Fortescue’s green hydrogen vision for iron and steel takes a leap forward


  • Fortescue Metals Group Chairman Urges Action To Achieve Zero Carbon Energy Projects In Australia
  • Names former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and former diplomat Nick Warner to key roles on the green energy team
  • Several ASX companies including Fortescue, Australian Vanadium and Iron Road pursue green iron ore projects

Andrew Forrest’s big call in a televised speech a few weeks ago for Australia to produce green steel made from zero-emission energy such as hydrogen is starting to drive action.

In his speech “Oil for Water: Confessions of a Carbon Emitter” broadcast on ABC television for his Boyer lecture series in January, Forrest said the answer to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is Australia was not to stop iron ore mining, but to produce iron ore and steel using zero emission energy.

“The green hydrogen market could generate revenues – at the very least – of $ 12 trillion by 2050. Bigger than any industry we have,” said a transcript of his speech.

The chairman of Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) said on Tuesday he had appointed two Australian heavyweights to his company’s Australian group Fortescue Future Industries (AFFI).

The company was created to identify renewable energy and green hydrogen projects for development in Australia and around the world using Fortescue’s proven expertise in adopting innovative technologies.

Fortescue Metals Group has a stated policy goal of achieving zero net carbon emissions from its operations by 2040, by effectively decarbonizing its iron ore production.

PM Turnbull brings its expertise in renewable energy

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will become chairman of the panel and former diplomat Nick Warner will serve as special adviser on international affairs, effective immediately.

“Mr. Warner’s expertise in global intelligence is second to none, and his knowledge will be essential as we continue to engage foreign governments to explore green hydrogen opportunities,” said Forrest.

“I am proud to announce that former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will join the AFI Board of Directors as Chairman,” he added.

Turnbull will bring vital experience and knowledge of issues such as environmental conservation and energy crises to the work of AFFI.

The former Prime Minister between 2015 and 2018 promoted renewable energy and initiated construction of the Snowy Hydroelectric Project, the largest renewable energy project in the southern hemisphere.

AFFI is a 100% subsidiary of Fortescue Metals Group and the company will have an international reach in terms of operations.

Warner has served as Director General of the Office of National Intelligence, Director General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and Secretary of the Department of Defense.

In these positions, he played a leading role in Australian activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, where he also served as Australian Ambassador and High Commissioner to PNG.

Green hydrogen projects for steel

Fortescue Metals Group announced in November a study for the construction of a green ammonia plant at Bell Bay in Tasmania, an aluminum smelter site.

The company’s vision is for a 250 MW plant to produce 250,000 tonnes per year of green hydrogen for domestic use and for international export.

An investment decision on the plan is expected in the course of 2021.

Other green hydrogen projects under consideration by the company include a refueling facility for passenger vehicles at its Christmas Creek iron ore mine in Washington state.

The iron ore company also signed a memorandum of understanding with Hyundai Motor Company and CSIRO to advance hydrogen technology for domestic transportation.

Australian think tank The Gratton Institute said in a report last year that Australia’s abundant renewable energy sources are well suited for making hydrogen for steel production.

“And Australia’s lower-cost green hydrogen will make it a better place to produce green steel than places like Japan or Indonesia,” the institute’s report said.

The think tank suggests Australia could gain a 7 percent share of the global green steel production market, which would require around $ 200 billion in investment.

“The amount of investment is significant, but far less than the $ 350 billion invested in Australia by the oil and gas industry in a decade alone,” the Gratton Institute said.

Industrialist Sanjeev Gupta and his group of companies GFG Alliance plan to produce green steel at a modern facility at the Whyalla steel plant in South Australia.

The installation will first operate on natural gas, then on hydrogen with a zero carbon footprint.

ASX companies invest in green hydrogen projects

ASX Iron Road (ASX: IRD) has a green hydrogen project to produce iron ore pellets at a new production facility at the port of Cape Hardy in South Australia.

The project could serve as a prototype for green hydrogen projects in Australia’s iron ore sector as it hopefully moves from drawing board to reality over the next few years.

Hydrogen Utility (H2U), a developer of green hydrogen projects in Australia, is a partner in the project, as is Japanese engineering and technology company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Company CEO Larry Ingle said Storer on the project and the reasons behind Iron Road’s investment in green hydrogen.

Meanwhile, Australian Vanadium (ASX: AVL) is looking to use green hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources to reduce emissions from its eponymous project in WA.

As the vanadium ore is mined from the project, it goes through a process called reducing roasting – oxygen-free roasting – to create a pig iron product.

“When you use hydrogen, you can bring the material back to pig iron and in doing so, you can add tremendous value,” said Managing Director Vincent Algar.

Technical problems to be solved

There are some technical issues around hydrogen in terms of storage that need to be addressed before it is used on a large scale as a fuel for industry and for transportation.

One of these issues is hydrogen embrittlement, where gas can diffuse through metals like steel and make them brittle and prone to shattering, cracking, or damage.

Some experts suggest that a lot of technical work needs to be done to solve this problem, as well as to develop a commercially available hydrogen-based engine for transportation.

ASX stock prices for Australian vanadium (ASX: AVL), Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG), Iron Road (ASX: IRD)

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