Mining sector key to kickstarting hydrogen industry, says consultant

5th May 2021 By: Simone Liedtke - Writer

Hydrogen is set to play a key role in achieving carbon-neutral mining, an industry that is being touted as a key enabler of the global hydrogen industry, Engie Impact consultant Jasper Schrijvers said during a virtual presentation at this year’s Energy & Mines Africa conference.

During his presentation on May 4, he noted that kickstarting the hydrogen economy within the mining segment “makes a lot of sense” owing to it being an energy-intensive industry that has stated goals of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040 or 2050.

Achieving carbon neutrality, Schrijvers explained, would however require a few steps.

The first is for a mining project to consider all the energy that is being used and to ensure that this is being used as efficiently as possible without wasting any energy. The second step is to ensure this efficient energy use is green, by installing on site renewables and energy storage capacity or entering into power purchase agreements (PPAs) with renewable energy producers.

The last step is to guide current fossil fuel use towards a green solution, for example making use of hydrogen fuel cell mining equipment.

To start on the journey to carbon neutrality, he advised mining companies to compare the different available fuel types for their fleets. However, when comparing diesel and hydrogen fuel, Schrijvers emphasised that miners should consider cost parity, as mines would need to consider energy costs and efficiencies.

“Your fuel cell truck has two advantages: It is more efficient than an internal combustion engine as you will be combining your fuel cell with a battery, but it will also allow you to regenerate while braking, or moving the vehicle downwards, thereby making the entire power chain more efficient,” he elaborated.

The total cost of ownership for mining trucks can become competitive before 2030 owing to higher efficiencies and run times, in addition to lower capital expenditure requirements and a levelised cost of hydrogen decrease.

Further, Schrijvers emphasised that on-site storage would also become more important as more renewables were added to an operation’s energy mix.

This, he explained, would result in steady supply, as renewables (like solar) will only remain a constant power source during the day.

“Therefore, you need an energy storage option of between four and 24 hours,” he said, touting lithium-ion batteries as the most cost-effective way.

Another option mines could consider, is on-site ammonia production, as the high relative cost of small-scale ammonia production is offset by the low cost of ammonia storage.

“Liquefied hydrogen is considered to be the least cost-effective option, as its technological and commercial maturity “does not compensate the high relative cost”.