Sibanye-Stillwater, Heraeus to boost long-term palladium demand

SIBANYE-Stillwater has teamed up with metals trader and recycling company Heraeus Precious Metals to investigate use of palladium in downstream hydrogen applications. The two firms said palladium needed a push as long-term demand was under threat.

“Palladium has a very high selectivity for hydrogen and thus can be used in a broad range of applications,” the companies said in a statement. “The increasing demand for the purification of hydrogen during blue hydrogen production is one possible example of a palladium-based application.”

“Over the longer term, demand for palladium in the automotive sector is expected to decrease, creating an opportunity to consider new applications for the metal that will not only benefit downstream industry users, but also ensure sustainable demand for the metal,” they said.

The joint venture will be equally funded by the partners. Heraeus Precious Metals is a subsidiary of Heraeus Group, the German technology company.

The palladium price fell 40% last year owing to sluggish China demand, absorption of electric vehicles in the automotive market but, predominantly, destocking by original equipment manufacturers following Covid and a semi-conductor shortage.

The price declines have resulted in restructuring at Sibanye-Stillwater’s US mine Stillwater, including suspending an expansion programme. While the mine is unlikely to be closed by Sibanye-Stillwater there was a need to “balance the market”, it said in reference to the joint venture with Heraeus.

“We expect hybrids to become the dominant engine type underpinning demand for palladium in the medium term,” said Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater. “Longer term and in response to changing demands, the PGM industry must innovate and stabilise the platinum group metals market,” he said.