July 21, 2017

South African platinum miner to take its refinery completely off-grid

An 8 MW Doosan Fuel Cell

Leading platinum group metals producer, Implats, aims to take its Impala Platinum Refinery off the Eskom grid, and power the refinery using fuel cell technology, initially with the installation of an 8 MW Doosan Fuel Cell. The project is at an advanced development stage with Doosan Fuel Cell America, Inc. (Doosan) as the technology partner, an international equity partner, advised by Fieldstone Africa, and have entered into exclusive discussions with Implats and Pentaquark Energy to come on board as an experienced strategic partner.

Funding

“The project will be funded on a limited recourse finance basis with financial close aimed at meeting the commercial operations by 1 January 2018,” says Zahed Sibda, Managing Director, Fieldstone Africa.

Implats has also negotiated natural gas supply to this facility with Springs Light Gas (Pty) Ltd, a leading supplier of natural gas in Southern Africa.

Mr Nkosinathi Solomon, CEO of Spring Lights Gas (Pty) Ltd says, “We are excited to partner with Implats on this strategic initiative of national economic significance.”

Progress

Phase one of the project comprising 20 Doosan fuel cells generating 8MW of power will be operational in mid-2017 with the long term goal to generate 22-30MW of power.

“Doosan is excited to be a part of the clean energy evolution in South Africa with its PureCell Model 400 combined heat and power solution,” says Eric Strayer, Vice President of international sales for Doosan.

“South Africa is embracing new ways to solve their energy challenges.  By deploying fuel cells as a decentralised power generation, clean energy solution, the country could become the prototype for the future of energy production,” he adds.

Migration towards carbon-neutral fuel

Commenting on the importance of this project, Fahmida Smith, Fuel Cell Coordinator at Impala Platinum Refinery, says: “The development of the 8MW fuel cell is an exciting development in Implats’ move towards a carbon-neutral fuel source at its refinery. The technology uses combined heat and power to capture energy generation resulting in a significant reduction in costs over the 20 years.”

Local manufacturing capacity

This initiative is the stepping stone of Implats’ strategic objective to fast-track local manufacturing of fuel cells and its componentry within a proposed 16-hectare tributary of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the Springs region. The project in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, the Gauteng Industrial Development Zone and supported by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality is a longer-term strategic investment to facilitate platinum beneficiation within South Africa.

Impala Roadmap

It is also a collaborative effort by various departments of the South African Government with ties to strategic local and international partnerships through the Impala Roadmap, which aims to develop fuel cell technology to drive knowledge-based skills development and job creation and to increase foreign direct investment in South Africa. This strategy envisages partnerships with international manufacturers and in time, the backward integration of local South African sub-components.

The Impala Roadmap represents critical steps in support of the fuel cell industry, specifically for development of manufacturing capacity in South Africa, where the predominant supply of the critical platinum componentry is mined. The opportunities identified through local manufacturing are entrenched in the roadmap through extensive collaboration between industry, government and academia in South Africa,” adds Smith.

Long-term goals

Over the long term, Implats will maintain a strong emphasis on the deployment of fuel cell technology and energy-efficiency projects. The company has invested over R100 million on energy conservation programmes and will continue to work with Eskom while participating in various demand-side management programmes and fulfilling a prominent role in developing the nascent fuel cell industry in South Africa as part of Implats’ strategic objective to demonstrate responsible stewardship.

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