Energy transition leader ENGIE has contracted Pretoria-based engineering firm Thermtron Scientific to provide balance of plant services for the on-site hydrogen plant of the Mogalakwena mine, in Limpopo, on an engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning basis.
Initial talks between ENGIE and Thermtron on the plant started in October 2019 and Thermtron was appointed in June 2020. The plant is expected to be operational by June 2021, Covid-19 permitting.
The plant will supply diversified major Anglo American with hydrogen to fuel its ‘revolutionary’ fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) haul truck, which will be the world’s largest hydrogen-powered mining truck.
Thermtron will provide key services to implement ENGIE and Anglo American’s initiatives to create a greener mining industry.
Considering that green hydrogen is an energy vector, which can be used for several mobility applications and energy storage, as well as power and heat generation, the hydrogen plant could also assist with other energy solutions over time, states ENGIE.
Thermtron is also responsible for the installation of the electrolysis and hydrogen storage equipment, the detail design and supply of utilities, health and safety, as well as balance of plant control systems at the hydrogen plant.
The plant will include electrical supply that will be sufficient to operate the hydrogen production facility continuously. It will also include supplying water purification systems to ensure that water is safe to feed back into the mine or to be integrated into water supply systems.
Water treatment is required before and after the electrolysis reaction and the raw water is treated in the electrolyser section to meet strict purity requirements before going to the electrolyser stacks. Some of the water is carried with the hydrogen as part of the production process. The water will be extracted from the hydrogen stream and treated before disposal.
The installation of control systems will ensure that the balance of plant and key safety functions are integrated and controlled from a central control system. Nitrogen systems will be implemented facilitating the safe operation and maintenance of the plant.
The electricity for the hydrogen plant will be produced by a local solar photovoltaic production facility. South Africa is ideal for solar conversion because of its high solar incidence and, with the Mogalakwena operations primarily located in a high solar-incidence area, it “makes sense to use this renewable energy”, says ENGIE.
“Thermtron is focusing on green energy solutions and has established two other businesses that will produce bioethanol as fuel, and a rare earth chemical for the electric vehicle market. The hydrogen economy is expanding rapidly and we are glad to be part of it,” says Thermtron sponsor Dr Jacobus Swanepoel.
Hydrogen has different potential applications in mining operations, and once a mine gains access to a green hydrogen supply, it will soon displace all remaining fossil fuel energy sources in mobility, heat and/or power applications, states ENGIE.
Hydrogen can be manufactured from different sources and, in this project, the focus is on water electrolysis using green electricity. Other possible technologies, such as hydrogen from biomass gasification, can support this technology and can make it more affordable.