World first hydrogen pilot for low carbon alumina

July 13, 2023 7:03 am in by
Image from: Rio Tinto website

A world-first hydrogen trail is set for Gladstone, aimed at reducing emissions and boosting the local industry.

The Albanese Government is backing the $111.1 million Yarwun renewable hydrogen calcination trial by Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation at Yarwun Alumina Refinery.

Alumina is a critical part of the aluminium supply chain, a metal used in countless products across the economy, from kitchen utensils and food and drink cans to window frames, cars and aircraft parts.

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Alumina refining accounts for about 3% of Australia’s emissions and is an energy-intensive process, consuming more than twice the energy used by Tasmania.

Using renewable hydrogen could eliminate emissions from the calcination process, which represents up to 30% of alumina refining emissions.

This critical investment will help install a 2.5 MW onsite electrolyser, a hydrogen storage facility, and a hydrogen-capable burner to retrofit one of the refinery’s 4 calciners – which are the large industrial ovens used in alumina refining.

The project is expected to be commissioned in 2025 and will form a key role in the wider transformation and decarbonisation of Gladstone’s industrial hub.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, says innovative technology like this was critical for decarbonising heavy industry.

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“The Albanese Government’s announcement today is about backing the future of our jobs rich aluminium industry, which brings in around $14 billion in export revenue each year and employs more than 17,000 Australians,” says Minister Bowen.

“Australia is the world’s largest exporter of alumina and cutting emissions from our alumina refining will ensure this industry can continue to thrive in a decarbonising global economy – where 139 countries have net zero by 2050 commitments.

“This technology could also pave the way for other hard-to-abate sectors to reduce their emissions” says Minister Bowen.

Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Senator for Queensland, Anthony Chisholm, says this kind of industrial and economic opportunity will be a significant driver of future prosperity in Central Queensland.

“While reducing our emissions in heavy industry, investment in Central Queensland’s hydrogen capabilities means the region can make and export everything from renewable energy to green alumina,” says Senator Chisholm.

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“One of Australia’s biggest opportunities for growth and economic success is the global shift to clean energy.”


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