FORTESCUE Metals Group is making hefty investments in new energy streams through its Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) subsidiary that will soon be producing green hydrogen and green ammonia.
Speaking at ABARES Outlook online today, FFI CEO Julie Shuttleworth said FMG was already working on prototypes for heavy-haul trucks, trains and even a ship that used fuel created through electrolysis powered by renewables.
“We were the first to operate Caterpillar autonomous heavy-haul trucks, and we operate the fastest automated heavy-haul railway in the world.”
Its next stage is to use green hydrogen, which Ms Shuttleworth said was a zero-carbon fuel, and with its only by-product being water vapour.
Green hydrogen can be further processed into green ammonia, and this will be produced at Incitec Pivot’s Gibson Island plant in Brisbane, already a major source of agricultural fertiliser.
It will also be used to power some heavy transport equipment being developed by FFI.
Manufacturers drag chain
Ms Shuttleworth said FMG aims to decarbonise its mining operations by 2030, and was developing the vehicles and fuel to power them itself.
“We found machinery manufacturers are much slower than we need to be.”
However, she was hopeful they could follow the Fortescue lead once heavy vehicles could be shown to operate on green energy.
“In terms of OEM, I think they’ll quickly get up the curve…much quicker than they were originally expecting.
“I’m hoping to see that rolled out into agriculture soon.”
“Decarbonisation is a journey that we share with the ag sector.
“The key is to get started.”
Ms Shuttleworth said while charging from the grid made sense for smaller vehicles, fuel made from green hydrogen was seen as the way forward for FFI’s needs.
The word could well be spreading: Ms Shuttleworth said FFI had recently signed an agreement with UK heavy-equipment manufacturer JCB to supply green hydrogen.
She said FMG was transforming from a “pure-play iron ore producer” to integrated resources, and that FFI had already built the world’s first hydrogen-powered mining truck, with plans to commence site testing of it soon.
Counter to rising energy costs
While the cost of fossil fuels has been rising, Ms Shuttleworth said renewable energy costs were dropping, a factor that was relevant to agriculture as well as mining.
“One of the concerns we all have is the rising cost of fossil fuels.”
“Farmers, and also miners, are fearing the cost.”
She said Russia now being at war was a further factor in price and supply uncertainty, and that she hoped FFI’s lead could help provide farmers with an incentive to decarbonise as they plot their own courses forward
“Many are adopting their own net zero targets.”
She said FFI’s developments in terms of heavy vehicles can translate to agriculture.
“This same technology can be applied.
Focus on regions
FFI last month started construction at its Green Energy Manufacturing Centre in Gladstone, Queensland.
“We expect it to be the first of many manufacturing plants that will support the green hydrogen sector in Australia.”
She said farmers could tap into being producers of solar and/or wind energy as well as consumers of renewables powering equipment, stationary units and fertiliser production.
“Australian agriculture can take advantage of this new innovation for new jobs and investment in communities for the future.
“Vast renewable energy reserves such as wind and solar are based in the regions and not the city.”
“Farmers and miners; we know they can coexist.
“This is a great opportunity for farmers, pastoralists, landholders to engage with renewable energy economy.