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Green hydrogen advocate Forrest slams oil, gas as ‘anathema methane mines’

CNN clip showing Amanpour interview.

17th November 2021

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Oil and gas plants are methane mines and opening new ones is an anathema that fails to take the livelihoods of today’s offspring seriously, says Fortescue Metals Group chairperson and green hydrogen protagonist Andrew Forrest.

“I argue strongly that opening up a new coal mine, or even a methane mine, which is what an oil and gas plant is, a methane mine, and opening up a new one is an anathema, it's a contradiction, it’s actually not taking the livelihood of our kids, ourselves, seriously.

“So, yes. I’m very public on this and I will be strident,” Forrest said during an interview with Christiane Amanpour, a host for CNN, the multinational news-based television channel.

Forrest has called out some of the big fossil fuel companies for not doing enough to combat climate change and merely ‘green-washing’, but Amanpour pointed out to him that his own Australian government not only has no plans to limit fossil fuels but is controversially continuing to subsidise them.

Amanpour: Given where you are, and how powerful you are in the industry, would you seek to persuade your government – which has one of the worst records in the world on fossil usage and emissions – to change tack as well?

Forrest: I have, and I will continue to do so.

On the Australian government continuing to subsidise fossil fuel, Forrest responded that being on the receiving end of such subsidies also gave him the insight to be highly critical of such subsidisation.

“People often say, hey, you’re a big beneficiary of fossil fuel subsidies, and I say, exactly. If someone wasn’t a beneficiary, they would not have the credibility to argue so strongly against them.

“I advocate very strongly that opening up a new coal mine or even a methane mine, which is what an oil and gas plant is, a methane mine, opening up new one is an anathema, it’s a contradiction, it’s actually not taking the livelihood of our kids, ourselves, seriously.

“So, yes. I’m very public on this and I will be strident. I really do believe that green hydrogen is the practical, implementable solution, which this planet needs, which the atmosphere needs right now, to stop global warming.

“The danger is what you correctly described as green-washing. This is when the fossil fuel sector comes through and says, hey, we can do hydrogen, too. Look over here, it’s hydrogen. Yes, the molecule is the same, but the journey of getting the molecule there, if it’s chock-a-block full of carbon, and far worse methane, i.e., gas, then that just makes the problem a whole lot worse by extending the life of their mines and deposits and saying, don’t worry about that, it’s hydrogen. Well, my very strong contention, around the world to every leader on this planet, is that if it’s not green hydrogen, if it’s not renewable, it’s a farce. The only hydrogen we should be going for right now is green hydrogen and we should be moving away from everything else," said Forrest.

As reported by Mining Weekly earlier this month, Forrest sees the hydrogen fuel cell as having an inexhaustible future as a means of maintaining the planet’s high standard of living. Hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen electrolysers make use of platinum group metals, with which South Africa is well-endowed.

“Our little planet’s cooking, the world’s impatient and there’s any amount of capital, provided your projects are great,” said Forrest in a discussion with Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh.

He admitted that Fortescue is a heavy carbon-emitting, heavy manufacturing and heavy industry company – “like the thousands of others out there which cause global warming. But that’s our opportunity – to make our company green and then to take on the fossil-fuel sector, which is even bigger and uglier and hairier than the big iron-ore and major miners of the world, which we took on 15 years ago.

“But we know how to do this. We’re going to produce green hydrogen, green ammonia, green electricity in proportion to them but, of course, ours won’t be polluting the planet,” said Forrest during the symposium, which was covered by Engineering News & Mining Weekly.

Fortescue’s green fleet team is helping to convert a 75 m ship to run overwhelmingly on the green hydrogen within green ammonia.  

Earlier this year, its green fleet team set a pathway towards using 100% green ammonia to power locomotives.

The company is looking to revive the long-delayed Grand Inga hydroelectric project in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of Fortescue’s strategy of moving vigorously into green energy.

It was announced at COP26 that the company is planning to build a 15 GW green hydrogen project in Argentina. The $8.4-billion project intends flying on what is arguably the world’s best onshore wind area of the northern Patagonian province of Río Negro, where wind speeds average ten metres a second.

The higher the capacity factor of the renewable energy supplying power to electrolysers, the cheaper the green hydrogen produced.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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