Rohitesh Dhawan, President and CEO of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), highlighted the nuGenTM hydrogen-powered ultra-class mine haul truck that is being piloted by Anglo American.

It is an ambitious project that marks the first time a truck of this size and load capacity – providing a total laden weight of 510 tonnes – has been converted to run on hydrogen that will be produced on-site, in hybrid combination with a battery.

“On a mining site, typically 50-to-80% of the emissions are the diesel we burn to power the trucks,” he said. “So we have to decarbonise these trucks.”

Mining is currently responsible for 4-to-7% of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions globally. Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the sector (those incurred through mining operations and power consumption, respectively) amount to 1%, and fugitive-methane emissions from coal mining are estimated at 3-to-6%, according to McKinsey.

Dhawan said the industry is making strides, with the world’s largest copper mine, Escondida, now operating on 100% renewable power, while Granny Smith in Australia operates one of the largest renewable energy grids. “Anglo American has also put forward 5 to 6GW of power in South Africa,” he said.

He said the decarbonisation focus should extend beyond the industry to reduce emissions in other sectors, and use the vast sites at its disposal for nature-based solutions.

On the thorny issue of Scope 3 targets, he said the industry will set targets “if not by 2023, then as soon as possible”, and the ICMM adheres to 10 key principles that guide good practice.

“It starts with us all measuring Scope 3 the same way,” he said. “Corners cannot be cut. I would have hoped we’d be further along, we have to go faster.”

Dr. Tony F Chan, President of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, admitted that Scope 3 presents “its biggest challenge”.

“With a global challenge like this, we have to be on a war footing,” he said. “Universities can’t be sitting on the sidelines, so we try to partner and collaborate. We are researching how to extract hydrogen from ammonia so it can be shipped effectively – Saudi Aramco has done it to Japan – and we’re trying to do that in partnership with NEOM.”

“We are also researching cryogenic carbon capture with the Ministry of Energy, Saudi Electric Company and NEOM, to capture emissions. If that works, we will implement it in a big power plant.”

Hydrogen can be used to store renewable energy to generate electricity, as well as power equipment and trucks and cars, and can be used in certain mining processes as a reductant.

Caterpillar announced a three-year project with Minnesota-based District Energy St. Paul to demonstrate a hydrogen-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) system, in May.

The project is supported and partially funded by the US Department of Energy and backed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Joe Creed, Caterpillar group president of Energy and Transportation, said, “This hydrogen demonstration project will enable us to evaluate additional hydrogen fuel options for an existing energy-efficient engine, providing even more possibilities for helping our customers meet their climate-related goals and objectives.”

Scheduled to start early next year, the demonstration project builds on Caterpillar’s 35 years of experience with high-hydrogen fuel.

The company currently offers a 1250 kW Cat® generator set capable of operating on 100% hydrogen, including fully renewable green hydrogen, on a designed-to-order basis, as well as commercially available power generation solutions from 400 kW to 4.5 MW that can be configured to operate on natural gas blended with up to 25% hydrogen.