Rio Tinto eyes hydrogen to fuel Aussie alumina refinery
Mining giant Rio Tinto said June 16 it teamed up with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to investigate switching from natural gas to hydrogen at an alumina refinery.
The partners said they would spend A$1.2mn (US$923,000) on a feasibility study into whether hydrogen is a viable alternative to natural gas at its Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone, on Australia’s western coast.
“If we can replace fossil fuels with clean hydrogen in the refining process for alumina, this will reduce emissions in the energy and emissions intensive refining stage of the aluminium supply chain,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said. “Exploring these new clean energy technologies and methods is a crucial step towards producing green aluminium.”
The feasibility study will examine the construction and operational requirements of a potential demonstration project at Yarwun as well as lab-scale developments.
Rio Tinto’s announcement followed a decision by the Australian and German governments to invest in a series of new initiatives to accelerate the development of a hydrogen industry.
Under the accord, the two will establish the German-Australian Hydrogen Innovation and Technology Incubator (HyGATE) to support real-world pilot, trial, demonstration and research projects along the hydrogen supply chain. They will commit a combined A$128mn to the project.
HyGATE will facilitate industry-to-industry cooperation on demonstration projects in Australian hydrogen hubs and explore options to facilitate the trade of hydrogen and its derivatives produced from renewables from Australia to Germany.
The accord builds on Australia’s existing collaboration with Germany on low emissions technologies including hydrogen, with a two-year supply chain study between the two countries already underway.
Through alternative fuels and other low-carbon initiatives, Rio Tinto aims to cut its absolute emissions by 15% of their 2018 baseline by 2030.