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 Mining major Rio Tinto and Sumitomo will jointly study the construction of a hydrogen pilot plant at Rio’s Yarwun alumina refinery, in Gladstone, and explore the potential use of hydrogen at the refinery.

Rio said that if the Yarwun hydrogen project proceeded, the pilot plant would produce hydrogen for the Gladstone Hydrogen Ecosystem.

Sumitomo in March this year signed a memorandum of understanding with Gladstone Ports Corporation, Gladstone Regional Council, Australian Gas Networks as part of the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group and CQUniversity Australia to explore opportunities to develop a hydrogen ecosystem in Gladstone. The ecosystem will initially pursue domestic offtake and mobility solutions before moving to enable large-scale export.

“Rio Tinto has a long relationship with Sumitomo and we are delighted to partner with them to explore the possibilities of hydrogen, not only for our own refinery, but for Sumitomo to supply industry more broadly in Gladstone,” Rio Tinto Australia CEO Kellie Parker said.

“Reducing the carbon intensity of our alumina production will be key to meeting our 2030 and 2050 climate targets. There is clearly more work to be done, but partnerships and projects like this are an important part of helping us get there.”

Sumitomo’s energy innovation initiative director Hajime Mori said the company was excited about working together with Rio as its long-term partner to develop the hydrogen project in Gladstone and working toward its company’s vision of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

“We believe the pilot plant will play a significant role in establishing the Gladstone Hydrogen Ecosystem. Sumitomo has commenced the design study and preliminary master planning to build the Gladstone hydrogen ecosystem and we will continue to work towards future hydrogen exports from Gladstone.”

Queensland Deputy Premier and State Development Minister Steven Miles said Gladstone was an industrial powerhouse and this partnership presented a great opportunity for the region and for Queensland.

“This is only the beginning of a wave of international collaborations that will lead to new industries and new jobs underpinned by the supply of renewable energy,” Miles said.

“With the government’s strong commitment to creating more jobs in emerging industries, we will work to keep Queensland at the forefront of renewable hydrogen and the opportunities that come with it.”

Rio’s partnership with Sumitomo complements its feasibility efforts with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to study the use of hydrogen to replace natural gas in alumina refinery at Yarwun, to reduce emissions.