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Rio Tinto, Sumitomo to build new hydrogen plant

A first-of-a-kind hydrogen plant will be built in Gladstone, Queensland in a joint venture by Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation.

The plant is part of a $111.1 million program which aims to lower carbon emissions from the alumina refining process.

Dubbed the Yarwun Hydrogen Calcination Pilot Demonstration Program, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) gave the plant a $32.1 million co-funding boost.

“This pilot plant is an important step in testing whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in Queensland alumina refineries,” Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations managing director Armando Torres said.

“At Rio Tinto we have put the energy transition at the heart of our business strategy, and this is one of the ways we’re working towards decarbonising our operations.

“We are proud to be developing this new technology here in Gladstone, in partnership with Sumitomo Corporation, and with support from ARENA.”

Construction of the project will begin in 2024 and will consist of a 2.5 megawatt (MW) on-site electrolyser. It is expected to produce the equivalent of 6000 tonnes of alumina per year.

It is hoped that the plant will help reduce emissions by 500,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of removing 109,000 internal combustion engine cars from the road.

“We are excited to be delivering this hydrogen project together with Rio Tinto as our long-term partner with the support of ARENA,” Sumitomo Corporation energy innovation initiative director Seiji Kitajima said.

“Demonstrating real-world applications of hydrogen in industrial settings with motivated partners is essential to reducing carbon emissions and working toward our company’s vision of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Through this demonstration, Sumitomo Corporation aims to venture into the commercialisation project to contribute to Rio Tinto’s decarbonisation.”

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