An Australian mining giant has signed agreements with three Canadian Indigenous nations to determine the viability of building green hydrogen projects as the company attempts to reinvent itself as a supplier of clean renewable energy.
Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) sees Canada as potentially one of the largest sources of renewable energy in the world and is hoping to develop multiple large-scale green energy projects here.
“We have scouted over 60 countries in the last 18 months, looking for where there are strong renewable resources and governments that are supportive of the green hydrogen industry,” FFI chief executive officer Julie Shuttleworth said in an interview. “We think Canada is very attractive. It is resource-rich and there is a strong government support for decarbonizing.”
Ms. Shuttleworth recently signed three memoranda of understandings with the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation in British Columbia, northern Manitoba’s Homeguard Cree First Nations and the Innu Nation in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The agreements give FFI the right to set up hydroelectric dams and wind-farm sites to determine if they can be used to produce green hydrogen to power everything from ships, locomotives, trucks and heavy industry. While other forms of hydrogen produce emissions, green hydrogen is carbon-free.
“These are multibillion-dollar projects so we would aim to have some of the first projects producing green hydrogen by 2025,” she said. “We are trying to create green hydrogen projects for domestic consumption in Canada and then for export.”
The feasibility studies for B.C., northern Manitoba and northern Labrador can take one to three years because it includes negotiations to develop job training and social programs for Indigenous people. FFI is also in discussions with other First Nations in Canada, Ms. Shuttleworth said.
“It means good opportunities to produce green renewal hydrogen and hopefully there are royalties as well,” Chief Morris Beardy of the Homeguard Cree First Nations said in an interview.
Grand Chief Etienne Rich of the Innu Nation said his people are hopeful that the feasibility projects will lead to green hydrogen projects in Labrador that will create jobs but also meet Canada’s emissions-reduction goals.
Ms. Shuttleworth’s involvement in cutting-edge clean energy production led to her selection as one of only six CEOs worldwide to address world leaders during the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow last month.
FFI has recently signed agreements with Papua New Guinea to develop up to seven hydropower projects and 11 geothermal energy projects and concluded a deal to become the largest supplier of green hydrogen to Britain. It also struck a deal with Jordan to develop green hydrogen production through potentially large-scale wind and solar energy production facilities.
FFI’s green hydrogen production is anticipated to grow to 15 million tonnes of green hydrogen (GH2) per year by 2030, accelerating to 50 million tonnes a year in the next decade.
“That’s 20 years ahead of every mining company,” Ms. Shuttleworth said. “We have also tested hydrogen in a truck, ammonia in a train, and we are testing ammonia in a ship. We want all our fleet to run on green products,” she said.
FFI, a subsidiary of iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., was set up last year to allow the company to diversify into green energy, a market that Fortescue chairman Andrew Forrest predicts could generate revenues of US$12-trillion by 2050.
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