Metallic Hydrogen – a new Era in Fuel Storage?

Since the Hindenburg disaster, hydrogen has been known more for its risks than its uses as a fuel component. In its liquid form it has of course been used as rocket fuel, and more recently it has made an entrance as a potential alternative to lithium-ion batteries in cars. Not only is lithium-ion not free from hazards itself, the batteries also add more weight and volume to a device than a tank full of H2. Setting up a supply infrastructure remains an issue, and storage risks make people uncomfortable.

Diamond Anvil

What if hydrogen could be produced in its metallic form? A metal, easy and safe to transport and store? What if this metal could be readily re-converted to its liquid state as needed to be used in fuel cells? A vision of a distant future, perhaps, but professor Isaac Silvera of Harvard University claims to have just taken the first step, the creation of metallic hydrogen. I had a very interesting conversation with him, the product of which was just published on Kitco News. Here is the link: http://www.kitco.com/commentaries/2017-03-21/Metallic-Hydrogen-a-New-Area-in-Hydrogen-Storage.html

 

Platinum Group Metals: staring down a cliff?

TecDay Road to the Future – Drive TrainOne topic of my annual “Metal Megatrends” paper at the recent IPMI conference in Phoenix was sustainable mobility, and its impacts on metal consumption. In fact, if you read the story of how my column for Kitco News started four years ago (see the “Welcome” page of this blog), we have now reached a point where we can answer the question: “What if all cars in the world were electric?”.

The answer is now online on Kitco News (click here to read).

While my paper (available through the IPMI in a little while) was also critical regarding Tesla executives’ role in trash talking hydrogen it should also be disclosed that I am on the long list of people having pre-ordered a Model 3, and I share the admiration of Elon Musk by those who say he is shaping the world by his visions, perhaps in more significant ways than Steve Jobs ever has.

As a result of adding up all the facts in front of us the only logical conclusion is that the era of the internal combustion engine is coming to an end. There will be a long tail, of course, with cars being passed on from some regions of the world to others, and with heavy duty engines as an unresolved issue. What about collector’s cars? Will a “boutique” style infrastructure emerge where we buy fuel in new ways, or is it back to the pharmacy like in the early days of the automobile?

Last but certainly not least: what will happen to pgm markets in the meantime? Assuming that the fuel cell will eventually gain traction, the loss of platinum on emission control catalysts might be offset by the growth of the FCEV. Palladium, which is already used in some fuel cells, might once again play a role as a substitute. Only for rhodium the direction is unclear in this environment.

That said, the unique properties of precious metals have always made them desirable, if not irreplaceable, in technology applications. I am optimistic that new uses will emerge as technologies advance further.

Unlikely Apple or Google will enter the Auto Market – Carlos Ghosn

IMG_5356Carlos Ghosn, CEO of both Renault and Nissan, shared some very relevant insights on why electric vehicles are unstoppable, and why he does not see any of the tech companies enter the automotive market as a producer. Ghosn gave a speech at the opening ceremony and press breakfast of this year’s New York International Auto Show (NYIAS).  My Kitco report (click here to read) focuses on the key aspects, but there was a lot more:

  • Autonomous drive, in his view, is only a milestone since it still requires a driver to hold the wheel, and watch the road. Driver-less cars are the goal the industry is aiming at. The Renault Nissan Alliance will have at least 10 models on the road with “significant” autonomous drive capabilities by 2020.
  • Battery-electric and hydrogen electric are just two sides of the same coin to him. In both cases, infrastructure is lacking, and creating the required infrastructure is the most important role governments and industry will have to play in years to come.
  • The industry is in a complex period of transformation where electronics force car makers into much faster innovation cycles while maintaining safety and quality standards. The focus of the new generation of drivers obtaining their licenses just now will shift from performance to features and convenience.

It was interesting to see how the various manufacturers interpreted the theme at NYIAS, each in their own way. I will put some facts and images together over the weekend to illustrate the scene.

Silver is on its way to shine again

Solar Impulse 2 eighteenth flight

From the early phases of writing my series for Kitco News, silver kept appearing in new and large applications suggesting it might one day reclaim its important industrial role within the precious metals family; a role it had lost after the collapse of silver based photography.

This week’s report for Kitco News picks up on several of the stories I have featured during this time and confirms that silver is indeed back, with more growth yet to come. I hope you will enjoy the story. Please check out the links in the article, too – they may not be easy to spot, depending on the screen you use.

(Image courtesy of Solar Impulse)

New historic charts for strategic metals on Kitco News

Happy to report that the enhanced page on strategic metals is now active on the Kitco website. Increasing the focus on the private investment sector, standard packaging sizes made room for historic price charts for each of the metals prices are reported on. The charts can be downloaded or printed easily directly from the page. This is what the new windows look like:

Kitco Update 2016-01-18

Pricing information and charts are now accessible directly from the Kitco home page, too. If you look at the “Favorites” bar you will see the new menu item:

 

Kitco Update 2016-01-18 2

If you have any feedback on how the information is presented, or questions regarding any of the metals, metals you would like to see listed etc please let me know.

2016: Turnaround for Tech Metal Prices? Part 1

IMG_42502015 was not a good year for technology metals (precious metals, rare earth elements and strategic metals). From a perspective of industrial use, what is the likely development in demand and price in 2016? Part one of my condensed analysis was just published exclusively on Kitco News. Click here to read. Parts 2 and 3 will deal with the other groups of metals.

New: Strategic Metals Price Tool on Kitco

Exciting news: pricing information for a number of strategic metals including some rare earth elements is now available on the Kitco Website at http://www.kitco.com/strategic-metals/ .

Obtaining good information on these metals has been difficult in the past because – other than gold or silver – they are traded only between market participants and not at official exchanges. Prices quoted therefore often rely on the last transactions known as a benchmark. What is more, these metals found predominantly technical application the past. My “Tech Metals Insider” column on Kitco News has been featuring the many facets and uses of them for the past two years. Today, due to low prices and the high growth potential of many of the metals, more and more investors are taking an interest in them. The new pricing chart will help them in learning about the markets for each of them.

That said, the feature just launched today and while it is great, it is probably not perfect. Which is why I invite your comments and ideas to make it better over time. Do you like the information provided? What else should we be showing (charts showing pricing history are already in the making)? Are there other metals that should be on there? Please e-mail me your feedback, we will improve the page over time.

Last not least, here is how to get to the page:

Screenshot