JOHANNESBURG, South Africa--The Fuel Cell is a strategic sector for South Africa, a sector that the government wants to play in. This was said by the Deputy Director General of the Department of Trade and Industry, Ms Malebo Mabitje-Thompson. She was speaking at the launch of Isondo Precious Metals’ (IPM) Fuel Cell Plant in Cape Town.
Phase I of the IPM project which focused on a pre-feasibility study was launched by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies in February last year. Due to the national urgency of setting up a new Platinum Group Metal (PGM) beneficiation industry this first phase quickly moved into Phase II, namely setting up a world-class semi-commercial plant that can manufacture local and international fuel cell component technology. This plant is currently being established and will be operational in Q3/2017. It is noted that IPM is already 12 months ahead of schedule since the initial launch last year.
Mabitje-Thompson said that the launch of the IPM Fuel Cell Plant will enhance Fuel Cell industry.
‘We are looking to this project in particular to try and create a vibe about a feasibility of fuel cell manufacturing in South Africa, hence there has been a push that we move from just looking at it from the feasibility point of view and putting a plant down so that it may have a demonstrating effect to the rest of Industry. I think that the project that Isondo in particular is driving has received a lot of support from the dti for the reason that we are looking at it as one of the pilot project to push forward our ambition in this sector,’ she said.
Mabitje-Thompson added that government is not focusing on a number of people who will be employed at the plant.
‘For now we looking at a very small amount of people who will be employed in such sectors but we understand the multipliers of having high skills, so we are not chasing numbers we actually chasing multipliers,’ highlighted Mabitje-Thompson.
Dr Sakib Khan of Isondo Precious Metals (IPM) said their guiding strategy is to produce the core fuel cell components that will be a mix of technology and toll manufacture for global companies such as automotives.
‘Apart from allowing IPM to rapidly capture a meaningful slice of a rapidly growing market, the strategy should have another major benefit in helping to overcome the cost impediment that has restricted the growth in demand for fuel cell technology,’ stated Khan.
Khan indicated that the product from the Isondo Precious Metals plant will feed into the global fuel cell supply chain.
‘IPM is already in discussions with key, select end users. These discussions are yielding specifications that will feed into the first samples that will be produced late Q3/2017 early Q1/2018 for validation globally,’ concluded Khan.