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Rio Tinto building

Rio Tinto and Fortescue heads Jakob Stausholm and Andrew Forrest are in talks to co-pilot green hydrogen project.

The two Western Australian mining titans are seeking more collaborative methods to reduce their carbon emissions as they look towards facilitating large-scale solar and wind farms.

Initial talks began after Rio Tinto chief scientist Nigel Steward cast doubt on the long-term viability of implementing hydrogen. Steward spoke at Rio’s 2022 Investor Seminar in November, outlining the responsibilities surrounding the integration of hydrogen in mining operations.

“At the moment, though, hydrogen is very expensive and will require a technological breakthrough to be economically viable,” he said.

“There will be very high-power requirements to generate sufficient hydrogen to meet future demands. However, the supple chain to deliver green hydrogen is not yet well established and it will take time before it will be a material contributor to decarbonisation.

“Hydrogen will also be impacted by leakage from storage and transport facilities – an estimated one per cent per day is lost when stored in liquid form. Competitive green hydrogen requires very low-cost renewable electricity at scale. It also needs lower capital costs.

“Hydrogen has a global warming potential 5­–16 times that of carbon dioxide over 100 years. Therefore, our intention is to consume hydrogen close to its point of generation.”

Forrest, for his part, wanted to addressed Stausholm’s concerns over transporting hydrogen.

“He was quickly reminded that green hydrogen is not a greenhouse gas,” Forrest said. “But that is like blaming the policeman for defending a house and saying the burglar is doing a good job.

“The world must go to green hydrogen and Rio Tinto, like every other responsible mining company around the world, knows it has to come off fossil fuels.

“We have a very collaborative relationship with Rio, and we want to make sure our chief scientists are singing off the same songbook.”