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Fortescue, Hyundai and Australia's top research body to collaborate on hydrogen

  • Author
  • Wendy Wells    Paul Bartholomew
  • Editor
  • Wendy Wells
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power Natural Gas Oil Metals

Melbourne — Australian iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group has inked another agreement on hydrogen in a bid to potentially scope out a new export opportunity and decarbonize its Western Australian operations.

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The Perth-based miner said Aug. 20 that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea's Hyundai Motor Company and Australia's main research body, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or CSIRO, to collaborate on renewable hydrogen technology.

Fortescue said the collaboration would look specifically at "developing and commercializing" metal membrane technology, or MMT, which has been developed by the CSIRO.

According to the CSIRO's website: "Membranes are a thin layer of metal which allows hydrogen to pass, while blocking all other gases. By coupling membranes with a suitable catalyst for ammonia decomposition, we can efficiently extract pure hydrogen from ammonia."

Fortescue originally entered into a five-year partnership to develop new hydrogen technologies with the CSIRO in 2018.

Hyundai's role in the collaboration involves firming up the viability of the renewable hydrogen production technology in South Korea before rolling it out into other markets.

The announcement comes in the same week that Fortescue said it would invest A$32 million ($23 million) to replace diesel coaches at one of its mining sites with hydrogen powered ones by mid-2021.

The company is essentially a "pure-play" iron ore producer, set to export around 177 million mt/year this year. At the moment, benchmark iron ore prices are at a six-year high, reaching $127.60/mt CFR China on Aug. 18 on the back of strong Chinese steel production, S&P Global Platts data showed.

But having reached its iron ore production capacity, the company has been looking to diversify into other areas, including other metals, infrastructure and now hydrogen.

In a statement, Fortescue deputy CEO, Julie Shuttleworth said the MOU built on the company's investment in new hydrogen technologies, ensuring it was "well-positioned to meet the demand for hydrogen as both an export opportunity and to contribute to the decarbonization of our operations in the Pilbara."

Platts was unable to obtain more details from the company by the time of writing.