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DOE to loan Plug $1.7B for green hydrogen

Metal Tech News - May 15, 2024

Funds will be used to build out a complete green hydrogen ecosystem in the U.S .; will create new demand for PGMs.

To help support the production of green hydrogen to fuel America's clean energy economy, the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office has conditionally committed to loan Plug Power Inc. $1.66 billion to help finance the construction of up to six domestic hydrogen facilities.

"Green hydrogen is an essential driver of industrial decarbonization in the United States," said Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh. "Earlier this year, Plug successfully demonstrated our innovation and technical ability by launching the first commercial-scale green hydrogen plant in the country in Woodbine, Georgia. This loan guarantee will help us build on that success with additional green hydrogen plants."

The Georgia plant is designed to produce 15 tons of liquid electrolytic hydrogen per day. Overall, Plug's current green hydrogen generation network now has a liquid hydrogen production capacity of approximately 25 tons per day, which is roughly equivalent to the energy provided by 100,000 gallons of diesel.

The company plans to use the DOE loan to finance the development, construction, and ownership of up to six green hydrogen production facilities.

The resultant build-out of a green hydrogen ecosystem in the United States is also expected to bolster the demand for platinum group metals (PGM), which are currently the best catalysts for both green hydrogen production and the conversion of hydrogen to electricity in fuel cells.

Plug Power

In January, Plug Power delivered the first tanks of liquid green hydrogen from its plant in Georgia.

Green hydrogen supply chain

While hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it is seldom found in its pure form here on Earth. There are, however, abundant stores of this clean-burning fuel in heavier molecules such as water and natural gas.

The production of hydrogen from natural gas comes at the expense of a carbon dioxide byproduct; splitting water molecules to produce hydrogen, which emits only an oxygen byproduct, is considered the green option.

Green hydrogen can then be used in hydrogen fuel cells, which generate electricity through a chemical reaction that only produces heat and water byproducts.

DOE says the use of zero-carbon hydrogen fuel cells in equipment such as forklifts enhances operational efficiency, reduces environmental impacts and increases productivity due to faster refueling times compared to conventional batteries.

Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, and other companies are already using Plug's hydrogen fuel cells across their warehouse and distribution centers.

Plug plans to use the funding made available through the conditional DOE loan guarantee to further build out a complete green hydrogen supply chain that extends from the manufacturing of the electrolyzer stacks that split green hydrogen off water molecules to the fueling stations where vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells can top off their tanks.

This supply chain begins at the company's state-of-the-art hydrogen electrolyzer stack gigafactory in Rochester, N.Y. These stacks can be configured for 1 megawatt, 5 MW, and 10 MW systems – each megawatt can generate enough electricity to power roughly 750 homes.

Plug says DOE's support for its green hydrogen projects represents a major milestone in America's commitment to advance the development of large-scale hydrogen production, processing, delivery, and storage.

"The loan guarantee will prove instrumental to grow and scale not only Plug's green hydrogen plant network, but the clean hydrogen industry in the United States," said Marsh.

PGM catalysts for hydrogen

The scaling of America's clean hydrogen industry is expected to create new demand for PGMs – platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium.

The catalytic properties of platinum and palladium have been used to scrub the emissions from fossil-fueled transportation and industry for five decades.

Now, the same catalytic properties are being used for the next generation of clean energy.

"PGM catalysts are important to maximizing the efficiency of emerging decarbonization technologies, specifically in proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers for green hydrogen production from water and PEM fuel cells for transportation and stationary energy storage," DOE penned in a 2022 report on PGMs.

"Under aggressive decarbonization scenarios, such as those striving toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050, demand for PGM catalysts is expected to grow rapidly, both domestically and globally," it added.

Iridium, one of the rarest metals on earth, is currently the catalyst of choice for fuel stacks.

Platinum is the most common metal used as a catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells, but other PGMs, such as palladium and ruthenium, can serve a similar purpose. It is estimated that a hydrogen vehicle fuel cell needs 30 to 60 grams of platinum, compared to only five grams in a gas vehicle's catalytic converter.

While there is research going into reducing and replacing iridium and other platinum metals for hydrogen production and fuel cells, it is expected that PGMs will remain the catalysts of choice, at least in the near term.

In preparation for its growing need for catalysts, Plug has formed a strategic partnership with Johnson Matthey, a world-leading expert in securing sustainable supplies of PGMs.

"This partnership will help us strengthen our supply chain and underpin our ability to deliver on the growing demand for our fuel cells and electrolyzers," Marsh said upon the 2023 partnership.

Now, Plug's is on the cusp of receiving a $1.66 billion U.S. government loan that will help build that stronger green hydrogen supply chain that includes large-scale hydrogen production, processing, delivery, and storage.

"We appreciate the partnership with the DOE Loan Programs Office and are pleased to have worked through an intensive due diligence process," said March

Certain technical, legal, environmental, and financial conditions, including negotiation of definitive financing documents, must be satisfied before DOE funds the loan guarantee.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.


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