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Rio Tinto, Sumitomo to assess hydrogen plant at Yarwun refinery

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Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation announced on Tuesday they will jointly study the construction of a hydrogen pilot plant at Rio’s Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone, Australia.  

Sumitomo had already been carrying out studies into building a hydrogen plant but hadn’t chosen a location. Rio, in turn, recently started a feasibility study into replacing natural gas with hydrogen in the alumina refining process. 

If the partners choose to proceed, the pilot plant would produce hydrogen for the Japanese miner’s Gladstone Hydrogen Ecosystem project, announced in March, which is also located in Queensland’s Gladstone, a traditional coal and gas hub. 

Green hydrogen — produced by stripping the gas from water using electrolyzers powered by wind and solar — is seen as key to eliminating emissions from the industrial sector. 

Green hydrogen — produced by stripping the gas from water using electrolyzers powered by wind and solar — is seen as key to eliminating carbon emissions from the industrial sector. 

Most Australian mines are already transitioning to renewable power and either turning to or expanding electric vehicles floats. Hydrogen is the next frontier.  

“Reducing the carbon intensity of our alumina production will be key to meeting our 2030 and 2050 climate targets,” Rio Tinto Australia chief executive Kellie Parker said in the statement. “There is clearly more work to be done, but partnerships and projects like this are an important part of helping us get there.” 

Energy hungry regions, particularly north-east Asia and Europe, lack the natural resources to generate large scale clean energy. This is particularly true in Japan, where nuclear energy has become politically and practically toxic.

The answer, as the country has very publicly committed to, is to transition to 100% green ammonia, which is the demand the growing number of large-scale green hydrogen projects in Australia are looking to meet. 

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