Australia Grants $32.1 Million To Rio Tinto And Sumitomo Corporation To Test Hydrogen Technology

Australia Grants $32.1 Million To Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation To Test Hydrogen Technology - Carbon Herald
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Government office Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced on July 12 it has granted $32.1 million to Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation to test hydrogen calcination technology at the Yarwun Alumina Refinery in Gladstone, located in the Northeastern Australian state of Queensland.

The Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation Yarwun Hydrogen Calcination Pilot Demonstration Program, which is worth a total $111.1 million, will be the world’s first deployment of hydrogen (H2) calcination.

The project aims to bring down carbon emissions in alumina refining, which currently is responsible for about 3% of Australia’s GHG emissions.

The project includes a 2.5 megawatt on-site electrolyzer to supply H2 and a retrofit of one of the site’s calciners to function with a hydrogen burner.

Electric services company Sumitomo Corporation will own and operate the electrolyzer at the Yarwun facility and will supply the H2 directly to metals and mining company Rio Tinto. The electrolyzer will have a production capacity of over 250 metric tons of hydrogen per year. 

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Rio Tinto will conduct a series of tests of the H2 calciner under different operating conditions to assess its suitability and performance.

Traditionally, calciners rely on fossil fuels for generating process heat, utilizing high temperatures to extract chemically bound water from alumina crystals. This process is responsible for approximately 30% of emissions associated with alumina refining.

Hydrogen produces high purity steam, which can be efficiently recycled for utilization in other stages of the refining process. If the project proves successful, it will showcase the feasibility of hydrogen calcination and establish a pathway for widespread implementation in alumina refineries.

In 2021, ARENA supported Rio Tinto with $580,000 for a feasibility study that proved successful. 

“This world-first pilot looks to prove a promising technology for decarbonising one of our most emissions intensive industries,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller. “Having already backed an encouraging feasibility study, we’re excited to be working with Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation to build on that success and trial hydrogen calcination in the field.

Australia is the biggest exporter of alumina in the world and the mineral feedstock for aluminium production contributes $7.5 billion to the country’s GDP.

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