MechChem Africa

Implats has established a fuel cell project with the ultimate aim of taking its Impala Platinum Refinery off the Eskom grid. Peter Middleton takes a look at the expanding range of applications for fuel cells in a greener economy.

Implats Doosan 400 kWOn February 7, 2017, platinum group metals producer, Implats, announced its intention to take its Impala Platinum Refinery off the Eskom grid, initially with the installation of an 8.0 MW Doosan fuel cell bank.

The project is already at an advanced development stage with Doosan Fuel Cell America (Doosan) as the technology partner; an agreement imminent with an international equity partner being advised by Fieldstone; and Pentaquark Energy, a decentralised energy and distributed energy solutions specialist, about to come on board as strategic partner.

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

Implats has also negotiated the natural gas supply to the facility with Springs Light Gas, a leading supplier of piped natural gas in southern Africa. Says Nkosinathi Solomon, CEO of Springs Light Gas: “We are excited to partner with Implats on this strategic initiative of national economic significance.”

Phase one of the project involves the installation of 20 Doosan fuel cells generating around 400 kW each to provide 8.0 MW of power, mooted to be operational by mid-2017. But the long-term goal is to install three or four of these power banks to supply the 22 and 30 MW of power needed by the refinery.

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

Commenting on the importance of this project, Fahmida Smith, fuel cell coordinator at Impala Platinum Refinery adds: “The development of Implats’ 8.0 MW fuel cell is an exciting move towards a more carbon-neutral fuel source at its refinery. The technology generates combined heat and power and will resulting in a significant reduction in our costs over its 20 year life.”

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