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Heraeus Precious Metals and Sibanye-Stillwater to explore new applications with palladium for H2

Heraeus Precious Metals and Sibanye-Stillwater are partnering to explore new applications for platinum-group metals (PGM) in the H2 economy, specifically how existing or new applications could profit from the unique traits of palladium. The joint aim is to develop alternative markets for palladium and support the emerging H2 sector with technical innovations. The project will be equally funded by both parties.

Palladium has a very high selectivity for H2 and thus can be used in a broad range of applications. The increasing demand for the purification of H2 during blue H2 production is one possible example of a palladium-based application. Further examples include the cracking of H2 carriers and the semiconductor industry, where high-purity H2 is needed as a process gas.

As a market-leading player in technology development for PGMs and their recycling, Heraeus Precious Metals is contributing its technical expertise and experience in scaling up and optimizing catalytic processes. Sibanye-Stillwater, one of the world’s largest producers of PGMs continues to seek innovative applications and develop new markets for PGMs. Previous joint projects have already shown impressive results, such as the recent development of a stable ruthenium-based catalyst for proton exchange membrane (PEM) water electrolysis.

Palladium is one of the major platinum-group metals and is a critical metal in the automotive sector (i.e., in catalytic converters for internal combustion engines). While palladium demand has been dominated by auto catalysts for the past few decades and remains critical to emissions control in both internal combustion and hybrid engines, the unique physical and chemical characteristics of the metal lends itself to significantly wider industrial applications. Over the longer term, demand for palladium in the automotive sector is expected to decrease, creating an opportunity to consider new applications for the metal that will not only benefit downstream industry users, but also ensure sustainable demand for the metal.

With their partnership, Heraeus Precious Metals and Sibanye-Stillwater aim to ensure a sustainable PGM supply basket. Major ingredients of the mined basket for PGMs include palladium and platinum and critical raw materials, like iridium, ruthenium and rhodium. To ensure market demand for these critical raw materials can be met, requires sufficient demand for all metals to be sustained in the long term. While the emerging green H2 and fuel cell market offers high potential for increasing demand for platinum, significant opportunity exists for the partnership to develop and scale corresponding applications for palladium.

Dr. Philipp Walter, Head of Business Line H2 Systems at Heraeus Precious Metals said, “We are convinced that the emerging H2 economy involves many applications, which need precious metals. When moving technologies to scale, reliable process efficiency is the key. This is a home turf for precious metals. We are doing our part in the energy transition by bringing precious metal solutions to H2 technologies and enabling performance at scale.”

Neal Froneman, Chief Executive Officer at Sibanye-Stillwater said, “We expect hybrids to become the dominant engine type underpinning demand for palladium in the medium term. Longer term and in response to changing demands, the PGM industry must innovate and stabilize the platinum group metals market. Together with Heraeus Precious Metals, we invest in new technologies that leverage the unique characteristics of PGM’s in line with our company purpose of combatting climate change and fostering the sustainability of the industry.”