Fortescue brings forward emissions reduction targets by betting on green hydrogen projects


Iron ore giant Fortescue Metals Group’s (FMG) ambitious Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) wants to build a renewable energy portfolio of more than 235 GW, and that ambition has birthed another, with FMG now bringing forward its carbon neutrality target to 2030, ten years earlier than previously aimed. 

FFI, now chaired by former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, has enormous renewable energy ambitions, particularly in green electricity for hydrogen and ammonia production. To that end, FFI realises that one of the best ways to demonstrate and create supply and demand of green hydrogen is to show how it can eliminate fossil fuels in a supply chain, starting with FMG. 

FMG Chairman and Australia’s richest man Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest said that the iron ore producer has “joined the global battle to defeat climate change. We are trialling and demonstrating green hydrogen technologies in global-scale commercial environments, while also rapidly evolving into a green hydrogen and electricity producer of similar scale.” 

FMG’s original decarbonisation commitment was to reach net zero operational emissions by 2040, including a 26% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions from existing operations by 2030 relative to 2020 levels. That overall target has now been brought forward to 2030, with annual emissions data and reports provided annually. Significantly, FMG’s mining rivals, BHP and Rio Tinto, both have net zero targets set for 2050. 

“Our commitment to demonstrate green hydrogen’s economic value in world-scale operations,” continued Forrest, “and become a major energy exporter, while implementing the considerable facilities to support both, means that Fortescue has emerged not simply as a thought-leader and investor, but uniquely as an executor of major green hydrogen projects.” 

To this end, Forrest believes FFI can provide the two “missing links” in the battle against climate change, the demand and supply of green hydrogen. However, this does not mean the iron ore side of the business is being ignored, though Forrest admitted the “green energy initiatives may one day significantly outscale our iron ore business due to the global demand for renewable energy”.

According to FMG CEO Elizabeth Gaines, the ambitious decarbonisation of the company’s entire mobile fleet and fixed plant will be accomplished through “the next phase of hydrogen and battery electric energy solutions” across Australia including several key projects by 30 June 2021. These projects, which are in addition to FMG’s investment into renewable energy infrastructure such as the Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid Project and Pilbara Energy Connect, include: 

  • Developing a ship design powered by green ammonia and trialling that design in new ammonia engine technology, at scale
  • Testing large battery technology in our haul trucks
  • Trialling hydrogen fuel cell power for our drill rigs
  • Trialling technology on our locomotives to run on green ammonia
  • Conducting trials to use renewable energy in the Pilbara to convert iron ore to green iron at low temperatures, without coal.

“Each of these projects will contribute to the world’s inexorable march to carbon neutrality,” Gaines continued, “Fortescue will establish that the major steel, truck, train, ship and mobile plant industries can be operated with renewable, environmentally friendly energy. This will be possible as a result of these ground-breaking Fortescue trials. Each will be tested by Fortescue using commercial-scale equipment to prove that the demand for direct green electricity, green hydrogen and green ammonia could one day be as large as the fossil fuel industry.” 

Forrest and his executives spent much of the pandemic on a private green journey, putting serious miles on the engine of the FMG jet in a four-month global effort to secure green energy partnerships. Now it looks like those miles are starting to pay off as projects take rapid shape. FMG has already agreed to partner South Korean steelmaker Posco in a cooperative green hydrogen business

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