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Event recap

On September 24, 2020, the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center hosted Benny Oeyen, executive head of market development for the Platinum Group Metals (PGM) team at Anglo American, as part of EnergySource Innovation Stream, an online series that highlights new energy technologies with the potential to reshape the global energy system. Oeyen discussed Anglo American’s comprehensive approach to developing the global hydrogen economy, including a project to commercialize a first-of-a-kind hydrogen mining truck with partners ENGIE and Williams Advanced Engineering. Randolph Bell, Richard Morningstar chair for global energy security and director of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.

Oeyen began his presentation by explaining how he got involved with hydrogen development at Anglo American. He linked his current position at the company and professional integration into the hydrogen space to his more than two decades of experience in the international transportation and automotive industry. Oeyen then shifted to Anglo American’s operations, describing the company’s commodity exposure—including diamonds, copper, iron ore, and polyhalite—and how his position within the PGM team fits into Anglo American’s purpose of “reimagining mining” to “improve people’s lives.” He then moved into a broader discussion on the hydrogen economy, calling it a “cornerstone” solution to the climate crisis while citing multiple developments in the space, including an April joint venture between Daimler Truck AG and the Volvo Group to develop, produce, and commercialize fuel cell systems for heavy-duty vehicles.

Transitioning to Anglo American’s business, Oeyen described how PGMs are vital to all phases of hydrogen production and development. Platinum is present as a catalyst in electrolyzers for hydrogen production, stationary fuel cells for energy storage, and multiple end-uses including fuel-cell electric vehicles. He explained that Anglo American is engaging in the hydrogen economy for two reasons: the growing demand for metals, as platinum is crucial to turning hydrogen into heat and electricity, and the company’s initiative to decarbonize its mining operations. To do this, Oeyen explained how Anglo American discovers and invests in companies that advance the global hydrogen agenda, using its venture capital arm—Anglo Platinum (AP) Ventures—to scale emerging technologies through growth capital. Additionally, Anglo American’s approach to the hydrogen economy also includes enabling commercial collaboration with other partners, advocating for a favorable policy environment, and educating the public to create awareness and shape perception. Oeyen clarified that this push is not at odds with battery electric vehicles (EVs) or internal combustion engines due to economic disparities across different geographies. Instead, Oeyen relayed how going 100 percent green in transportation is ultimately dependent on technological factors, explaining that battery EVs are ideal for shorter commutes but not applicable for long-distance, heavy-duty vehicle: a space where hydrogen fuel cell EVs (FCEVs) can play a major role.

Oeyen then elaborated on Anglo American’s internal plans and decarbonization strategy. He specifically focused on the company’s open-pit mining operations, which use large mining trucks with diesel engines that power electric motors. In pursuing its decarbonization strategy, Anglo American plans on removing all diesel components from its large mining trucks and replacing them with a hydrogen tank and fuel cell, creating water vapor as a byproduct. To meet the demand for hydrogen, Anglo American plans to utilize power from an onsite solar photovoltaic (PV) plant to create green hydrogen through electrolysis, hydrogen that will then be used to power the trucks emission-free. According to Oeyen, the company’s Mogalakwena platinum mine in South Africa currently serves as a “demonstration project” for one truck with a completion date in 2021; once it has proof of concept, Anglo American plans to expand this initiative to its global fleet of four hundred large mining trucks. Furthermore, he noted PV plants will also be used to power company mines, helping Anglo American address its 2030 target to decrease its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint by 30 percent.

Audience questions focused on Anglo American’s internal initiatives, fuel costs, and the hydrogen economy. With regard to Anglo American’s ambitions to expand its hydrogen initiative to its global mining truck fleet, Oeyen explained it requires 2.5 to 3 megawatts (MW) of solar PV per truck to produce the necessary amount of hydrogen, which equates to 800 to 1,000 kilograms of hydrogen per day. To convert Mogalakwen’s forty large mining trucks to hydrogen utilizing onsite production, total global electrolyzer capacity would need to double from 130 MW to 260 MW. Oeyen stressed that hydrogen technology is mature yet expensive due to “lack of scale,” and believes hydrogen fuel will be cheaper than diesel once a few large mining trucks are operational. When asked about the use of water in the production of green hydrogen, he asserted that water availability varies by mine, but pointed to the developments with liquid organic hydrogen carrier technology for transport as a solution. On the subject of the energy transition and the demand for metals and minerals, Oeyen explained how Anglo American plans to reduce its GHG footprint in open-pit mining through hydrogen and battery technologies, depending on the operation. He also spotlighted the company’s investment in lithium-ion battery technologies and its interest in supporting advancements in battery chemistries using platinum and palladium. Oeyen concluded the session by explaining that hydrogen research and development is “almost there,” but that progress should turn to scaling the technology through favorable government policies and incentives to decrease overall costs.


Benny Oeyen, executive head of market development at Platinum Group Metals Team, Anglo American

Benny joined Anglo American in November 2017 as executive head of market development in the Platinum Group Metals (PGM) Team based in London, UK. In his role, Benny leads the formulation and execution of the strategy to optimize the future growth of the market for PGMs, platinum in particular.

A global citizen with a Belgian passport, Benny has lived and worked extensively around the world.  He was born and grew up in Germany, as part of a military family and graduated from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) with an economics degree.

From 1996 to 2007, Benny held key positions in the automotive industry where his speciality lies in Product Planning, Strategy, and Marketing: Product Marketing for Mazda Motors and Chrysler-Jeep at their European Head Quarters in Brussels, Belgium, Product Planning for DaimlerChrysler World Head Quarters in Detroit, Michigan, United States and managing director at DaimlerChrysler Switzerland in Zurich.

After two years in the United States as director for global product strategy at Chrysler in Detroit, Benny returned to Europe in 2009 where as vice president marketing he led and implemented Kia’s ‘Seven Year Warranty’ across the European market based at their European headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.  For three years, from 2014, Benny was vice president for product strategy at General Motors China, based in Shanghai.

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