Hydrogen is gaining a lot of attention as a new source of clean energy and while this growing commodity will help support platinum group metal demand, it might not be the panacea for a precious metal that is looking to define its role in the green energy transition.
Green Hydrogen Production and Platinum Demand
According to the World Platinum Investment Council, green hydrogen production could be the biggest source of platinum demand by 2040. Platinum and iridium are two major components of proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology, which are used in electrolyzers that separate hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water. PEM technology is also used in hydrogen fuel cells to convert the gas into electricity.
Canada’s Position in the Hydrogen Economy
The growing hydrogen economy was a featured discussion during the International Economic Forum of the Americas in Montreal. A panel discussion hosted during the conference noted that Canada is one of the top hydrogen producers in the world and could set itself up as a leader in this burgeoning energy sector.
Challenges in Green Hydrogen Adoption
While green hydrogen has no carbon footprint, its most significant obstacle for mass adoption is that it is extremely energy-intensive. The panel speakers noted that 80% of the cost to produce hydrogen is energy costs. Raveel Afzaal, President and Chief Executive Officer of Next Hydrogen Corporation, said the key to green hydrogen adoption is reducing renewable energy costs.
A Shift Towards Electrification and Hydrogen Use
Although Afzaal said he expects hydrogen adoption to grow as the world pushes towards net-carbon emission by 2050, he added that it won’t solve the global green energy needs. "I think hydrogen is a surgical tool that needs to be adopted by specific industries like industrial transportation; that is its strength as an alternative fuel," he said. "We need to electrify our economy where we can. Where we can’t, that is where we will need to use hydrogen."
Alternative Green Hydrogen Production Methods
Aurora Hydrogen was another company featured during the Montreal IEFA conference. Andrew Gillis, Chief Executive Officer of Aurora Hydrogen, said that he doesn’t expect platinum to play a significant role in the hydrogen economy. In an interview with Kitco News, Gillis said that his company is able to produce green hydrogen from natural gas.
Final Thoughts on Hydrogen Adoption
While the hydrogen economy will take decades to build and become sustainable, the panel remained optimistic that it will see significant growth within the next decade. "Hydrogen is the path of sustainable growth," said Stasko. "It’s going to take decades to reach a net-zero target, but we need to bend the emission curb in this decade, or we never will."