Sufficient Platinum, Says Association

World Reserves are More Than Adequate for Expected Uses.

Published: 04-Mar-2003

FRANKFURT, Germany, March 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The belief that clean efficient fuel cell technology has the potential to replace the internal combustion engine in the future is becoming more widely held. The Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell is the technology which is being considered for this purpose. It uses platinum as the electrocatalyst. The significance of this fact raises the issue of the availability of platinum.

On the eve of the National Hydrogen Association's 14th Annual U.S. Hydrogen Conference in Washington, D.C. this week, the International Platinum Association (IPA), which comprises the world's leading platinum group metals, producers and fabricators, confirms that enough platinum resource is available worldwide to meet any foreseeable future demand spurred by the commercialization of fuel cells.

"The platinum resource industry wants to set the record straight: there is more than enough platinum to satisfy the widespread introduction of fuel cells, for automotive propulsion, stationary power generation or other uses," said Marcus Nurdin, Managing Director of the International Platinum Association. Several erroneous media reports have recently suggested otherwise, potentially causing needless uncertainty among legislators, regulators, and the general public. "Not only are the platinum miners, producers and fabricators convinced that enough platinum resource is available to meet all foreseeable demand, but increasingly, industry-leading automobile and fuel cell manufacturers agree that platinum availability is not a cause for concern."

According to a peer-reviewed South African study published in November 1999, the estimated reserves of platinum worldwide are on the order of 1.5 billion troy ounces (to a mining depth of 2 km). The conclusions of this study, "The Platinum and Palladium resources of the Bushveld Complex," by Prof. R. Grant Cawthorn of South Africa's Witwatersrand University's Department of Geology, are broadly in line with statistics released by the U.S. Geological Survey published in January 2000.

Platinum is used in the electrocatalyst layer of a fuel cell. Applied to both the anode and the cathode, it facilitates electrode reactions. To date, no other material has been shown to be as effective as platinum in this application.

As fuel cell cars become competitive alternative cars, with on average a 70-kilowatt fuel cell engine, 15 grams of platinum per fuel cell engine (which is equivalent to 0.214 grams per kilowatt) is thought to be feasible. The levels of platinum used in current fuel cell vehicle prototypes are higher, but are being constantly reduced. The U.S. Department of Energy has a goal of 9 grams of platinum for a 50-kilowatt fuel cell by 2015 (equivalent to 12.6 grams for a 70- kilowatt engine).

The platinum industry has already proven it can respond quickly to manufacturers' and consumers' demands through meeting the demand from the use of platinum in catalytic converters for automobiles. Catalytic converters were only introduced in the mid-1970s but are now fitted to some 90% of new cars produced worldwide.

"As the world searches for cleaner energy and transportation solutions in order to reduce emissions and halt pollution, platinum and its sister metals are at the forefront of science and technology," Nurdin added. "Platinum metals will be the catalyst for the coming hydrogen revolution."

The International Platinum Association (IPA) is a non-profit association of leading mining, production and fabrication companies in the global platinum group metals (PGMs) industry. A Web site, http://www.platinuminfo.net, is available with free and easy-to-access information about PGMs, their applications and their future potential. IPA is based in Frankfurt, Germany.

 FACTSHEET
PLATINUM AVAILABILITY TO MEET FUTURE FUEL CELL DEMAND

Increasing interest in fuel cell technology has raised the possibility of the replacement of the internal combustion engine with the proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell, which uses platinum as an electrocatalyst. The significance of this raises the issue of the availability of platinum.

On behalf of the world's leading platinum group metals miners, producers and fabricators, the International Platinum Association (IPA) confirms that there is enough platinum resource available to meet foreseeable demand both now and in the future.

 -- The amount of platinum group metals necessary for a proton
exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell, the type of fuel cell being
considered for automobile drive lines and residential use, has
declined significantly in the past 10 years and will continue to do
so.

-- The amount of platinum used per car will ultimately depend on the way
that the fuel cell is used. Fuel cells could be used as the driver for
the car or in various hybrid configurations or for auxiliary power.
This may affect the size of fuel cell used, the platinum loadings, and
amount per car.

-- Currently, according to Nissan, a 70 to 75-kilowatt fuel cell uses
approximately 80 to 100 grams of platinum as a catalyst. Platinum
catalyst loadings are expected to be halved in the very near future.

-- Longer term, a level of 15 grams of platinum per 70-kilowatt engine is
thought to be feasible. Fifteen grams of platinum is equivalent to
0.214 grams per kilowatt. If fuel cell engine costs reach US$50 per
kilowatt, the industry target and the platinum loading is 0.214 grams
per kilowatt, then even at the current price the cost of platinum
would equal US$4.81 per kilowatt or less than 10 percent of the cost
of the engine.

-- The goal of the U.S. Department of Energy is to reduce the amount of
platinum required for a 50-kilowatt engine to 9 grams (equivalent to
12.6 grams for a 70-kilowatt engine). Member companies of the
International Platinum Association are actively involved in efforts to
reduce platinum catalyst loadings.

-- Available reserves of platinum worldwide are sufficient to meet
expected future demand. According to a South African study published
in November 1999, the estimated reserves of platinum worldwide are on
the order of 1.5 billion troy ounces (to a mining depth of 2km). This
study, "The Platinum and Palladium resources of the Bushveld Complex"
was published in the South African Journal of Science by Prof. R.Grant
Cawthorn of the Department of Geology at the Witwatersrand University
in South Africa. The conclusions of the Cawthorn study have been
broadly confirmed by statistics released by the US Geological Survey
which were published in January 2000. A copy of the Cawthorn study is
available from the International Platinum Association on request.

-- A good example of the platinum industry's record in meeting demand
growth is its achievement in meeting demand growth caused by the
expansion of the use of catalytic converters for automobiles over the
last 25 years.

-- The global automobile and platinum fabrication industries have been
extremely effective at constantly optimizing the amount of platinum
group metals (PGMs) used in catalytic converters over the last
25 years, despite increasingly restrictive emission standards. At the
moment, a typical family automobile has four to five grams of PGMs in
the converter. This is spread out so thinly that the active surface
area of the catalyst layer is roughly equivalent to two soccer playing
fields. They will continue this effort with fuel cells.

-- Currently, according to Johnson Matthey, 2.5 million troy ounces of
platinum are used for automobile catalytic converters annually. As
internal combustion engine cars are replaced by fuel cell cars, which
require no exhaust emission catalyst, the refining of platinum from
scrapped catalytic converters would continue to contribute to
availability.

-- Platinum is highly recyclable with up to 96 percent of the metals
recoverable in the recycling process. Improvements in the collection
system for recycling automobile catalysts (and later fuel cells) are
expected in the future. The European End of Life Vehicle Directive
will create significant improvement in Europe and will serve as an
example for other countries in the future.

For more information about platinum and platinum group metals, visit the IPA Web site at http://www.platinuminfo.net or contact Monica Hottenrott at the International Platinum Association (mhottenrott@platinuminfo.net).

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