The new mining project will be the first carbon-neutral mine in the western state and one of only two active mines in Australia to reach the milestone.
The project, slated to begin development in early 2023, will see Line Hydrogen design, develop and operate renewable technologies at the site to replace fossil fuel-based power generation.
The renewable technology from a green hydrogen production plant will provide green power to the Lord Byron operation during non-renewable energy generation periods. The plant will also provide green hydrogen as a diesel fuel replacement for diesel activities on the site including mining equipment, generators and vehicles.
With the mining sector accounting for roughly 10% of Australia’s total energy use, consuming around 14.3bn litres of diesel per year, the switch to green energy will create impactful change.
Rather than burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and other pollutants into the atmosphere (as is the case for the production of most commercial hydrogen), the hydrogen will be produced with 100% renewable energy via electrolysis.
Brendan James, Founder and Executive Chairman of Line Hydrogen, said the project is the culmination of a vision which was set out around eight years ago.
He said, “The partnership will utilise our green hydrogen production, as well as technology designed by Line to power on-site mining and processing equipment, and on-road heavy haulage. This move will, I believe, also lower overall costs of operation, increasing returns from the project.”
Project and engineering partners have identified a number of design changes to the traditional processing designs to align energy requirements with renewable supply curves along with changes to mine plans and equipment selection.
The Lord Byron mine is expected to operate at a throughput of around 1.2Mtpa, and with the incorporation of renewable power and green hydrogen producing circa 49GW of power each year, displacing around 13.2m litres of diesel per annum that would typically be consumed in the course of normal operations.
The combined renewable power, green hydrogen and mining operations are expected to result in an additional 150 full-time jobs in the region including highly skilled and unskilled opportunities.
Ashley Fraser, Managing Director of Blue Cap Mining, said the responsibility for change “is with us as participants and producers”.
He said, “As a relatively small industry participant, we are leveraging our corporate agility and can-do attitude to adapt faster and more efficiently. We will explore, develop and accelerate our renewable energy use aspirations displacing the alternative of fossil fuels with the added benefit of potentially lowering our cost of production quite significantly.”
It is expected that the project will complete the pre-feasibility phase by the end of 2022, with bankable feasibility status milestones set for 2023 and construction likely to begin within an 18-month period.
Rising demand for homegrown low-cost hydrogen – coupled with the need to reduce carbon emissions in supply chains – has led to Woodside Energy, BGC and Centurion teaming up in the same region.
Together with the support of the Western Australian Government, the trio are advancing plans for a proposed self-contained hydrogen production, storage and refuelling station, located in the Rockingham Industry Zone.
Green hydrogen is set to play a major role in Australia’s energy sector following the passing of its Climate Change Bill which sets a 43% emissions reduction target by 2030. Alongside that target, set against 2005 levels, Australia will aim to be net zero by 2050.