Hydrogen Economy - Why Platinum Group Metals have such an important role in helping to decarbonise the Energy Sector
Around the world governments are taking drastic steps to try and decarbonise their energy sectors. Coal and natural gas are being replaced were possible by renewable energies such as wind or solar. There are several sectors, however, where another solution is needed.
Hydrogen is now being seen as not only a renewables enabler (due to its capacity to store energy over long periods) but as a key energy vector for decarbonising difficult sectors such as heavy transport, heating and industry.
Crucial to this effort is Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) technology which uses Platinum Group Metal based catalysts.
Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) technology is used to produce electrolysers and fuel cells.
In a PEM electrolyser, water is split using electricity in the presence of Iridium & Platinum based catalysts into its constituent elements; Hydrogen and Oxygen. If the electrolysis uses electricity from a renewable source, then the Hydrogen that is formed is classed as "Green Hydrogen" meaning it has a 0% carbon footprint. Often renewable energy is intermittent and PEM technology has the quickest response time of similar technologies so is ideally suited for use with renewables. There are many times when renewable energy is being made but not harnessed and the use of electrolysis allows for this energy to be captured and stored.
The Hydrogen created by electrolysis can be used in many ways. It can be fed into the gas network to reduce or replace natural gas; it can be used onsite by heavy industrial applications such as steel manufacturing, power plants or chemical works. It can also be used in Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV).
Many are touting FCEV as the future for the automotive market, especially the heavy transport sector. These vehicles are battery driven but this is combined with a PEM Fuel Cell. The fuel cell performs the opposite reaction to the electrolyser. Hydrogen is fed in and combined with air. In the presence of a Platinum based catalyst water is formed and electricity is generated. When used in an FCEV this constantly recharges the battery which means that a much smaller battery can be used, and the Hydrogen fuel acts as a range extender. The experience of driving an FCEV is therefore much more similar to a petrol car, it can be driven without long recharge stops and quickly refuelled from a pump.
Strategies, Hydrogen Networks and Hydrogen Valleys are cropping up all around the globe. There is a huge interest in Europe and Asia in particular. These consist of Hydrogen formed from both steam methane reforming with CCUS (so called "Blue Hydrogen") and electrolysis generated Green Hydrogen. These networks include refuelling stations, key industrial applications and the existing gas networks.
Ames Goldsmith Ceimig are very active in the Hydrogen Economy being members of the UK Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association (UKHFCA) and the Scottish Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA). You can often find us present at international events centred around Hydrogen production and use. We are dedicated to the improvement and development of catalysts for this market and are strong believers in the need to decarbonise our world.
As a global precious metal chemical company we are well placed to work with suppliers to make the best PEM catalysts available on the market.
Iridium is the ideal metal for use as the PEM electrolyser anode catalyst and is the most active for the OER (oxygen evolution reaction).
Platinum is the ideal metal for use is as the PEM fuel cell cathode catalyst and is the best choice for the ORR (oxygen reduction reaction).
Our team of scientists continue to develop new catalysts to aid the growth of the Hydrogen Economy looking at ways to reduce the amount of PGM required (reducing cost), improve efficiency and extend durability.