Green Energy: ARENA backs mining giant Rio Tinto’s hydrogen ambitions
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• Rio claims ARENA funding for alumina hydrogen study
• Hydrogen first mover Hazer reveals cost blowout
• QEM eyes Queensland hydrogen fund for vanadium project
ARENA has confirmed a funding commitment to help Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) launch a study to replace gas with hydrogen in its calcination process at the Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.
The announcement has come as the Labor Opposition challenges changes to ARENA grants brought by the Federal Government that would expand access to the renewable energy funding body to carbon capture and storage and ‘clean hydrogen’, away from its original remit.
Rio Tinto will run a $1.2 million feasibility study, equally funded with government money through a $580,000 grant, at its in-house R&D centre in Melbourne.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller justified the funding saying Rio’s findings, if successful, could be deployed across the aluminium industry to reduce emissions.
It is the latest step from a mining giant into the hydrogen space, with Rio targeting a net emissions reduction of 30% by 2030 and net zero by 2050.
“We see the ARENA and Rio Tinto-funded study as a step towards reducing refinery emissions and one that has the potential to play an important part in Rio Tinto’s commitment to decarbonisation,” Rio Tinto’s Daniel van der Westhuizen said.
“We’re investing in work that needs to be done, not only to decarbonise one of our sites, but also to help provide a lower-emissions pathway for Rio Tinto and the global aluminium industry.”
Perth-based energy technology developer Hazer Group (ASX: HZR) has claimed first mover status on “clean hydrogen” production in WA.
No surprises, then, that it is facing some teething problems with its commercial demonstration plant for its patented Hazer Process hydrogen technology.
Spun out of tech developed by UWA more than a decade ago, Hazer plans to convert natural gas to hydrogen fuel and synthetic graphite using a uniquely Westralian product – iron ore – as a process catalyst.
The company claims this process is 50 per cent cleaner than existing technologies for producing hydrogen such as Steam Methane Reforming.
It has so far demonstrated the process at a pilot level, signing off on a 100tpa commercial demonstration plant last year.
Hazer this morning announced the Primero Group engineered plant will cost $20-22 million, about 17 per cent more than originally planned.
CEO Geoff Ward said Hazer remains funded to complete the project and aims to commission the plant by December, 2021.
Last week Queensland announced its $2 billion Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund ahead of this week’s budget, a handy pick-me-up for renewables players sour from the Maroons’ State of Origin drubbing at the hands of New South Wales.
That would have been music to the ears of local hydrogen proponent QEM (ASX: QEM), which has finalised designs for a bench-scale vanadium and oil pilot plant at its Julia Creek project in the Sunshine State.
It is boasting the potential to deliver Queensland’s only vanadium pentoxide and green hydrogen project, with plans to have the bench-scale plant up and running by the first half of next year.
“QEM is the only project in Queensland that is seeking to produce both vanadium pentoxide and hydrogen,” managing director Gavin Loyden said.
“Advancing the bench-scale pilot plant, in tandem with the continued green hydrogen studies, illustrates that we are pragmatically developing both the green hydrogen component, and the vanadium and oil shale component of the Julia Creek project.”