Rio Tinto will study whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in alumina refineries to reduce emissions with a $1.2 million feasibility study.
Equally funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the study will use clean hydrogen to replace natural gas in the calcination process of refining at the Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.
The program includes work to be done at Rio Tinto’s Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Melbourne, where capabilities have been extended to hydrogen.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said “If we can replace fossil fuels with clean hydrogen in the refining process for alumina, this will reduce emissions in the energy and emissions intensive refining stage of the aluminium supply chain.”
Miller said that if successful, the technical and commercial lessons could lead to the implementation of hydrogen calcination technology, not only in Australia, but internationally.
Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations acting managing director Daniel van der Westhuizen said the study was a step towards reducing refinery emissions.
“We’re investing in work that needs to be done, not only to decarbonise one of our sites, but also to help provide a lower-emissions pathway for Rio Tinto and the global aluminium industry.
“We recognise we are on a long road towards reducing emissions across our operations and there is clearly more work to be done.
“But projects such as this are an important part of helping us get there.”
The study involves a preliminary engineering and design phase to understand the construction and operational requirements of a demonstration project at the Yarwun refinery.
Simulation of the calcination process using a lab scale reactor will also take place at the Bundoora Technical Development Centre.
Rio Tinto is aiming to reach net zero emissions across its operations by 2050.
Picture: Rio Tinto
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