In an effort at reducing its carbon footprint, Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Group and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation are teaming up on a groundbreaking hydrogen plant to power the Gladstone alumina refinery.
Earlier this year the Yarwun Hydrogen Calcination Pilot Demonstration Program was awarded a A$321 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), paving the way for the project to begin.
The project will involve construction of a 2.5MW on-site electrolyser on site at the alumina refinery and retrofitting the plant to receive power from the new hydrogen plant. The parties hope to use the project to show the commercial viability of utilizing hydrogen to calcinate hydrated alumina, which involves heating the hydrated alumina to temperatures up to 1,800° F.
Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations Managing Director Armando Torres said in a press release that this is a significant milestone in its quest to reduce carbon emissions.
“This pilot plant is an important step in testing whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in Queensland alumina refineries. At Rio Tinto we have put the energy transition at the heart of our business strategy, and this is one of the ways we’re working towards decarbonising our operations.”
“We are proud to be developing this new technology here in Gladstone, in partnership with Sumitomo Corporation, and with support from ARENA,” he continued.
The parties expect that the new system will produce about 6 thousand metric tons per annum of alumina while cutting carbon emissions at the plant by up to 3 thousand metric tons per annum. Construction on the project is slated to begin next year, with commissioning planned for 2025.
“We are excited to be delivering this hydrogen project together with Rio Tinto as our long-term partner with the support of ARENA,” said Sumitomo Corporation Energy Innovation Initiative Director, Seiji Kitajima.
“Demonstrating real-world applications of hydrogen in industrial settings with motivated partners is essential to reducing carbon emissions and working toward our company’s vision of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Through this demonstration, Sumitomo Corporation aims to venture into the commercialisation project to contribute to Rio Tinto’s decarbonisation.”
“Sumitomo Corporation is proud to be working on yet another hydrogen project in Australia and contributing to Australia’s own emission reductions goals,” he concluded.