How Anglo-Americans built the world’s largest hydrogen-fueled truck

Four years ago, Anglo American Plc found no industry partner to support the idea of ​​replacing open-pit mining monster diesel trucks with climate-friendly, green hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

After investing $ 70 million of its own to support the idea, Global Minor last week unveiled a new 220-ton car capable of carrying about 290 tons of ore without emitting global warming in the process.

“It is fair to say that our desire to run it was long before the industry’s ambition,” Tony O’Neill, Anglo’s technical director, said in an interview on Friday in Mogalakvena, the world’s largest open-cast platinum mine. “We were pretty much alone when it came down to timing.”

Competitors such as Anglo-American, Glencore PLC and Rio Tinto Group are under pressure from investors concerned about global warming to reduce carbon pollution. Replacing mining trucks with hydrogen fuel would reduce emissions to Anglo’s open-pit mines by 80%, a significant step towards the company’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2040.

The trucks make up “a large part” of the company’s contribution to greenhouse gases, said Natasha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo-American Platinum Limited, an Anglo-American subsidiary that operates Mogalakwena, in an interview.

The Anglo Prototype Truck is part of the company’s NuGen program, which also includes a solar-powered system for the production of green hydrogen at mining sites. An electrolyzer uses energy from the sun to split water and make hydrogen. Anglo Technology and Hydrogen have listed the help of companies including Engie SA, First Mode Holdings Inc., Ballard Power Systems Inc. And NPROXX BV.

Duncan Oneblad, chief executive of Anglo American, said the company considered synthetic fuels and biofuels before the solution that was hydrogen was “crystal clear”. In a speech at a mine 180 miles northeast of Johannesburg, he described the program as Anglo “made from scratch.”

There is still much work to be done to reduce the cost of converting existing diesel trucks to hydrogen O’Neill says the company has spent millions to launch its prototype. Regular diesel mine trucks cost between $ 6 million and $ 7 million each. With the development of technology, scale economy will kick in and costs will decrease, he said.

The prototype – a modified Komatsu 930E – is a blue and yellow behemoth that cuts through a mound of rubbish on Friday and retrieves the entire load of ore under the watchful eye of executives, staff and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It is powered by a 1.2 MW battery pack and eight 100-kW hydrogen fuel cells.

The initial plan is to convert 40 diesel-fuel trucks from Mogalakwainer to hydrogen by 2026. This requires 140 MW of solar power and a huge expansion of hydrogen conversion and storage facilities at the site.

Carl van den Ordell said the plan was to get electricity from the company-owned wind and solar plants in other parts of the country through the national grid to ensure truck driving on cloudy days does not contribute to global warming. A mining engineer from Anglo in Mogalakwana.

By 2030, the company plans to convert its global fleet of 400 mine trucks – which operates across platinum, copper and iron ore activities – to hydrogen. The impact would be equivalent to taking half a million diesel cars off the road in terms of reducing emissions, the agency said.

O’Neill said Anglo wants to sell vehicles to his peers and believes the technology it has created has other applications that could include use on trains and ships. O’Neill’s technical group is looking for more effective ways to extract metal from ore and treat stones with microwave to make tunnel excavation easier. The latter is similar to the technology used by Elon Musk’s The Boring Company, he said.

For now, the hydrogen-truck business is part of the Anglo-American, a former conglomerate that has been engaged in pure mining since moving its headquarters from Johannesburg to London in 1999. Still, O’Neill says there’s still a question. It will remain in the company in the future.

“It’s something we’ll think about,” he said.

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