Mining research and innovation company Mining3 and power utility Engie have started with the development of the Hydra Consortium, which is now actively working on validating the business case of using a hydrogen fuel cell-based powertrain for heavy-duty mobility within the mining sector.
This will enable heavy-duty mining mobile equipment to operate using renewable hydrogen, thereby reducing diesel use, and as such acting to decarbonise the mining sector.
To achieve this target, several workstreams will be executed, including a prefeasibility and engineering study of a powertrain and the renewable hydrogen value chain. This will entail designing, manufacturing and testing a 200 kW fuel-cell and battery powertrain prototype for use in mining conditions that include high altitude, dust proneness and high temperatures.
The test outcomes will provide valuable information to enhance the overarching design that could replace the traditional diesel powertrain.
In addition, the project will support government entities in Chile and beyond, by establishing safety protocols for hydrogen use at scale within the mining industry, which will be critical for the successful deployment of this hydrogen solution.
Further, the project will complete the competitiveness analysis for validation of the business case, determining whether Hydra Consortium members should consider a scale-up of the solution.
In August 2020, the Chilean Economic Development Agency was the first to support the project, by awarding €280 000 in government funding to Mining3 in partnership with research organisation CSIRO Chile.
Since then, multidisciplinary company Mitsui & Company and mining services company Thiess – both active in the mining sector – have provided additional support as part of their commitment to develop sustainable solutions for decarbonising the resources industry.
Also, several technology companies are contributing, each within their areas of expertise. Fuel cell provider Ballard Power Systems will provide its fuel-cell systems, while zero-emissions mobility company Hexagon Purus will supply hydrogen storage systems and electric mobility company Reborn Electric Motors will complete the systems integration.
Mining3 CEO Professor Paul Lever says the project will open doors to new applications and processes necessary for a carbon neutral future.
Engie hydrogen business unit CEO Michèle Azalbert says renewable hydrogen can provide the flexibility that the mining sector needs.
“Beyond the obvious advantage of being emissions-free, hydrogen solutions offer an economically viable alternative to fossil fuels, while ensuring the operational performance of mining operations.”
The consortium extends an open invitation to other mining companies, technology providers and governments to join and grow the development activities within the zero emissions mobility field.