Hydra celebrates fuel cell progress


Image: Thiess.

The Hydra Consortium has constructed its first prototype of a hydrogen fuel cell-based powertrain to test the technology in mining trucks and resources applications.

The Consortium was formed in April 2021 by Mining3 and ENGIE. Both Australian companies, the former is a global leader in mining research while the latter is a provider of low-carbon energy and services.

The Consortium has grown to include Thiess, Liebherr Mining, Antofagasta Minerals, Mitsui, Ballard Power Systems, Hexagon Purus, and Reborn Electric Motors, and is supported by CORFO and CSIRO Chile.

The prototype fuel cell has 60kW of power and a 140kWh (kilowatt-hour) battery as the project aims to ramp this up over the coming years.

Thiess senior executive Bob McKerrow said this was a doorway to achieving low-carbon targets.

“It’s an exciting time for our industry,” McKerrow said.

“Through this technology, the consortium has the opportunity to develop a transformative solution for mining, and other industries, and help contribute to a carbon neutral future.”

The project will soon test the prototype under a range of mining conditions which will consider dust, payload and elevation at Antofagasta’s Minera Centinela copper mine in Chile.

The results of this test will form part of the project’s second phase, while phase three will consider replacing a mining truck’s diesel engine with a fully electric 2MW hybrid propulsion system including the hydrogen fuel cell.

The project’s scheduled timeline should see an electrolysis plant producing renewable hydrogen by 2023, with a concept for the fuel-cell to be scaled across a mining fleet to be delivered by 2025.

McKerrow said the project had the potential to benefit every member of the Consortium, as well as the wider industry.

“We are excited to be a part of this Consortium and not just help in the creation of this solution, but also to share the learnings across our business and operations, as we align our own fleet management approach with our carbon reduction goals,” he said.

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