Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Japan’s Tsunami Cloud Has a Platinum Lining

Helmo Preuss
Amid public aversion to nuclear power in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Japan’s government is trying to reduce its dependency on nuclear power and imported fossil fuels. It is partnering with technology manufacturer Panasonic in highlighting the need to improve energy efficiency and power storage.
The need for platinum-group metals is likely to increase as more fuel cells that use platinum as a catalyst are installed in cars and homes.
The aim is to have 1.4 million fuel cells in residences by 2020 from only 10,000 currently, and grow this to 5.3 million by 2030. In addition, the government aims to help with the construction of facilities for fuel-cell vehicles so that they can be marketed from 2015.
Panasonic said that it was possible to reduce residential energy consumption by 65%. Much of the remaining 35% could be eliminated through the use of solar power, fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries.
Fuel cells can produce not only electricity, but also hot water, so reducing energy consumption from external sources.
Disruptions to the platinum mining industry in South Africa this year are expected to result in a 10% drop in worldwide platinum supplies to 5.84 million ounces. Gross demand is predicted to remain firm, at 8.07 million ounces, while a decline in recycling would shift the market into a deficit of 400,000 ounces.
Platinum supplies from South Africa are forecast to fall 12% from last year to 4.25 million ounces, an 11-year low. The closure of marginal operations by some junior producers and sub-par performance at other mines will also account for some reduction in supply this year.
Platinum demand in auto catalysts will be supported by Japanese manufacturers as vehicle output improved following the March 2011 tsunami. Greater demand is also expected from the light duty diesel sector in India, where sales have grown strongly in 2012.

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