Iron ore company Fortescue Metals is a step closer to transporting workers in the Pilbara with hydrogen fuelled buses, after securing a deal with gas supplier BOC to install renewable hydrogen production and bus re-fuelling facilities at the company’s Christmas Creek iron ore mine.
BOC will install renewable-powered electrolyers and a hydrogen refuelling station at the Christmas Creek site, which will allow Fortescue to replace its fleet of diesel fuelled buses that are used to transport mine workers each day with green hydrogen fuelled alternatives.
Under the arrangement, BOC will supply Fortescue with two 700 kilowatt electrolysers produced by British firm ITM, that will be used to supply renewable hydrogen on site, and will be supplied with power from the 60MW Chichester solar farm being constructed nearby.
The electrolysers are expected to have the capacity o produce up to 180 kilograms of hydrogen each day, enough to supply up to 10 hydrogen-fuelled coaches that transport around 3,000 mine workers to-and-from Fortescue’s operations at the Christmas Creek mine on a daily basis.
“BOC is proud to be the chosen partner in this exciting project that will demonstrate how renewable hydrogen can be used as a fuel for heavy vehicles in remote environments,” BOC South Pacific managing director John Evans said.
“Mining is a 24/7 operation which, together with the remoteness of the site means that reliability is essential. BOC provided a solution that recognised the criticality of the application and we collaborated with Fortescue to design an application to protect the electrolyser and re-fueller from the environment in the Pilbara region.
The investment in hydrogen transport by Fortescue forms part of its efforts to achieve net zero emissions from its operations by 2040, including a $32 million investment in the hydrogen transport project, which has been supported through funding provided by the Western Australian government’s Renewable Hydrogen Strategy.
BOC will also install a refuelling station produced by Linde, which will enable Fortescue to replace its diesel fuelled bus fleet with zero emissions hydrogen alternatives.
“The renewable hydrogen we will produce will help to reduce reliance on diesel for remotely located industries and therefore, add environmental value to our industrial customers,” Evans added.
“We look forward to working with Fortescue and our other partners to expand the use of hydrogen in heavy transport and remote applications – which are key priorities outlined in the Western Australian Renewable Hydrogen Strategy.”
Fortescue has committed to purchasing ten hydrogen fuel-cell buses from HYZON to operate at the Christmas Creek site, and has plans to build a solar farm at a site nearby to the mine to supply power to the refuelling station.
The 60MW Chichester solar farm will be built around 5km from the Christmas Creek mine, with development being led by Alinta, and Fortescue is also building a 150MW solar farm and a big battery to increase the renewable supply to its mining operations.
The installation of the hydrogen supply and refuelling facilities is expected to be completed by early 2022.
Fortescue has previously committed to transitioning its corporate vehicle fleet, including those used by staff based at the company’s Perth headquarters, to hydrogen alternatives. Fortescue secured a supply deal with ATCO to undertake a trial of hydrogen fuelled passenger vehicles, including Totoya’s Mirai fuel-cell passenger vehicle.
It is also the second renewable hydrogen supply deal secured by BOC in the last week, with the company set to transport hydrogen produced at the Tonsley Hydrogen Park in Adelaide to industrial customer’s in South Australia’s ‘steel city’ of Whyalla.