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Anglo American launches hybrid hydrogen-battery mine haul truck in South Africa

06 May 2022 Max Tingyao Lin

Mining group Anglo American unveiled 6 May what it described as the prototype of the world's largest hydrogen-powered mine haul truck in South Africa, having pledged to achieve carbon neutrality in operational emissions by 2040.

With diesel emissions from its haul truck fleet accounting for 10-15% of its direct emissions, the London-headquartered company has taken a leading role in developing zero-emission trucking in mining operations. Other major miners, like BHP, are studying similar projects.

Anglo American's prototype truck, which has a payload of 290 metric tons (mt), has been installed with a 2-MW hydrogen fuel cell and a battery system and placed in operation at its Mogalakwena platinum mine. The company's goal is to power such trucks with renewable energy in electricity and hydrogen forms at its mining sites.

"Over the next several years, we envisage converting or replacing our current fleet of diesel-powered trucks with this zero-emission haulage system, fueled with green hydrogen," CEO Duncan Wanblad said in a statement when the vehicle was debuted.

"If this pilot is successful, we could remove up to 80% of diesel emissions at our open pit mines by rolling this technology across our global fleet," added Duncan, who succeeded Mark Cutifani last month after the 64-year-old's retirement.

Anglo American plans to retrofit 40 diesel-fueled trucks at Mogalakwena to become hybrids as an initial step. Zero-emission haulage could be rolled out to five to seven sites by 2030 before the company's global fleet of around 400 trucks is fully decarbonized by 2035.

To counter climate change, the company has promised to reduce net GHG emissions by 30% before 2030, relative to the 2016 levels of 17.9 million mt of CO2-equivalent (CO2e), before reaching carbon neutrality 10 years later.

"This [pilot] is an important step on our pathway to carbon neutral operations by 2040," Wanblad said.

Hydrogen ambition

Anglo American spent three years developing the zero-emission truck with First Mode, a US-based engineering firm, Ballard Power, a Canada-based fuel cell developer, NPROXX, a Netherlands-based hydrogen storage firm, and ENGIE, a France-based utility tasked with green hydrogen supply in the project.

In 2019, ENGIE placed an order for a 3.5-MW electrolyzer from Oslo-listed Nel ASA for the haulage project. Anglo American has built a hydrogen production, storage, and refueling complex at Mogalakwena that incorporates the electrolyzer and a solar photovoltaic field.

"We realize the importance of green hydrogen in the decarbonization of heavy-duty mobility," said Sébastien Arbola, executive vice-president in charge of thermal generation, hydrogen and energy supply at ENGIE.

Anglo American, Engie, Bambili Energy, state-owned South African National Development Institute, and the South African government have teamed up to explore opportunities to develop hydrogen clusters in the country.

Three hubs were identified in a feasibility study published last October, including one that centers around the Mogalakwena mine. The cities of Johannesburg, Rustenburg, and Pretoria make up the second hub, and the third is around Durban and Richards Bay.

Hydrogen demand in the Mogalakwena hub, where 119 MW of solar farms have already been installed, could reach around 40,000 mt by 2030, according to the study. About 90% of the demand would come from mining trucks—in terms of cost of ownership, hydrogen-powered trucks are expected to reach parity with diesel-fueled ones as of 2030.

"With a combination of abundant renewable energy sources [in solar and wind], and as the world's largest producer of platinum group of metals, hydrogen is a strategic priority for South Africa and presents a significant opportunity for economic development," said Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American Platinum.

Miners' decarbonization efforts

Anglo American was one of the 28 mining companies that committed last October to net-zero operational GHG emissions by 2050, or sooner.

In a 2020 report, McKinsey & Co. estimated miners were responsible 4-7% of global GHG emissions, equivalent to 1.9 billion-5.1 billion mt of CO2e annually. Of them, 1% were from mining operations, and the remaining were fugitive methane during coal mining.

Aside from Anglo American, Rio Tinto has partnered with Komatsu and Caterpillar to develop zero-emission trucks that could run on battery or hydrogen for their mining operations. BHP is also studying battery-powered large mining trucks with Caterpillar.

Separately, Fortescue Metals Group is testing on hydrogen-powered trucks and has partnered with—and later acquired—Williams Advanced Engineering (WAF) to develop battery-powered ones.

The deal for WAF, an offshoot of the Williams Formula One team, will "enable Fortescue to become a major player in the growing global market for green industrial transportation equipment," the miner's energy arm Fortescue Future Industries said earlier this year.

Posted 06 May 2022 by Max Tingyao Lin, Principal Journalist, Climate and Sustainability

This article was published by S&P Global Commodity Insights and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.


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