Norilsk Nickel buys into fuel cells

Norilsk Nickel and Interros will acquire 35% of the shares of a leading US designer of environmentally clean and reliable energy products, Plug Power. The deal is being made through Smart Hydrogen, a 50-50% joint venture of Norilsk Nickel and Interros, formed to participate in the global hydrogen economy.

“Norilsk Nickel has long been the principal and the only investor in Russian R&D in the area of hydrogen technology and fuel cells,” said Mikhail Prokhorov, CEO of Norilsk Nickel and one of the largest shareholders of Interros. “We believe in the potential of the hydrogen energy industry and look forward to helping Plug Power continue with their revolutionary advancements in fuel cell technology.”

“Involvement in this project creates a multiplier effect for Norilsk Nickel. First, it stimulates an increase in demand for palladium, which is used in hydrogen technology, as well as an increase in price for the metal in the long term. Second, we are moving into high value-added high-tech manufacturing, which will enable us to realize value in this segment of the market as well. Third, such installations will very soon start enjoying a robust demand in the Northern Territories, which will help strengthen the energy security of our company with its key production capacities located above the Arctic Circle,” emphasized Prokhorov.

In November 2003, Norilsk Nickel signed an agreement with the Russian Academy of Sciences regarding co-operation in the area of hydrogen technology R&D and fuel cells. As much as $120 million has been committed to be invested in this project over three years. Already, the early results have allowed Norilsk Nickel to start commercializing a number of key technologies and preparing to build hydrogen power plants based on fuel cells. In early 2005, Norilsk Nickel founded the National Innovation Company ‘New Energy Projects’ to co-ordinate such efforts and manage their commercialization.