Miner Anglo American unveils hydrogen haul truck
By Chad Elmore09 May 2022
Pilot project could kick off “Hydrogen Valley” in South Africa
Global mining giant Anglo American plc has unveiled a prototype of what it has called the world’s largest hydrogen-powered mine haul truck. Designed to operate in everyday mining conditions, the truck will be located at its Mogalakwena platinum mine in South Africa.
The 2 MW hydrogen-battery hybrid truck, capable of carrying a 290-tonne payload, is part of Anglo American’s nuGen Zero Emission Haulage Solution (ZEHS). NuGen provides a fully integrated green hydrogen system, consisting of production, fueling and haulage system, with green hydrogen to be produced at the mine site.
The nuGen project is part of FutureSmart Mining, Anglo American’s innovation-led approach to sustainable mining which brings together technology and digitalization to drive sustainability outcomes, including the company’s commitment to carbon-neutrality across its operations by 2040.
“NuGen is a tangible demonstration of our FutureSmart Mining program changing the future of our industry,” said Duncan Wanblad, Chief Executive Office, Anglo American. “With diesel emissions from our haul truck fleet accounting for 10-15% of our total Scope 1 emissions, this is an important step on our pathway to carbon neutral operations by 2040. The mining industry is playing a considerable role in helping the world decarbonize, both through our own emissions footprint and the metals and minerals that we produce that are critical to low carbon energy and transport systems.
“Over the next several years, we envisage converting or replacing our current fleet of diesel-powered trucks with this zero-emission haulage system, fueled with green hydrogen. If this pilot is successful, we could remove up to 80% of diesel emissions at our open pit mines by rolling this technology across our global fleet.”
The nuGen pilot truck is retrofitted from a diesel-powered vehicle. The truck uses a hybrid hydrogen fuel cell providing roughly half of the power and a battery pack the other half, to allow energy recovery from braking. The 1.2 MWh battery pack and multiple fuel cells that deliver up to 800 kW of power combine to deliver a total of 2 MW.
Hydrogen enters the fuel cell from the tank and mixes with oxygen to create water in a chemical reaction catalyzed by platinum. This generates electricity that is used to power the motors that drive the wheels. The only emission from the vehicle is water vapor.
The hybrid battery/hydrogen fuel cell powerplant, which replaced the diesel engine was designed by Anglo American in partnership with First Mode in Seattle, Wash.
The power management and battery systems in the truck were developed to improve overall efficiency by recovering energy when the haul trucks travel downhill through regenerative braking.
Other partners include ENGIE, which is the hydrogen producer and supplier for the proof of concept project, as well as Ballard Power and NPROXX B.V.
“We are incredibly proud of what our team, working with expert partners, has achieved in under three years,” said Tony O’Neill, technical director of Anglo American. “This is truly a world-class innovation and bears testament to our technical vision and determination to deliver a cleaner and smarter future for mining.
“It is these game-changing innovations that are exactly why we began our FutureSmart Mining journey in 2014, knowing how much of a difference we can make, including in the energy transition and across our societal footprint. Innovative, clean and independent power systems, such as our nuGen ZEHS project, offer a significant part of the emissions solution.”
Hydrogen in South Africa
Anglo American said it has been a longstanding champion of the potential offered by the hydrogen economy, recognizing its role in enabling the shift to greener energy and cleaner transport. The hydrogen economy provides an opportunity to create new engines of economic activity.
With abundant renewable energy sources (i.e. solar and wind), and as the world’s largest producer of platinum group metals (PGMs), hydrogen is a strategic priority for South Africa and reportedly presents a significant opportunity for economic development while also contributing to South Africa’s decarbonization objectives.
“PGMs play an essential catalytic role in many clean-air technologies, including related to hydrogen production and hydrogen-fueled transportation,” said Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American Platinum. “As part of our market development work, we have for some years been working towards establishing the right ecosystem to successfully develop, scale up and deploy hydrogen-fueled solutions.
“Hydrogen has a significant and wide-ranging role to play in achieving a low carbon future – particularly as an energy carrier enabling the development of a renewables-based power generation system. We are particularly excited about the potential of nuGen, amongst other opportunities, as we work to champion the development of South Africa’s Hydrogen Valley.”
In South Africa, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the South African National Development Institute (SANEDI), in partnership with Anglo American, Bambili Energy, and ENGIE, are looking into opportunities to create a Hydrogen Valley. The proposed hydrogen valley will stretch approximately 835 km from the platinum group metals-rich Bushveld geological area in Limpopo province, along the industrial and commercial corridor to Johannesburg and to the south coast at Durban. The nuGen Zero Emission Haulage Solution is one of the first projects for South Africa’s Hydrogen Valley.
A feasibility study for South Africa’s Hydrogen Valley published in October 2021 identifies three hubs – Johannesburg, extending to Rustenburg and Pretoria; Durban, encompassing the city itself and Richards Bay; and Limpopo province centred around Anglo American’s Mogalakwena PGMs mine – with a fundamental role to play in integrating hydrogen into South Africa’s economy, and in establishing South Africa and its abundant renewable energy resources as a strategically important centre for green hydrogen production. Nine key pilot projects have also been identified across these hubs and are recommended to be prioritized by developers. They span the transport, industrial, and construction sectors.
“The impact of our nuGen project goes far beyond our operations,” said Wanblad. “We believe that the emerging hydrogen sector has the potential to dramatically improve the growth and development of many economies by creating new industrial value chains and economic generation opportunities. Growing the hydrogen economy will revolutionise not just Anglo American’s operations, but all mining and many other industries – and ultimately shape a better, cleaner world.”
As part of the integrated nuGen solution, Anglo American built a hydrogen production, storage, and refueling complex at Mogalakwena that incorporates what it called the largest electrolyzer in Africa and a solar plant to support the operation of the haul truck.