Johnson Matthey will invest £80m in hydrogen fuel cell factory

Article by Adam Duckett

JOHNSON Matthey (JM) will invest £80m (US$96m) in expanding its site in Royston, UK to manufacture hydrogen fuel cell components. The announcement comes as the Government makes JM’s Jane Toogood the country’s first hydrogen champion.

The factory will begin production in 2024, with the capacity to manufacture 3 GW of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell components annually for hydrogen vehicles. The UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre has forecast that the country will need 14 GW of fuel cell stack production by 2035 to meet hydrogen vehicle demand. It projects that fuel cells that offer greater range and faster refuelling could win out over electric systems for use in vans, trucks, trains and shipping.

Liam Condon, CEO of JM, said: “Decarbonising freight transportation is critical to help societies and industries meet their ambitious net zero emission targets – fuel cells will be a crucial part of the energy transition.”

JM says that its new fuel cell component site could triple its manufacturing capacity by expanding into the decommissioned clean air production facility.

Condon announced a major shakeup of the firm earlier this year after a period of poor performance. The company sold its battery materials business and was restructured to focus on four interconnected areas: hydrogen technologies; catalyst technologies for vehicles; catalyst technologies for chemicals and energy sectors; and its platinum group metals supply and recycling business.

Ian Constance, CEO of APC, described the investment as significant and said the UK can take a strong position in the global fuel cell market. “We already have 15% of the fuel cell value chain radiating from UK businesses but this could be as much as 65% just by expanding on current strengths in electrochemistry and coatings or using our automotive capability to volume manufacture components.”

The announcement came as the UK Government announced measures to accelerate investment in hydrogen projects. Following significant interest from stakeholders in developing electrolytic hydrogen projects, the Government announced a streamlined process for looking to secure government funding to conduct front end engineering design studies and capex projects. The Government also appointed JM’s Jane Toogood as the UK’s first Hydrogen Champion. Toogood is CEO of Catalyst Technologies at JM. The business supplies process technologies and catalysts to the chemicals and energy sectors, especially for syngas production. The Government said Toogood will help bring industry and the state together to realise the Government’s hydrogen plans. This includes helping to drive industry investment and deployment of 10 GW of hydrogen production capacity by 2030; running annual funding rounds for electrolytic hydrogen; and designing, by 2025, new business models for hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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