Hyundai joins Fortescue and CSIRO to “fast track” ammonia to high-purity hydrogen system

Fortescue recently announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hyundai Motor Company and CSIRO for the “development and future commercialisation” of its metal membrane technology. This technology, which produces high-purity compressed hydrogen from liquid ammonia, was demonstrated in 2018. It enables PEM fuel cell vehicles to refuel using hydrogen that is generated on demand from ammonia.

At scale, this technology could enable an ammonia-based hydrogen production, storage, and distribution infrastructure, lowering the barriers to implementation of a national network of hydrogen filling stations. Now, “Hyundai will seek to demonstrate the viability of the technology for renewable hydrogen production and vehicle fuelling in Korea.”

Fortescue Deputy Chief Executive Officer Julie Shuttleworth said, “This important strategic partnership with Hyundai and the CSIRO signals Fortescue’s ongoing commitment to the ramp up of a competitive domestic and global renewable hydrogen industry … as both an export opportunity and to contribute to the decarbonisation of our operations in the Pilbara” …

Hyundai Chief Innovation Officer Dr Young Cho Chi said, “This MOU will allow the realisation of the global supply of clean hydrogen, contributing to the successful transition to a hydrogen economy in Korea and Australia. This sets an example of the potential for a global hydrogen infrastructure business based on clean hydrogen.” 

Fortescue announcement, Fortescue joins forces with Hyundai and CSIRO to fast track development of hydrogen technology, August 20, 2020

Just three days before this announcement, Fortescue announced another collaboration — this time with HYZON Motors, for the delivery of 10 hydrogen fuel cell buses, to replace Fortescue’s existing diesel fleet.

The HYZON purchase is part of Fortescue’s A$32 million “Renewable Hydrogen Mobility Project,” which will see the iron ore exporter build its own hydrogen refueling station that will “generate renewable hydrogen onsite,” using renewable electricity from the Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid Project (Alinta Energy’s A$204 million project, supported by ARENA).

“As a significant energy consumer, we are actively pursuing opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint and cost base and we expect hydrogen to play a key role. Fortescue’s mobile fleet represents around 400 to 450 million litres of diesel consumption per year and presents a significant opportunity for hydrogen to be used as a replacement fuel source to accelerate emissions reduction and diversify our energy mix,” Ms Shuttleworth said.

HYZON Motors Co-Founder Craig Knight said, “After almost 20 years working with fuel cell technology, it is hugely rewarding to see the genuine enthusiasm for decarbonisation from one of the leading miners of the world.”

Fortescue announcement, Fortescue advances hydrogen technology at Christmas Creek, August 17, 2020

Fortescue’s Renewable Hydrogen Mobility Project in Christmas Creek was recently awarded A$2 million from the government of Western Australia’s Renewable Hydrogen Fund. Another A$1 million was awarded by the same fund to ATCO Australia, “to develop, deploy and operate combined green hydrogen production and refuelling infrastructure, based at ATCO’s Jandakot Operations Centre” in Perth, WA. ATCO’s Clean Energy Innovation Hub has been producing renewable hydrogen for a year now, and the new “H2 Refueller will allow us to expand the Hub’s capability.” This is yet another Fortescue partnership, working with ATCO “to deploy hydrogen vehicle fuelling infrastructure in Western Australia.”

These latest state government funding announcements come in the context of accelerating the energy transition in Western Australia, which has a focus on four areas (three of which are explicit focuses for Fortescue): “export, use in remotely located industries, blending in natural gas networks, and use in fuel cell electric transport vehicles.”

The McGowan Government’s investment, increased business interest and pace of technology development means the goals of the Western Australian Renewable Hydrogen Strategy are being bought forward from 2040 to 2030 …

Fortescue plans to purchase 10 hydrogen fuel cell electric buses to replace its diesel bus fleet, and the lessons learnt from this project will support their plans to reduce reliance on imported diesel across a range of transport forms …

The Jandakot H2-Fuel project is a key enabler to driving down the costs of refuelling infrastructure, and an opportunity to build the local skills and labour force required to support the industry.

Government of Western Australia media statement, $22 million investment to accelerate renewable hydrogen future, August 17, 2020

We last wrote about the ammonia-to-hydrogen metal membrane reactor in November 2018, when CSIRO announced its partnership with Fortescue. In August 2018, CSIRO had hosted a high-profile demonstration of the refueling system. A detailed, technical description of CSIRO’s metal membrane reactor was presented by Michael Dolan at the Ammonia Energy Conference in November 2017 (Delivering clean hydrogen fuel from ammonia using metal membranes, 2017). This presentation was updated at the 2018 conference, following the refueling demonstration (Delivering clean hydrogen fuel from ammonia using metal membranes, 2018).

At that time, the next step in the technology’s commercialization was to get a “200 kg/day H2 plant operating within 24 months,” and mount a “demonstration in conjunction with FCEV fueling.” It appears that this technology has been developing precisely on schedule. Now, Hyundai is joining forces to “fast track” the next stage of the commercialization process for this ammonia to high-purity hydrogen technology.

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