investment deal in a statement on the weekend, Ballard said that Amplats’ interest in the growth of fuel cell market adoption “extends beyond the implications for platinum utilization to the potential transformational impact fuel cells could have on the economy in South Africa”.

Exemplifying this, Ballard said, was the joint work currently under way with Amplats on the development of a prototype home generator.

Aimed at addressing the needs of households in remote rural communities not connected to a power grid, the home generator will be built with Ballard fuel cells and run on readily available methanol fuel, using an integrated fuel reformer.

Godfrey Oliphant, South Africa’s deputy mineral resources minister, said his department was pleased by Amplats’ commitment to platinum beneficiation, adding that fuel cell-based product developments could boost global platinum demand.

“South Africa is the leading producer of platinum, and innovations such as the home generator project move our country in a positive direction towards participating actively in the application of platinum group metals in new technologies which will create important jobs for our economy,” Oliphant said.

Ballard Power Systems CEO John Sheridan said the home generator power system “has the potential for profound impacts in South Africa and elsewhere.”

Ballard said that, once development of a Home Generator prototype meeting commercial product requirements had been completed, the companies would undertake further field trials “potentially leading to the manufacture, distribution and support of a commercial product for the African market”.

SAinfo reporter