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Rio Tinto and Sumitomo to assess hydrogen at Yarwun Alumina Refinery

In Australia, global mining major Rio Tinto Ltd and Japan-headed industrial conglomerate Sumitomo Corporation have announced a partnership to study the construction of a hydrogen pilot plant at Rio Tinto’s Yarwun Alumina Refinery in Gladstone, Queensland (QLD) and explore the potential use of hydrogen at the refinery.

Part of the process of extracting alumina from bauxite involves burning the mineral at around 1 000 degrees Celsius in calciners. Hydrogen’s properties make it well suited to industrial processes like alumina refining. Rio Tinto Ltd and Sumitomo Corporation have announced a partnership to study the construction of a hydrogen pilot plant at Rio Tinto’s Yarwun Alumina Refinery in Gladstone, Queensland (QLD), Australia (photo courtesy Rio Tinto).

The two global companies have signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) that focuses on Yarwun as the location for a Gladstone hydrogen plant that Sumitomo has been studying. If the project proceeds, the pilot plant would produce hydrogen for the recently announced Gladstone Hydrogen Ecosystem.

The study supports the efforts of Australian, Queensland, and local governments to establish Gladstone as a clean hydrogen hub of the future.

Rio Tinto has a long relationship with Sumitomo and we are delighted to partner with them to explore the possibilities of hydrogen, not only for our own refinery but for Sumitomo to supply industry more broadly in Gladstone. Reducing the carbon intensity of our alumina production will be key to meeting our 2030 and 2050 climate targets. There is clearly more work to be done, but partnerships and projects like this are an important part of helping us get there, said Kellie Parker, Chief Executive of Rio Tinto Australia.

The Sumitomo partnership complements a recently announced feasibility study into using hydrogen to replace natural gas in the alumina refining process at Yarwun and provides the potential for larger-scale implementation if the studies are successful.

We are excited about working together with Rio Tinto as our long-term partner to develop this hydrogen project in Gladstone and working toward our company’s vision of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. We believe the pilot plant will play a significant role in establishing the Gladstone Hydrogen Ecosystem. Sumitomo has commenced the Design Study and Preliminary Master Planning to build the Gladstone hydrogen ecosystem and we will continue to work towards future hydrogen exports from Gladstone, said Hajime Mori, Sumitomo Corporation’s Energy Innovation Initiative Director

Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Steven Miles said Gladstone is an industrial powerhouse and this partnership presents a great opportunity for the region and for Queensland.

This is only the beginning of a wave of international collaborations that will lead to new industries and new jobs underpinned by the supply of renewable energy. With the Palaszczuk Government’s strong commitment to creating more jobs in emerging industries, we will work to keep Queensland at the forefront of renewable hydrogen and the opportunities that come with it, Minister Miles said

Minister for Energy, Renewables, and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni said the Palaszczuk Government was developing Queensland’s Energy Plan to reinforce its platform for international partnerships focused on new technology and a stronger Australia.

This is a plan to create a renewable energy ecosystem that will power our low-carbon ambitions to transform industry, create thousands of jobs for Queenslanders, and decarbonize not only Queensland but the nation, Minister de Brenni said.

Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing and Minister for Water Glenn Butcher said the partnership would provide important economic opportunities for the entire Central Queensland region.

Gladstone’s world-class deepwater port, water security through Awoonga Dam, and industry attraction via the local State Development Area have set Gladstone up to become the hydrogen capital of Australia, providing massive employment and supply chain opportunities both locally and in the Central Queensland region, Minister Butcher said.

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