Hydrogen forecast to account for 10% of China’s energy mix by 2050 – WPIC

By 2050, hydrogen is forecast to account for 10% of China’s energy mix, with demand of 60-million tons, says the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC). In a January 6 newsletter, the council explains that platinum’s role in the hydrogen economy is crucial as it acts as a catalyst not only in fuel cells, but also in the electrolysis of water, using renewable energy to produce completely emissions-free “green” hydrogen, where it works in conjunction with its sister platinum-group metal (PGM), iridium.

While more detail is currently awaited, the council notes that “it is highly likely that further green hydrogen investment will feature as part of China’s next five-year plan”, considering that renewable energy has already been designated as a key energy source for the country’s future energy security, with a current target of reaching about 15%, or 30 GW, of renewable hydrogen generation by 2030.
However, the WPIC says this is a “relatively modest goal” if China is to realise its 2060 decarbonisation ambition, particularly in light of aggressive targets to grow renewable generation capacity by more than 300 GW over the next five years.

The WPIC further refers to a Chinese State Council document released in November, which was aimed at encouraging enterprises to improve and secure the sourcing of strategic materials required for key technologies that will enable decarbonisation, and which cites platinum as a key resource.

“China is not alone in seeing growing momentum behind hydrogen technologies. The global platinum demand impact of announced green hydrogen policies is clearly sizeable over the longer term; current European Union and China green hydrogen generation capacity targets alone would require, cumulatively, between 300 000 oz and 600 000 oz of platinum by 2030,” the council notes.

China’s next five-year plan for economic development, for the years 2021 to 2025, is due to be unveiled in March. The plan – China’s fourteenth – is expected to flesh out how its government intends to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, a goal that was announced in the latter part of last year. In parallel with setting its ambitious climate change target during 2020, China also launched fresh policies to support its growing market for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), which use platinum as a catalyst. The government wants to see cumulative sales of FCEVs reach one-million units by 2035, with other developments pointing to the growing importance of fuel cell technology in China.

Meanwhile, sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey (JM) is expanding its fuel cell operations in China with a new £7.5-million facility to manufacture critical components for fuel cell stacks, with capacity to power more than 10 000 commercial vehicles and buses.

According to JM, the fuel cell market is predicted to grow in value from £100-million today to £1-billion in 2030.

Fuel cell technology adoption in China is being facilitated by both existing and planned hydrogen production, the WPIC notes, adding that the country is already the world’s biggest producer of industrial hydrogen, generating 25-million tons each year. Significantly, in April last year, the State Energy Bureau confirmed plans to include hydrogen into the Energy Act, thereby re-categorising hydrogen as an energy source. This, according to the WPIC, is a milestone for the hydrogen industry in China as, prior to this, hydrogen has been considered as a hazardous chemical, subject to stringent restrictions.