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Celanese set to announce auto fuel cell deal
FRANKFURT, Oct 5 (Reuters) - German chemicals group Celanese is to set to announce a deal with one of the world's largest engine manufacturers to develop a new fuel cell for auto motors, board member Ernst Schadow said late on Wednesday.
Schadow, who said an agreement would be announced within the next two weeks, declined to name the company but industry sources identified it as Japanese automaker Honda .
Celanese, which is working with U.S. company Plug Power (NasdaqNM:PLUG - news) on stationary fuel cells for heating and power generation, will supply the membrane at the heart of the power unit while its partner will produce the mechanical component.
At a dinner meeting with the Frankfurt Club of International Business Journalists, Schadow said Celanese was confident of securing a long-term deal with Power Plug, a specialist in fuel cells for use in homes, which has a distribution agreement with General Electric Co's (NYSE:GE - news) GE Fuel Cell Systems.
Schadow gave no indication of when he expected the new fuel cells to be available, but said a decision would depend on the market.
``We'll be ready when the market needs it,'' he said, adding that the membrane could be delivered immediately once production had been built up.
Schadow said Celanese's fuel cell activities would be combined with other projects in areas ranging from catalytic convertors and food additives into a new unit called Celanese Ventures.
Fuel cells, seen by analysts as having significant potential in the long term as replacements for fossil fuels, can be used to power a range of applications from power turbines to auto engines and laptop and mobile telephone batteries.
The cells, made up of membranes, electrodes and gas diffusion layers sandwiched between bipolar plates convert hydrogen -- normally contained in fuels such as natural gas or methanol -- and oxygen into electricity.
Hydrogen, which is ionised, passes through the membranes where it combines with oxygen from the air to produce water, heat and electricity.
Schadow said the Celanese membrane, made from polybenzimadazol, a high performance plastic made exclusively by the company, was capable of working at twice the temperature managed by rival manufacturers.
Celanese Chief Executive Claudio Sonder also reiterated forecasts that the third quarter would be ``a difficult quarter'' which would end in an operating loss but he said the full year would end in profit.