Miners experiment with hydrogen to power giant trucks

By Jesse Preyser
The city of Johannesburg.

The image is from Anglo American.

The image caption is.

Anglo American wants its trucks to use hydrogen.

Mining trucks consume fuel at a rate that is barely believable.

They can get through 134 litres of diesel every hour.

The first step to reducing their carbon footprint is to focus on these vehicles.

Anglo American is retrofitting a mining haul truck with hydrogen power technology.

The monster mining vehicle is being piloted in South Africa, it is the first of its kind.

The hybrid truck will have a hydrogen fuel cell and a battery pack, with half of the power coming from the hydrogen fuel cell and the other half coming from the battery pack.

Instead of having a tank of diesel that powers the motor, hydrogen enters the fuel cell and mixes with oxygen to create water in a chemical reaction that creates electricity, which powers the wheels.

The company says it has the ability to reduce diesel emissions by up to 80%.

Anglo American says it will take the equivalent of half a million diesel cars off the road by rolling out this technology across its global truck fleet.

The image is from Anglo American.

The image caption is.

134 litres of diesel an hour is how long mining trucks can go through.

When driving downhill and braking, the trucks harvest energy that is stored in the battery and extends the range of the vehicle.

The truck is being developed by Anglo, First Mode, Williams Advanced Engineering, and Plug Power.

Reducing the carbon footprint of the mining industry is difficult.

The construction sector accounted for 36% of global final energy use and 39% of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2017, according to Davide Sabbadin, senior policy officer for climate and circular economy at the European Environmental Bureau.

If the sector wants to be compatible with the Paris Agreement, it will need to reduce its energy consumption by a third.

Diego Marin is an associate policy officer for environmental justice at the EEB.

He says that electric-powered vehicles are less damaging to the environment than internal combustion engines on a life cycle analysis.

Mr Marin says it all depends on how the hydrogen is produced. Fossil fuels create hydrogen, which means there are substantial emissions as a result.

The image is from EEB.

The image caption is.

Davide says that hydrogen isn't the cure-all for mining's environmental problems.

Anglo American is trying to get carbon neutrality by the year 2040.

Green hydrogen is made by splitting water atoms into oxygen and hydrogen.

That is treated with caution by the EEB.

"We should not present hydrogen as a solution to all problems because it comes at an environmental cost," says Mr. Sabbadin.

Hydrogen power is more expensive to produce and has a shorter storage life than other renewable energy sources.

The issue of cost is relevant in South Africa, whether it be investment for the mining industry's green goals or hydrogen power as a broader power solution.

The principal engineer for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is Jarrad Wright.

Hydrogen is not likely to compete for some time.

There is a lack of support for the new forms of energy to be created, distributed or stored.

Mr Wright says that it is possible to migrate to hydrogen in specific applications.

The image is from Anglo American.

The image caption is.

The Mogalakwena mine could be the center of a hydrogen production network.

South Africa's hydrogen power infrastructure is still sparse.

The government and private partners are looking at ways to transform the country's platinum belt into ahydrogen valley.

The private partners in the hydrogen infrastructure plan are Anglo American.

The Mogalakwena mine will be the starting point for this ecosystem, as it will be the location of a hydrogen production and storage complex. It has the largest electrical field in Africa and will generate 140MW of green power.

Initially, it will be to support the new truck, but once operational, the aim is for numerous complexes such as this one to serve as local and regional hubs for the emerging hydrogen economy.

The foundation for green hydrogen production would be provided by the ecosystems, which would help us reduce our emissions.

Hydrogen vehicles.
Business in Africa.
Climate change.
Africa's economy.
South Africa.