In little more than a week from now, the Chamber of Mines will unveil the new platinum fuel cell attached to its headquarters in the Johannesburg CBD.
Behind the company responsible for this is Mashudu Ramano, the former chairperson of Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).
He is now the director of Mitochondria Energy Company, an “energy solutions” enterprise partnering with foreign companies to introduce platinum fuel cells into South Africa for a variety of applications.
The Chamber of Mines project is backed by the department of trade and industry, the Industrial Development Corporation and Egoli Gas, which will supply the gas for the fuel cells.It is also being sponsored by the chamber’s major platinum-mining members.
Finding a commercially viable platinum-based fuel cell technology is something of a Holy Grail for South Africa, which is home to about 80% of global platinum reserves.
If the technology takes off, it will fundamentally alter the market for South Africa’s most important export product.
This is apart from providing a means to take all sorts of infrastructure off the Eskom grid.
According to a half-finished website dedicated to the launch, the 100?kilowatt fuel cell installation at the chamber’s headquarters will use 1 kilogram of platinum.
Mitochondria is also working with PowerCell Sweden, a fuel cell company spun off from motor manufacturer Volvo, to test its range of PowerCell fuel cells in South Africa.
These consume diesel to make hydrogen and are intended for far-flung “bad grid” sites.
Mostly, these are meant for cellphone towers in isolated areas. According to PowerCell’s interim report two weeks ago, the first unit is already installed in Pretoria.
The individual platinum companies in South Africa have also been experimenting with platinum fuel cells with the obvious aim of creating a more vibrant market for their metal.
Anglo American Platinum last year announced aplan to power a small village in the Free State using fuel cells running on methanol.
The provider of the fuel cells in that case was Canadian company Ballard Power Systems.Impala Platinum this year announced it wanted to power its refinery with fuel cells at some point in the future.